Special in-depth interview with an industry executive

PM Engineer: Please give us some background about yourself, your professional credentials and involvement with ASPE.

Whitworth: I am 45 years old and have been married for 25 years. I have two grown children who have graced me with two wonderful grandsons.

I have been in the engineering business since 1974. I am currently a partner in Diversified Technology, Inc., an architectural, engineering, construction and service firm in Greenville, South Carolina. My job title is Director of Projects, and my office duties include client consultation, project management, and design supervision. I received my Certified in Plumbing Engineering (CIPE) certification in 1983.

I have been a member of ASPE since 1980 and was a charter member of the Palmetto State (SC) Chapter of ASPE. I was elected to the ASPE Board of Directors in 1990 and have served as V.P. Membership, V.P. Legislative and V.P. Technical. In addition, I served for four (4) years on the ASPE Research Foundation Board of Directors.

PME: What will be your main priorities as ASPE president?

Whitworth: Continued growth and recognition for ASPE and the plumbing professional. Over the last two years, ASPE has seen a significant increase in requests from outside sources for input from ASPE on various aspects of the plumbing industry. These areas of input have included code writing, legislation writing, technical publications and plumbing research. Those groups requesting these services included other engineering associations, federal agencies and model code organizations.

Growth for ASPE will occur if we continue to offer services that the plumbing industry wants and needs-educational opportunities and assistance to the members in making their jobs easier. Also, for ASPE to continue to grow, expansion must occur internationally. We must seek ways of attracting international members through technical manuals and Satellite Chapters.

PME: What do you see to be the major strengths of ASPE?

Whitworth: ASPE has many strengths. ASPE offers the only plumbing engineering educational programs with CEUs via our technical seminars at the biennial conventions, and workshops offered at our off-year technical symposia. ASPE offers traveling seminar programs providing in-depth technical programs with qualified speakers. Other than code manuals and sporadic books written by various authors, the technical publications produced by and made available through ASPE is the major source for plumbing engineering-related design information.

Through ASPE's involvement with all of the model code organizations, the plumbing engineer is assured of a voice in the code-writing and revision process. ASPE has liaisons with many organizations, including ASSE, ASHRAE, EPA, ANSI, NFPA, PMI, and NAPHCC.

ASPE's Research Foundation is the only unbiased organization providing in-depth research related to plumbing engineering. This growing arm of ASPE provides the information necessary to determine if current codes and technical publications accurately reflect the conditions of plumbing systems in actual use, and that the design data utilized adequately protects the environment and the health and safety of the public.

PME: Please be candid in assessing what you see to be any weaknesses in the organization.

Whitworth: In the past, ASPE has not been willing to make a stand on certain controversial issues. These issues have included code- and legislation-related provisions. In certain situations, we have been reactive rather than proactive.

A case in point was the ultra-low flow water closets. When these fixtures were introduced in the Massachusetts legislature, we reacted to the problem rather than being involved sooner in the legislation process. When we did voice our recommendation that further research be performed before enacting legislation, we did not push our opinion strong enough and we found that we needed more political clout to be heard. We are now aligning ourselves with the "powers that be," ensuring that the voice of the engineer is heard related to legislation consideration and the decision making process.

PME: Where does ASPE membership stand, and do you feel this is adequate?

Whitworth: I am not sure if I fully understand the question. If you are referring to numbers only, we have more than 6,800 international members representing 58 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. If you are referring to membership composition, we have representation in virtually every membership category that is involved in the plumbing industry-engineers, contractors, manufacturers, manufacturer representatives, suppliers, governmental officials, code officials, educators and students. If you are referring to the quality of ASPE's membership, I would have to say that there are few organizations made up of people who care as much about their industry.

If you are asking if we are satisfied with where we are, then the answer is no! We have begun a membership campaign with a goal of dramatically increasing our domestic and international membership and providing an even greater balance of the various membership categories.

PME: What do you feel are the most important benefits ASPE offers to its members?

Whitworth: Technical materials, educational materials and programs offering CEUs, legislative input, plumbing related research, and the opportunity to interact with their peers. The ASPE Bookstore offers a wide range of technical materials including books, design software and other design aids. ASPE's educational materials include plumbing engineering curricula, technical reference manuals, and instructor workbooks. Our educational programs include chapter technical sessions and seminars, technical programs at biennial conventions, intensive technical workshops at off-year technical symposia, and a series of travelling seminars; all of which offer continuing education units (CEUs). All of these programs provide methods to improve the knowledge and understanding of plumbing systems and provides the tools to implement the knowledge gained. Opportunities are increasing via the internet allowing ASPE to provide technical publications and research papers through the internet in the near future, further enhancing ASPE's ability to meet the membership's need for technical materials to assist them in the performance of their work.

The people are what make ASPE special. There is no other organization where the member can find people who are willing to put their egos aside for the greater interests of the Society. In no other organization does the member have as great an access to the inner workings of the Society where the member can have a direct impact on the decision-making process.

PME: What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing plumbing engineers today?

Whitworth: Recognition. The plumbing engineer deserves recognition as practicing a separate engineering discipline. Although many designs of plumbing systems are performed by engineers in the mechanical or civil engineering discipline, most are performed by designers who are not recognized for their abilities and knowledge. They must have their drawings "approved" by engineers who often have little knowledge about plumbing systems.

The Certified in Plumbing Engineering program was developed in an effort to provide a credential to certify minimum design expertise of the plumbing designer or engineer. It is our intent to promote the CIPE program to the states for recognition as a design qualification standard. Through efforts to establish plumbing engineering curricula in colleges and universities, we intend to develop plumbing engineering questions for the mechanical and civil professional engineer examinations, with the ultimate goal of establishing a plumbing professional engineer designation.

This improvement in recognition for the plumbing engineer also entails ensuring that the voice of the plumbing professional is heard in decisions relevant to their trade. These issues may include proposed federal or state legislation; proposed model, state or provincial code provisions; plumbing system design requirements; and proposed research projects. Engineering principles must be considered in proposals and decisions made to ensure the proper, safe and sanitary performance of plumbing systems in the most efficient manner possible.

PME: You were present at the session in Indianapolis in which the top staff executives of the ICC and IAPMO discussed the fundamental differences between the IPC and UPC. Do you see any role that ASPE can play in somehow moving those organizations toward a single model plumbing code that would serve the interests of plumbing engineers?

Whitworth: For engineers who design projects all over the United States, or throughout the world, the one issue that creates the biggest burden for them is determining which plumbing code applies to the project area. ASPE actively participates with both of these model code organizations, and others, through liaisons assisting in the code-writing and revision process. We have a representative who sits on the ICC Advisory Board. Through the efforts of these liaisons and the ASPE Legislative Committee, we hope to encourage the model codes to promote technical consistency, protection of the public and the environment, and ensure provisions for engineered plumbing systems.

ASPE will continually pursue a single international plumbing code, but there are many political and administrative issues which separate these model code bodies.

PME: The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute has identified trade show consolidation as one of that group's key issues to address. Most PMI members would like to see the ASPE Engineered Plumbing Exposition someday melded with trade shows sponsored by the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors and the National Kitchen & Bath Association, among others. How do you feel about this?

Whitworth: ASPE has been hosting its Convention and Engineered Plumbing Exposition for thirty years; the 1998 event was its 16th Exposition. The ASPE show provides a forum that encourages the interaction of the engineer, the contractor, and the technical personnel from the manufacturers to understand what is needed and what can be provided for plumbing products to best serve the public.

ASPE's position is clear and always has been concerning a combined exposition. Show us the benefit of a combined show to our membership. As we have stated to the prestigious Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI), we welcome the opportunity to meet and talk, at almost any time and almost anywhere, to continue the dialogue on how to make a combined show work to the benefit of the ASPE membership and the specification-driven manufacturers of plumbing products who insist ASPE's show best suits their needs.

PME: When your term of office concludes, how do you think this organization will be changed from what it is today?

Whitworth: ASPE will be further recognized as the leader in plumbing engineering throughout North America, and the world. It is my hope that ASPE will be much larger with international satellite chapters in Mexico, Central and South America and other countries throughout the world.

We will have further developed working relationships with federal agencies, model code bodies, North American engineering organizations, international engineering organizations, research organizations, and other plumbing industry groups.

The ASPE Research Foundation will be considered as a valuable tool in the development of plumbing engineering standards used in writing technical manuals, legislation and model codes.

And finally, that membership in ASPE will be perceived by the plumbing industry for the great value that it is.

PME: Do you plan to move the ASPE headquarters to a new location before the next convention in 2000?

Whitworth: The delegates who represented the ASPE chapters in the business meetings at the Indianapolis convention voted to move the Society headquarters to Chicago, Illinois. It was felt that the membership of the Society could be best served from this location. It is our intention that this move will be accomplished by the time of the ASPE Convention in Nashville in the year 2000.

PME: Is there anything we haven't discussed that you feel important to mention in your position as ASPE president?

Whitworth: ASPE has a long way to go to get where we want to be, but we know where we are going. ASPE is proud to be the only organization that is devoted to the betterment and advancement of the plumbing engineer and the plumbing industry.