Trade association tastes victory on numerous code changes.

At the International Code Council (ICC) Plumbing Code Change hearings in Palm Springs, CA, in March, ASPE came out as one of the bigger winners, having submitted a number of code changes to the International Plumbing Code.

ASPE proposed a modification to the flow table in the water piping section. The change modified the flow rates and pressures for various fixtures. For example, a flushometer valve was lowered from 35 gpm to 25 gpm; however, the pressure was increased from 25 psi to 45 psi. The pressure required for all water closets will increase. There also was a modification to the minimum pressure requirements for pressure balancing and thermostatic mixing valves. The change was recommended for approval.

One was a repeat code change on single stack venting. For many years, the ICC Code Committee recommended denial of the single stack code change. This year there was once again some good discussion on the merits of the design. There also were a number of questions regarding its viability. In the end, the committee recommended approval of the change. When the vote was taken, the hall was silent. The audience couldn’t believe that this was the year.

New Siphonic Standard

Shortly after the single stack code change, the changes to recognize ASPE 45 were discussed. This is the new ASPE standard on the design of siphonic roof drainage systems. ASPE combined its change with the change submitted by John Rattenbury, P.E.

Those opposed to siphonic roof drainage questioned whether the system was appropriate. They noted that such a small pipe could fail faster than a standard roof drainage system. It was pointed out that even a siphonic roof drainage system is required to have a secondary system. The combined change was recommended for approval.

ASPE’s final plumbing code change was to modify the options for designing a secondary roof drainage system. The code change would allow three options for secondary roof drainage: an open-sided roof, a separate drainage system and a combined system.

Everyone was in agreement that the change for the first two options was well written and much clearer than the current code text. The hang-up came with the combined system. The combined system would allow the secondary roof drain to connect to the vertical piping of the primary drainage system. The combined pipe would have to be sized for the capacity of both drains. This would result in the increase in the size of the vertical pipe and the building drain and sewer.

Many were opposed to the combined system because the current code has a warning system if the primary roof drain is blocked. The secondary roof drainage system would be visible when it discharges at grade. It was pointed out that if there was a visible downspout that had water discharging while it was raining, most people would assume that the system was working. There is no requirement for a sign saying that it was a secondary drain and the primary drain was blocked if water is coming out of the drain.

During the debate, it was pointed out that, in urban settings, many cities prohibit scuppers on high-rise buildings. They also prohibit discharge at grade. The combined system is used for most of these installations.

The opposition quickly attacked this concept, pointing out that roofs will be failing with a combined system. One would think, based on the discussion, that we have been installing separate secondary roof drainage systems since the beginning of time. However, these systems were not mandated by any code until the early 1990s. The combined system was the norm, if even provided prior to that date.

The compromise position discussed was adding a modification to have an annunciation, such as a flow alarm, to indicate that the secondary drain was in use. Procedures prohibit the committee from entertaining this modification. The code change was recommended for denial with a suggestion for a change to add a modification to include a flow alarm on the secondary drain of a combined system.

Proposals From VA

Once again, the inspectors from the Commonwealth of Virginia had a number of proposed code changes. Many changes dealt with the number of fixtures required and access to those fixtures.

One of the early code changes that attracted extensive debate was a proposal that would prohibit a public or employee toilet room or bathroom with more than one fixture from having a lockable door. It is common practice to lock doors to bathrooms for security purposes. The proponent objected to the locking of the doors, claiming that immediate access to the plumbing fixtures is a basic human need.

There was discussion about public toilet rooms that were vandalized, rape in toilet rooms and security since 9/11. These arguments didn’t seem to sway the committee. They voted to approve the code change. A floor motion was made to overturn the committee recommendation. The membership voted to recommend denial. This results in an automatic public review during the next meeting.

Another change addressed family or assisted-use toilet rooms. The code has always counted the fixtures in these rooms toward the overall count of required number of fixtures. The proposal would prohibit urinals from being counted as part of the required fixtures. Only water closets, lavatories, bathtubs or showers would be counted. The change was recommended for approval.

A change was proposed to double the number of water closets or urinals in smaller restaurants that have more than 50 occupants but less than 150 occupants. This size restaurant was considered to typically be in the fast food category. However, it was pointed out that there are a number of neighborhood restaurants that fall into this category.

For a smaller restaurant, the addition of twice as many plumbing fixtures will reduce the seating capacity by 8 to 12 patrons. The response was that the architect should just design a large restaurant. This ignored the fact that many neighborhood restaurants open in small, existing tenant spaces. The committee voted to approve the change, even though there was no statistical analysis submitted to justify the numbers.

The complete listing of the results of all of the code changes is available on the ICC Web site, Public comments must be submitted by June 9, 2008. The final hearing will be held in Minnesota this September.

Note: The views expressed here are strictly those of the author and do not  necessarily represent PM Engineer or BNP Media.