Standards Council’s firm rejection of code changes related to air admittance valves and siphonic roof drainage keeps them out of UPC.

The final step in the development of the 2009 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) is the appeal hearing before the Standards Council (SC). The concept is that the Standards Council is above the fray and will make final determinations based on procedures. Part of those procedures include the technical merits of a code change. However, that rarely seems to matter.

The most recent appeal hearing last November included a number of code changes that ASPE submitted to the UPC. All of the code changes were approved by the Plumbing Technical Committee (TC). However, at the annual meeting, the ASPE changes were disapproved by membership vote.

During the post-meeting letter ballot to the TC, the TC voted to sustain their vote in favor of the ASPE code changes, thus differing from the membership vote. This results in an automatic appeal. In addition, ASPE filed an appeal seeking to obtain a favorable consideration of their code changes.

As president of ASPE, I presented the position of ASPE to the Standards Council at the hearing. The Standards Council sets the agenda. Only those requesting to speak are given the opportunity to present their position.

The first subject to be considered was air admittance valves. This is a rather strange place to start since the ASPE code change would have added requirements to Appendix L under engineered plumbing design. Studor appealed air admittance valves, requesting their inclusion in Chapter 9.

Making One's Case

During the appeal hearing, the appellant is given 10 minutes to make his/her presentation. The presentation is supposed to support the written documentation that is submitted ahead of time, but not repeat it. Those opposed to the appeal are also given 10 minutes. During the presentations, the Standards Council asks questions.

The Standards Council only discusses the appeal in closed session. The public is not permitted to witness the discussion or vote. This seems rather strange for an ANSI consensus process. Normally, all discussion is held in the open. After all, what do they have to hide?

The air admittance valve presentation that I made on behalf of ASPE basically identified that air admittance valves are already permitted by the UPC under the engineered plumbing design section. However, the authority having jurisdiction has nothing in the code to use as guidelines for evaluating such an engineered design.

As I pointed out to the Standards Council, the authority having jurisdiction doesn’t need such documentation, they can simply trust the plumbing engineer. After all, that is the authority granted to a professional engineer by the state.

The result of the ASPE appeal regarding air admittance valves was to reject the appeal. The Standards Council made it clear that they don’t want to see the words “air admittance valve” appear anywhere in the UPC. For some reason, clearly not technical, the words “air admittance valve” are malevolent to the Standards Council.

The next change submitted by ASPE was on siphonic roof drainage. The change proposed to add ASPE 45 as the design standard for siphonic roof drainage. One of the objections voiced at the IAPMO annual convention regarding this change was that the standard was not made available. However, only the TC is required to receive the standard for review, not the entire world. The TC was given access to the standard, and hence, voted to approve the change.

At the appeal hearing, the only justification for not accepting the code change was that the membership voted against the change. This was not much of a reason. That didn’t seem to matter, though, as the Standards Council voted to reject the appeal, thus rejecting the inclusion of siphonic roof drainage in the UPC.

It is interesting to note that on these two changes the concepts of more pipe and bigger pipe won out over less pipe and smaller pipe. This appears to be a reversal of the significant changes that have been made over the past six years at IAPMO. The more labor theme is creeping back into the code.

Several administrative changes that negatively impact the plumbing engineer fared well. One change will state that the authority having jurisdiction can approve or disapprove an alternative approval or engineered design. Hence, even if equivalency is proven, that doesn’t mean a thing. No reason is required to be provided for disapproval.

Even though the actual word “arbitrary” did not get accepted in the change, the inspectors want the arbitrary authority to reject any approval or design. The claim is that the AHJ is in charge and they don’t have to accept anything if they don’t like it.

More Disapproval

Some other notable changes that were not approved include a change by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to harmonize the gas appliance combustion air requirements. In the past, this would have been an automatic approval, but not this cycle.

A requirement to mandate NSF 14 for all plastic pipe was rejected. The change received the overwhelming support of all segments of the industry, other than the stacked meeting at the Annual Convention. Also rejected was the inclusion of polypropylene piping, another change receiving the overwhelming support of the TC.

In rejecting a few of the appeals, it was interesting to note that the SC ruled that the majority of the TC voted in favor of the change. However, the procedures require a two-thirds majority, which the change did not receive. Yet, for other code changes when there was a majority of the TC voting in favor, that didn’t seem to matter.

This is the first cycle that IAPMO has not partnered with NFPA. That relationship seems to be dead in the water. The lack of NFPA’s participation was clear. In the past, the Standards Council seemed to make more reasonable decisions under the guidance of NFPA. This cycle, the Standards Council clearly slipped back to the IAPMO of old.

It is unfortunate that the TC debates the technical merits of a code change for hours and makes a decision - then the Standards Council dismisses all of that within a few minutes of an appeal. This is bound to annoy many of the TC members who will ask why they are volunteering all of their time for naught. The purpose of the Standards Council is to protect the code from the railroading of a stacked Annual Convention, not endorse it.