Julius Ballanco reflects on his run as ASPE president.

During his presidency, Ballanco championed various membership and educational initiatives. Photo courtesy of Julius Ballanco.

On Nov. 2, my term as president of American Society of Plumbing Engineers came to an end.

After four years, it was time to pass the torch onto the next president. When you leave an office that you love, you look back over the past four years and ask, “What did I accomplish?”

Of course, such a question sounds obnoxious. Any accomplishment was the result of many people working together for the betterment of the society. I was fortunate to have many wonderful team players who helped accomplish many things. I also was blessed with a great staff at ASPE that was hard-working and highly motivated.

Membership Thoughts

I listed membership as one of the most important aspects of ASPE. During the first 2 1/2 years as president, I saw a consistent increase in membership. It was not as much as I would have liked, but at least it was an increase. With the downturn in the economy, the ranks of the membership began to drop. While not as much as other engineering societies, it was still more than 10%.

Unfortunately, the membership when I left was less than when I started. I consider this a failure on my part. I would encourage anypmereaders who are not members to join ASPE and be a part of the greatest plumbing engineering society in the world. If you were a member and dropped your membership, please rejoin.

Tough Decisions

A president is often asked to make controversial decisions. You cannot shy away from making decisions, especially when you believe they will make a positive impact on the future of the society. One of the first controversial decisions was to do away with the term Certification in Plumbing Engineering (CIPE). A class struggle had developed between the two terms CIPE and CPD (Certified in Plumbing Design). CPD is the designated term established to identify a qualified plumbing designer. The term CIPE is no longer permitted to be used on business cards, letterhead, resumes or after a person’s name.

The CPD exams were also completely updated and put online. This has made it easier for individuals across North America to take the exam and become certified.

The next controversial item was to bring the society’s finances in order. That involved asking the chapters for help. More than two-thirds of the chapters stepped up to the plate to help reduce the debt. Unfortunately, my last year as president of ASPE involved a downturn in the economy, which significantly impacted the finances of the society. While I had hoped to eliminate the debt completely, that was not to be. However, the debt has been reduced and will continue to be reduced.

What appeared to be another controversial decision was the purchasing of a building for the society. In a poor economy, why buy a building? As it turns out, we obtained a great deal on a building located very close to O’Hare Airport in Chicago. The building is now worth $300,000 more than what we’d paid for it. The mortgage is approximately the same as we would be paying for a lease. The decision to purchase the building was an intelligent one.

Society Education

Another important goal was to increase educational programs and documents. I challenged the Technical Symposium and Convention Committees to develop improved, top-notch educational programs. They came through with some of the finest educational seminars ever offered in the history of ASPE. The economy, however, made it so attendance was lower than it should have been.

A new program of online education was also started. ASPE now regularly offers webinars that are archived on the Internet and can be reviewed anytime. Many of the webinars were offered free to members. Various manufacturers sponsored these seminars for the good of the industry (I continue to thank the manufacturers). The average online attendance for the free webinars exceeded 700 people.

With the help of two different vice presidents, technical, the Plumbing Engineering Design handbooks have been updated on a regular basis each year. The four volumes continue to be the mainstay in every plumbing engineer’s library. Plumbing engineers can be assured that they will arrive on time each year.

Code Activity

ASPE has been very active on the plumbing codes and standards level. Many changes were submitted to the International Plumbing Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code. Both documents now permit engineered design for drainage, venting and water piping systems. In addition to the inclusion of engineered design, ASPE successfully modified the UPC to recognize horizontal wet venting, circuit venting and single-stack venting. We were also successful in adding single-stack venting requirements to the IPC.

I am very proud of the fact that ASPE was a major supporter of the mandate of residential sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses. Representatives from ASPE testified at the code hearings and the special appeals hearing supporting the inclusion of mandatory sprinklers in the International Residential Code.

For the first time, ASPE entered into a memorandum of understanding. The ASPE board approved a MOU for both ICC and IAPMO. Since these are the major code bodies developing plumbing codes, it only seemed appropriate to work more closely with these two organizations.

Research And Honors

I happen to be a big fan of plumbing research. Unfortunately, the ASPE Research Foundation was not getting any research accomplished. In one of my final controversial decisions, I asked the board to reconstitute the Research Foundation Board of Directors. Immediately after this was done, research projects on storm drainage systems and residential fire sprinkler systems were started. Reports should be issued in the near future.

We were also able to charter two new ASPE chapters in Seattle and Puerto Rico during my presidency. As I write this, chapters are getting started on Long Island and in Tulsa, Okla. I hope to see both new chapters chartered in the near future.

One of my most treasured accomplishments was the establishment of the Kenneth G. Wentink College of Fellows. The College of Fellows allows ASPE to recognize leaders and innovators in the plumbing engineering profession with the status of Fellow. The first group of 20 Fellows was inducted two years ago. Another group was inducted at the recent ASPE banquet in Philadelphia.

When you say goodbye to the office of president, you think of all the things you wanted to accomplish but didn’t. I hope that I will always look back and think of what we did accomplish as a society, rather than what we didn’t do. I will always be proud of these accomplishments.

I wish the next president and board of directors much success. Remember, they can always use your help. No matter how small, it is still a help.

Make sure you pitch in to help this great profession.