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Sloan’s UPPERCUT manual dual-flush flushometer. Photo courtesy of Sloan.


One of the many hats I get to wear is that of president of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers Research Foundation. The foundation is involved in just what is says, research.

The research done by ASPE RF often makes its way into discussion on the codes and standards level. Two such recent projects have had an impact on plumbing engineering design and the codes.

I previously wrote about the roof drainage project. That research report was the basis for the complete rewrite of the storm drainage sizing method in the ICC International Plumbing Code. In addition to the code changes, this research is being used as a basis for a new standard. ASPE and IAPMO are developing a joint standard for testing roof drains. This new standard will be used to establish the flow rate through a roof drain at a given head height.

Another completed published project relates to the impact of food waste disposers on combination drain and vent systems and systems using air-admittance valves. The result of the testing proved that food waste disposers have zero impact on venting.

Some had claimed that food waste disposers create a pumping action that could result in the loss of the trap seal. This had been all speculation with no test data to prove the impact one way or another. The ASPE RF testing shows the waste stream from a food waste disposer is basically the same as the waste stream from a kitchen sink without a disposer.

This report recently was used at the ICC code hearings to change the International Residential Code plumbing section to allow sinks with food waste disposers to discharge to a combination waste and vent system. The current code prohibits such a discharge. The change will appear in the 2015 code.

This report is available for download free of charge on the ASPE website at Included with the report are video clips of the waste stream during testing.

Inside the bathroom

The other three projects currently underway also will have an impact on the codes and standards profession. One project that has taken time to develop the test protocol is a test on biofilm development in automatic and manual faucets. The study is intended to compare the difference between the two faucets.

If a biofilm can develop, it provides an area for bacterial growth, including legionella bacteria. Different groups have claimed that one faucet is better than the other. Claims are inconsistent with some saying automatic faucets do better and others saying manual faucets do better. The ASPE RF testing is an attempt to use a controlled environment to compare the two types of faucets. It is anticipated there will be a report from this testing presented at the ASPE Biennial Convention next September in Chicago.

The other two research projects are being conducted together. One project will evaluate the water use of manual flush water closets without a dual-flush handle and with a dual-flush handle. The purpose of the testing is to determine if there is water savings with a dual-flush handle.

One would automatically think that a dual-flush handle results in water savings. However, there have been claims that the public doesn’t understand that you have to activate the handle differently if you only urinate. If the public fails to use the dual-flush handle correctly it is possible there would be little to no water savings.

The testing will evaluate a number of buildings to determine the difference in water use. In those buildings, manufacturer instructions will be posted. Hence, standard information will be provided to the public on how to use the dual-flush handle.

Running in conjunction with the dual-flush handle test is an automatic faucet test. The same buildings will evaluate the use of manual lavatory faucets compared to automatic lavatory faucets. First, the rate of water usage with manual faucets will be measured. After a period of time recording water use, the faucets will be changed to automatic faucets and water usage data will again be recorded.

Most engineers believe automatic faucets save water. I happen to agree. However, this will be a comprehensive test to determine if there is a water savings and how much water will be saved.

These last two research projects will have an impact on the green codes. They will also have an impact on LEED-accredited buildings. The data will be able to be used for acquiring points for water conservation. The data from the dual-flush handle testing may be used in the plumbing codes for establishing the flush volume for dual-flush water closets.

The dual-flush and automatic faucet research project is scheduled to be completed by June 2014. The research report will be presented at the ASPE convention in Chicago.

Within a span of three years, ASPE RF will be producing a number of research reports that will be extremely beneficial to the plumbing engineering profession. This has been the purpose of the Research Foundation.

You may be asking if there is more on the horizon. The answer is yes. As you can imagine, the problem always is money. It takes a substantial amount of money to conduct these research projects. Funding for research is always the stumbling block.

Fortunately, ASPE RF has received funding from ASPE members and chapters. They also have been fortunate to receive corporate donations from plumbing manufacturers that believe in plumbing research. All the donations go directly to funding the research projects.

 To learn more about the ASPE RF, check out the ASPE website. If you have an idea for a research project, drop a line to the ASPE staff.