Every third year of the IAPMO Convention, the final discussion is held on the proposed code changes to the Uniform Plumbing Code and the Uniform Mechanical Code. This year’s discussion took place in September in Minneapolis.

This also is the time when the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia flexes its muscle and lets everyone know who is in charge. The standing joke is that the UA has its list and if your code change is on the list, you’re doomed.

When the voting takes place, all the hands go up as directed. It might be easier if IAPMO ran it like a political convention whereby one person comes to the microphone and says, “The UA cast all 287 votes for rejection of the code change.”

By and large, the UA issues were what would be classified as nickel-and-dime code changes. If it doesn’t like a product, concept or the proponent, the UA goes after your particular code-change proposal. There actually were very few issues discussed.

One of the first comments brought to the floor was the exposure of PVC and ABS pipe on the outside of a building. The proposed change recommended was for approval that would require all PVC and ABS on the outside of a building to be protected from direct sunlight. The National Association of Home Builders submitted a comment to exclude vents that extend through the roof less than 24 in.

The NAHB did a good job of technically justifying its comment. The opponents discussed anecdotal comments of perceived roof-vent failures. It also discussed why this is needed in Southern California; simply because of the hot sun. However, with millions of homes constructed with PVC and ABS vents through the roof – some more than 50 years old – the NAHB could not point to any widespread failures. Of course, that didn’t matter because the change was on the list. So, under the 2015 UPC you will have to modify your specifications to require plastic vent pipes to be painted.


Carrying a big stick

One of the next issues on tap was trap-seal protection devices. The proposed change would have included ASSE 1072 in the code. The engineering community has embraced many manufacturers of these products.

Of course, that doesn’t matter. The UA contingency doesn’t like them. All the technical justifications in the world wouldn’t change the fact that the code-change proposal was on the list. The UA voted to recommend rejection of the change.

Eyebrows were raised when the contingency attacked an ASPE code change. This is somewhat surprising since the UA normally cooperates with the plumbing engineering community. Furthermore, it was a nonsensical change for them to attack. Also, realize that ASPE submitted probably more than 80 code changes to the UPC.

The ASPE change the UA disputed was the strainer requirement for roof drains. It seemed as if the UA raised an issue with this change just to tick off the engineers. The code change merely coordinated with other changes referencing the roof-drain standard by deleting some of the detailed text on strainer size and design. The strainer requirements in the code predate the ASME A112 roof-drain standard. Besides being archaic, the code requirements conflict with the requirements in the standard. But none of that seemed to matter. The change was on the list and it was recommended for denial.


Feeling the brunt

I raised the next issue. Currently, the UPC has no requirement regarding strainers for roof drains having both a primary and secondary drain. With these combined drains, the question is whether there should be one strainer for both inlets or separate and independent strainers for each inlet. Without a code requirement, both styles of roof drains are permitted. I proposed separate and independent strainers for the two inlets.

Often you have a comical moment during plumbing code discussions. This occurred during the debate of the primary and secondary strainer issue. Two individuals rose to speak against the motion to accept the change. However, their reasons for opposing the change were actually reasons for accepting the motion. In other words, they stated their needs for independence between primary and secondary drains, yet they encouraged everyone to vote against the code change. By the time the vote was taken, the members seemed totally confused. When that happens, a change normally is rejected. And this one was.

ASPE asked for support to the change regarding storm drainage sizing. Everyone recognizes the sizing method in the UPC is incorrect. The ASPE Research Foundation pointed this out in a study. However, the idea of learning a new method for sizing the system is completely unappealing and the proposal was rejected.

On a positive note, the Cast Iron Soil Pipe Institute requested two code changes be considered for discussion. Prior to the spring meeting of the Plumbing Technical Committee, the IAPMO Standards Council ruled these changes were outside the scope of the UPC. The alterations would require all cast-iron soil pipe and fittings to be third-party-certified. The mistake that was made was a reference to an annex in a standard.

A number of people spoke in support of having language that requires cast-iron pipe and fittings to be third-party-certified to the standards that regulate the material. No one spoke in opposition. A straw vote was held to provide a directive to the Standards Council when CISPI appeals the decision. The membership unanimously voted to support language requiring third-party certification.

The membership votes at this meeting are merely recommendations to the Plumbing Technical Committee. The group will vote on whether to accept the membership’s recommendations over the next month. If conflicts exist between the TC and the membership, the code change is automatically sent to the Standards Council for a decision.

By the end of the meeting, I felt embarrassed for IAPMO. The antics by the UA contingency appeared to be as if a bully showed up at the schoolyard and stole the ball. While the UA might feel good about themselves, it really is a disservice to the industry and IAPMO, which is such a fine organization. IAPMO should continue to have its codes developed based on technical content, not the whims of a few individuals.

When you play these games, you also can lose by the same rules. I wouldn’t be surprised if the supporters of air-admittance valves, nonwater urinals, plastic pipe, the NAHB and the engineered design community team up and bring a large contingency to the IAPMO meeting in 2017 to outvote the UA by 500 votes.