A green backlash at IAPMO Plumbing Technical Committee meetings
You never know what will become a hot topic at the IAPMO Plumbing Technical Committee meetings. There are certain subjects bound to push buttons. Then there are other topics you shake your head about and can’t figure out.
This is what occurred at the May 1-4 meeting in Anaheim, Calif., when the Technical Committee had to review all the green plumbing code changes. IAPMO has long published a green supplement to the Plumbing and Mechanical Code. The supplement is a voluntary set of requirements a jurisdiction can adopt if it wants to add green requirements to its code adoption.
The 2015 edition of the Uniform Plumbing Code duplicates the green plumbing supplement requirements in one of the appendices. The requirements basically are an extract from the green supplement.
With a new edition of the IAPMO Green Supplement available, it would seem natural to update the requirements in the Uniform Plumbing Code to be consistent. During last year’s Plumbing Technical Committee meeting, the committee rejected all the Green Supplement update code changes based on the fact the new edition of the Green Supplement was not made available to the committee — a valid justification for turning down the code changes.
This year, all the committee members were provided access to an electronic copy of the latest supplement. You would think all the changes would have been approved, but that did not happen.
For some unclear reason, the committee voted to reject most of the Green Supplement code changes. In short, the reasoning seemed to be the committee simply doesn’t like the green requirements. Of course, you cannot use that as a technical reason. So the technical reason was more as if the green requirements belong in the Green Supplement and not the Plumbing Code.
The problem with this reasoning is the green requirements already are in the Plumbing Code. There were no changes to remove the requirements, so they will remain in the code. The question becomes: should the green requirements in the Plumbing Code be different than the Green Supplement requirements? The result of the committee action was — yes!
Drains and vents
Shower drain and trap size was another issue generating interesting discussion. The proposal from ASPE would lower the minimum trap size from 2 in. to 1 1/2 in. The change was approved during last year’s meeting, however, the code change failed to get the required two-thirds majority during the letter ballot period.
There were similar discussions regarding the allowance of a 1 1/2 in. shower drain this year. When the vote was taken, it passed with a simple majority, but it failed to pull two-thirds of the committee. This prompted behind-the-scenes discussions between the major players on the Technical Committee.
The following day, the code change on shower drains was recalled. Following the recall vote, the code change was modified to apply only to bathtubs that were removed and replaced with showers in residential units. One question that came up during the discussion was, “What is the difference between a replaced shower and a new shower?” There was no good answer other than this modification satisfies those opposed to the code change.
The modified shower-drain code change was approved well in excess of the two-thirds needed from the committee. A letter ballot is still to follow.
All of the code changes dealing with vent systems were rejected. A comical moment came during the discussion of a reasoned statement for rejecting the code change that would allow the vent through the roof to be reduced to 2 in. if certain measures were taken. Everyone on the committee seemed to agree the concept would work, but they didn’t like the change. When developing a reason, they included statements that were not a part of the proposed code change. The final reason statement basically concluded the committee just doesn’t like it.
There was a series of code changes proposed to lower the flow rate and water use for lavatories, kitchen sinks, water closets and urinals. The proposed modifications tied the changes to the U.S. EPA WaterSense requirements, sparking an outcry of opposition since WaterSense does not comply with the referenced standard requirements of IAPMO.
While tying water conservation to WaterSense appeared to make sense, in the long run, the code changes received fewer votes than last year since many members that supported water conservation could not support a reference to a non-consensus federally-developed program. Every water conservation code change was rejected by the committee.
A quasi-water conservation code change was proposed to require 50% of drinking fountains to be bottle fillers. The change would allow either an individual bottle filler or a combination drinking fountain/bottle filler. The change appeared to make sense since a large percentage of the population carries water bottles. Also pointed out was the fact that a bottle filler doesn’t waste the amount of water a drinking fountain does when an individual using a drinking fountain doesn’t capture all the water in his or her mouth.
The bottle filler code change was subsequently denied. The committee reasoned the bottle filler should remain an option for a drinking fountain at this time rather than being mandated.
One of the surprise votes occurred in the storm-drainage requirements. ASPE submitted a change to allow an engineered design for a storm-drainage system. Included in the change was an allowance to use the ASPE standard for siphonic roof drainage systems. It was pointed out that under the engineered design section you could already provide an engineered storm drainage system. However, there were no guidelines regarding the design. The code change was approved by the committee.
The final outcome of the committee action will not be known until the end of June. Once finalized, IAPMO will publish an electronic Report on Comments or an ROC. The ROC will be reviewed at the IAPMO Annual Convention Sept. 24-28 in Anchorage, Alaska. During the IAPMO Annual Conference, the IAPMO membership can vote on any of the changes if they disagree with the committee action.