Julius Ballanco: Status quo for ASME’s sponsorship of A112 standards
In the middle of the ICC code hearings in Columbus, Ohio, ASME sent a memorandum to the ASME A112 Committee announcing ICC and CSA would not be taking over the A112 standards. ASME has decided to continue to sponsor the standards.
The timing of the announcement is interesting since many of the plumbing codes and standards professionals were present for the ICC plumbing hearings. There was surprise and relief with the decision. Many in the profession were concerned with ICC and CSA taking control. After years of ASME promulgating the standards, the concern was whether ICC and CSA would continue with as smooth a change process as ASME. There was relief there wouldn’t be any change in the process. The fear of the switch in promulgators was of the unknown.
At the ICC plumbing hearing there were nine new members to the Plumbing Code Committee, with only five returning members. Chairman Charlie Gerber, from Henrico County, Virginia, had his hands full. However, he did an excellent job keeping everyone on point. It also was refreshing to see Jim Finley, P.E., appointed as vice chair.
Like most of the plumbing code hearings, there were some bizarre statements made during testimony. During discussion of a change to limit the annual quantity of water to trap-seal primary valves, there was opposing testimony that included flushing of fire hydrants. What that had to do with limiting the water to prevent the loss of a trap seal was beyond most of the people in the audience. That change, which would have restricted water use to 30 gal. per year for a water-supplied trap-primer valve, was recommended for denial.
Similar water-conservation measures also were denied. One change would have lowered the urinal flush rate to 0.5 gpf. Another would have restricted the showerhead flow rate to being associated with a single valve. So when multiple showerheads are installed, the total flow rate would be 2.5 gpm for all showerheads combined.
Having chaired one of the ASSE working groups on water heaters, I made a commitment to propose a series of changes on the three new water-heater standards, ASSE 1082, 1084 and 1085. ASSE 1082 is a water heater rated for equivalency to an ASSE 1017 thermostatic mixing valve. ASSE 1084 is similar to a 1070 valve and ASSE 1085 is similar to a 1071 valve for emergency fixtures.
ICC has a policy requiring drafts of the standard to be submitted for review. Since the draft of ASSE 1084 was not submitted within the required time limit, a modification to delete ASSE 1084 had to be proposed for each code change.
With the valve standards listed in numerous sections, there were many changes proposed regarding the new ASSE water-heater standards. When similar changes are submitted, you anticipate similar results. That did not occur.
There was testimony for and against each of the changes. The opposition often centered on the fact the standards have not been published. However, ICC allows the initial acceptance of a draft. The standard is required to be finalized by the annual meeting in the fall. Because the standards have not yet been published, ASSE testified in opposition to its own standards. This was rather strange. Normally a standards organization supports its changes even when they are submitted as a draft.
Some of the water-heater standard changes were recommended for approval with the modification to delete ASSE 1084, while other similar changes were recommended for denial. The most important standard in the group, the water heaters for emergency fixtures, was recommended for approval. This change will greatly assist the plumbing engineering community by allowing water heaters to be located at the point where the emergency fixtures are installed.
Keeping it light
There always are lighthearted moments that appear very tense while listening to testimony. This often occurs when one subject matter is heard by a committee not used to that topic. Water-closet and urinal partitions were addressed by the Fire Safety Committee for the Building Code. The concern was plastic partitions. In fire experts’ minds, water-closet and urinal partitions made of plastic will burn and kill people in a fire. Plumbing experts know that plastic partitions are safe, with many wonderful qualities regarding sanitation.
I participated in the testimony, although I knew speaking to fire people meant that any time they heard the word “fire,” they had to do something. While there are zero fire statistics regarding plastic water-closet and toilet partitions, it didn’t seem to matter. All that mattered is that under certain fire tests the partitions burn. It was one of those “duh” moments. The Fire Safety Committee voted to continue requiring fire tests that virtually prohibit plastic water-closet and toilet partitions.
For the remainder of the week, many commented on the partitions code changes. Some of the comments were, we allow showers that can’t pass the fire test, yet prohibit partitions. We allow baby-changing stations with the same plastic as partitions (which can’t pass the fire test), but we ban partitions. No one said the committee decisions always make sense.
A similar lighthearted moment occurred when the Plumbing Code Committee had to deal with a change involving screening of public toilet rooms. This is a subject normally addressed by architects, but it appeared before the Plumbing Committee. There were discussions of being able to view someone in a mirror as the toilet room door is opened.
The Plumbing Code Committee voted to approve the change requiring screening and privacy for commercial toilet rooms. This followed all the approvals of the single-occupant toilet room requirements to address the requests of the transgender community.
If there was one central theme for plumbing, it had to be Legionnaires’ disease. ASHRAE submitted a code change to require all water-distribution systems to be designed in accordance with ASHRAE 188, the ASHRAE risk-management standard.
There was extensive testimony both for and against ASHRAE 188. The support was obvious, claiming the standard addresses a necessary issue in the plumbing engineering community. The opposition centered around the change being all encompassing, applying to all buildings. The other issue was the standard is a risk assessment, not a design standard. The committee recommended denial of the code change.
The results of all the code changes can be found at www.cpdACCESS.com.