Now, As Much As Ever, IAPMO Stands for Health and Safety

As I prepare my thoughts and information for my quarterly Official article, we are two weeks into shelter-in-place orders declared by the governors of California and Illinois. This global health emergency results from the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Looking at the news reports, at this point there are more than 165,000 cases and 3,200 deaths documented in the United States. Frankly, it is difficult to talk about anything else during these challenging times, but I’m always reminded that our industry, and organizations like IAPMO and ASSE in particular, must play a critically important role — both as a disseminator of information throughout our industry, and perhaps most importantly, as an advocate so that the decision makers at the national, state and local levels hear our concerns and recommendations.

IAPMO, via our close working relationship with the World Plumbing Council, is in contact with the World Health Organization in Geneva. The plumbing industry may have a central role in reducing the transmission of this virus by ensuring that plumbing systems are well maintained. It is imperative that we communicate the importance of hand washing after using restroom facilities. Unfortunately, many who have become sick as a result of contact with this virus transmit the virus onto others because of a lack of good personal hygiene. I encourage all of our plumbing industry professionals to continue to promote the important role that we play every day in protecting the public’s health and safety.

I know this is an extremely difficult time for our members and our clients. At this point in time (March 31), IAPMO, ASSE, IAPMO Uniform Evaluation Service and all IAPMO Labs, with the exception of our AquaDiagnostics Water Research & Technology Center in Bangaluru, India, have remained operational despite all of our offices in the United States being closed. You may have seen some of the releases we have published over the past couple of weeks to provide guidance and support for the users of our codes and standards. We have also been able to continue testing almost all types of products while simultaneously protecting the health and safety of our employees. We realize these are challenging times and we are doing our best to ensure we can remain as responsive and supportive to our clients as we possibly can.

Carrying on, I am pleased to report that IAPMO concluded the development of the 2021 editions of Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code, both of which have now been designated as American National Standards in accordance with IAPMO's ANSI audited designator program. Many of you may recall that the code development schedule changed in 2017 to ensure the updated codes are available to adopting jurisdictions and the broader industry almost a full year earlier than in past development cycles. Another benefit of this amended cycle is the opportunity for adopting jurisdictions, manufacturers, industry subject matter experts, the engineering community and all sectors of our industry to take the time necessary to assess and prepare code change proposals for the 2024 Uniform Codes. 

In January, a subcommittee heard two petitions filed with the IAPMO Board of Directors.  JB Engineering, on behalf of Daikin US, filed a petition seeking the approval of a Tentative Interim Amendment to the 2018 edition of the UMC regarding low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. The Board dismissed the petition. Another petition was filed by NASSCO seeking an amendment to the 2018 and 2021 editions of the UPC regarding cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) rehabilitation. The Board granted, in part, the petition. A copy of both decisions can be found here.

The information provided hereto is a clear example of the benefit of using an ANSI consensus process. This gives all interested parties the opportunity not only to propose code changes, but to also vote on those changes. IAPMO has now completed its 20th year using the ANSI consensus process as the underpinning basis of model code development for the Uniform Codes.

The next cycle for development of the 2024 UPC and UMC has begun, with the projected date of completion the first quarter of 2023. The deadline to submit proposals for the 2024 UPC and UMC is Jan. 4, 2021. The proposal hearing will be held in Anaheim, Calif., May 3-5, 2021, for the UPC and May 6-7 for the UMC. The IAPMO Assembly Consideration Session will be held on Sept. 28, 2021, during IAPMO’s annual Education and Business Conference in San Antonio. All document information can be obtained by vising the IAPMO Codes homepage or by downloading the IAPMO Codes app from your mobile device. 

As you know, IAPMO acquired the intellectual property rights to all editions of the National Standard Plumbing Code (NSPC) in June 2017. As part of that agreement, IAPMO committed itself to providing industry training on the requirements of the NSPC. I’m extremely pleased to advise that a committee has been formed and has already conducted its first meeting. Tony Marcello, Vice President of Education and Training, is the staff liaison and will support the work of the NSPC curriculum development committee. It is important that the plumbing industry in New Jersey has access to the basis of updated code requirements contained within the 2021 NSPC once it is released. It will be this committee of well-respected subject matter experts, most of whom are from New Jersey, that will enable IAPMO to support this important education initiative.

The 2021 NSPC is printed in the popular illustrated format, with comments and illustrations clearly shown as supplemental information. The illustrations and supplementary notes make it an indispensable training tool.

A few new developments in the 2021 NSPC are worth noting. Leak detection devices are becoming more prominent in water conservation by addressing water leaks, whether small or large and left unattended. The NSPC now includes provisions to ensure leak detection devices are compliant to product standards. The NSPC Technical Committee also recognized new water heater technologies that have integral temperature control devices compliant with the applicable ASSE performance standards. Appendix G in the 2021 NSPC, intended to promote safe and efficient water use in both residential and non-residential buildings, has been updated with revised excerpts from the 2017 Water Efficiency and Sanitation Standard (WE•Stand). Also new in the 2021 edition is Appendix L: Tiny Houses, which was added to address safe and reliable plumbing system requirements for both permanent single tiny houses (Part I) and for tiny house communities (Part II).

Part of IAPMO’s overall mission is to support the greater plumbing industry around the country and, especially, in areas in which IAPMO’s codes are used. With IAPMO now publishing the NSPC, we are providing support to the industry in a variety of ways. One of those ways is providing education and training support. IAPMO recently formed an NSPC Training Committee as a way to provide additional training materials and staff support to training providers throughout the state. The committee is comprised of stakeholders from a variety of sectors of the New Jersey plumbing industry, where the NSPC is most widely used.

The focus of the committee is to collaborate on the training needs in the state, identify the training materials that would be most beneficial across the industry, and work with IAPMO staff to develop those materials. These efforts will help alleviate some of the burden training providers bear for developing their own materials independently, as well as begin to standardize the messaging conveyed through training across providers.

IAPMO staff will serve as the liaisons to this committee and provide the support needed to generate consistent, high-quality training materials to be used by providers that are participating on the committee. In addition to staff support, we have converted some of the materials used for the code workshops at IAPMO’s annual conference to the NSPC. By making this training available to training providers in New Jersey, IAPMO is able to offer a unique training experience that is new to the New Jersey plumbing industry.

In late January, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and the NAHB International Builders’ Show, which were co-located in Las Vegas. These two shows, in particular, are important indicators of the economic growth within our industry. I spent an entire day meeting with various industry press representatives for the purpose of discussing industry trends, our projections for industry growth, and challenges that our industry will face in the coming decade. Some of those issues include limited access to skilled workers, technological advancement, and such health and safety risks as the aforementioned coronavirus. Some of these challenges are not new. In the 1970s-80s, my business partner and I ran a successful plumbing, heating and air conditioning business. In 1979, when I graduated from college, the business consisted of five employees. By 1985, our business had grown to ten times that size. In the 18 years we were in business, one issue we kept facing was finding and retaining skilled workers. Over the past decade, it amazes me that access to skilled workers continues to be a major challenge for our industry. I would venture to guess this challenge will not go away in the coming decades. We must do a better job in not only promoting the skills one can develop in our industry, but we must also promote our industry as a high-paying professional career. 

One of the most important changes that has occurred in the past decade or two is the fact more women are joining our industry. Just within The IAPMO Group, a number of women have exhibited their ability to strategize, implement, and nurture both men and women given their potential contributions as skilled workers. I’ve learned that women, generally speaking, are better at planning and implementing strategic initiatives. That’s not to say the male sector is not also contributing, but for decades the skilled workforce was absent of women. It is truly a pleasure to see more and more women taking their rightful place as major contributors to our industry. 

Now onto to some IAPMO Group news: The IAPMO UES business unit, which offers evaluation and certification to the building industry, recently hired Jerry Carrier as Senior Vice President of UES and the Institute of Building Technology (IBT). Jerry comes to UES from Glen-Gery Corporation, where he was Director of Research and Development and brings more than 15 years’ experience in strategic and technical leadership.

I’m also proud to announce that Dain Hansen has been promoted to Executive Vice President of Government Relations. Since joining IAPMO almost ten years ago, Dain has ascended to be a trusted and competent member of IAPMO senior staff. I’d also like to announce that Barry Johnson, based out of IAPMO's Southeast Regional Office, which is just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, has been promoted to Director of UES.

These are just three of IAPMO's recent additions and promotions, but there are many other IAPMO staff members who have taken on new assignments and responsibilities. Congratulations to our growing team!

Over two-plus decades, it’s been my privilege to serve as CEO and we have had good fortune in building several business units that now make up The IAPMO Group. In 1995, when I joined IAPMO, the staff was relatively small and focused in its core area of expertise. Over the past 25 years, we have expanded, growing rapidly and consistently. Much of that growth and success is directly attributable to our professional staff members. Today, IAPMO exceeds 350 employees worldwide. In 1995, there were 22  employees working out of the small office in Walnut, Calif. I can’t overstress how important it is to have professional, qualified, and well-respected individuals on our roster of employees, as they are some of the best and brightest minds our industry has produced. I have benefited from their professionalism and capabilities as often times I get the credit for the work they have done; hence, the reason I always try to acknowledge the leaders and main contributors who serve the IAPMO membership.

All of us play an essential role in driving the compliance of rapidly developing emerging technologies providing viable applications for our industry. These technologies are emerging with more frequency than in decades past. As a consequence, it is imperative that IAPMO's leadership and membership stay tuned to industry trends and projections with respect to growth and viability. If we are to remain relevant and in a position to make positive contributions to the advancement of our broader industry goals, we’ll also need to address both federal and state regulations that affect our industry. For example, in the state of Texas this past year, two bills were introduced that would have drastically impacted our industry in negative ways. One was the potential elimination of the Texas state Plumbing Board of Examiners and the second was the proposed elimination of the UPC as an accepted code for use in the state of Texas. Thankfully, those two bills failed but it required a rapid and major broad-based industry effort to bring to bear the resources necessary to oppose their passage.

Another example in the environmental sector is EPAs WaterSense, a consumer product labeling program that has now been in place for more than a decade and has achieved very favorable results in the area of water and energy conservation. Two years ago, the Trump administration, as part of its massive deregulation priority, proposed the elimination of the approximately $3 million from the annual budget for the WaterSense program. The industry rallied together to oppose the elimination of this successful and viable environmental program. Thankfully, we were able to restore the annual funding, but we’re certain that we’ve not heard the last from the Trump administration on this issue.

Most recently, the president has publicly complained about some of the low-flow plumbing fixtures that are manufactured in compliance with the U.S. national policy act and model plumbing codes and standards. The president’s actions could create uncertainty in the ability of this very successful environmental regulator program. Typically, various plumbing industry organizations tend to want the federal government to stay out of plumbing industry issues, but in this case we all recognize that the WaterSense Program is an extremely viable tool that we could get behind and promote, resulting in billions of gallons of water saved and substantial reductions in energy use. The president’s recent comments about low-flow shower fixtures provide a continuing concern about the federal government creating potential problems where no problems exist. 

I’d like to remind everyone that the planned seventh Emerging Water Technology Symposium has been postponed; the co-convener organizations will reevaluate options for a future date. The EWTS was founded by the World Plumbing Council in cooperation with The IAPMO Group, and in recent years ASPE, PMI and AWE have joined IAPMO as co-conveners of this biennial industrial event. EWTS has now evolved into a mainstream plumbing industry workshop/symposium bringing together many of the industry’s leaders and experts to discuss the emerging technologies and their projected impact.

Many of you may recall that IAPMO, PMI and ASPE are cofounders of the Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition (PILC). Together with 15 other industry organizations, the annual PILC meeting has also been postponed and we’ll announce the date of this annual meeting once we have dealt with this health emergency.

I’d like to close by wishing each of you, your families and employees the very best during the upcoming weeks as we anticipate another couple of months before we reach the apex of this horrible virus. Please remain safe and don’t ever forget to remind those that need to know — our industry is standing tall and we are eager to contribute to our nation at this time of need. Thankfully, our federal government and state governors now know the importance of our contribution to society and the necessity of having a vibrant plumbing industry workforce. All of us require access to clean water and safe sanitation. As you know, there are many parts of our nation that don’t have these basic human rights, even during times of economic prosperity, so we must never forget the hardships such families face during these challenging times. Please stay healthy and safe.