Spring is here and that means it’s time to head out to attend the model code hearings. In April and May, the two major model code organizations will continue working on the 2018 versions of the model codes.
The International Codes
The International Code Council (ICC) will begin code hearings on the 2016 Group “B” Committee Action Hearings on April 17–27 in Louisville, Kentucky. The ICC hearings will be held at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Admin: Chapter 1 of all the I-Codes except, Group “B” hearings will not review the administration provisions in the following codes: The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC); The International Green Construction Code (IgCC); and The International Residential Code (IRC).
There will be hearings for the update of all the currently referenced standards in all of the 2015 I-Codes to bring them up to current standards for the 2018 codes. Other hearings include: International Building Code, Structural Provisions (IBC-S) IBC Chapters 15 – 25; International Existing Building Code, Structural Provisions (IEBC-S) to be heard by the IBC Structural code committee; International Energy Conservation Code – Commercial Energy Provisions. (IECC-C: IECC); International Energy Conservation Code – Residential energy provisions (IECC-R/IRC-E) and IRC Energy provisions in Chapter 11; International Fire Code (IFC): IFC provisions [Note the majority of IFC Chapter 10 is maintained by the International Building Code – Energy (IBC-E) in Group A]; International Residential Code – Building provisions. (IRC-B) Chapters 1 – 10; and International Wildland Urban Interface Code (IWUIC): Code changes to be heard by the IFC code committee.
For information on when each committee will be hearing the code changes, go to www.iccsafe.org/wp-content/uploads/2016-Group-B-CAH-Hearing-Schedule.pdf.
Uniform Code Hearings
The International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) will hold their Code Hearings for the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) and the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) on May 2 – 6, in Denver, Colorado at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. This will be the first round of code hearings for the code change proposals submitted for the 2018 Uniform Codes.
As usual, the code change proposals will be heard by the Technical Committees made up of many industry professionals. Code changes will be called to the floor by the moderator/chairman and the proponent of the code change is given a couple of minutes to present the reason for the code change. The chairman calls for supporting testimony and then opposing testimony. After a round or two of rebuttal testimonies, the technical committee votes on the code change. However, this vote is subject to change because the actual vote is done after the hearings with a letter ballot. The code hearings can be entertaining at times when emotions run high and they can be rather mundane when updates are made to existing standards and other housekeeping code changes are done.
I find some of the code change testimonies at these two code organizations' hearings fascinating, and it can be an educational experience for the attendees and, sometimes, for the proponents. Sometimes you see a proponent push for a code change to allow the use of a product or method of construction that may not be allowed in the code currently. I also see well-intentioned, yet uninformed, proponents pushing for changes that go against the laws of physics and science. In the last few code cycles, there have been many proponents with code changes to further reduce energy and water conservation without any research or technical justification as to what the change will do to plumbing systems.
Over the last few code cycles, when code changes are presented proposing decreased water use it has reminded me of the water conservation limbo dance. How low can you go? We went from 5-7 gallons per flush on water closets down to 3.5 gallons per flush prior to 1992. Then in 1992, we went down to 1.6 gallons per flush as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, and the flow rates for many other plumbing fixtures were reduced. Soon after, the incidences of drain line blockages associated with poor drain line transport increased. There have been several other rounds of water conserving measures that have reduced water flows in various states and cities to reduce water consumption rates even further. Each time, one of the code changes is proposed, I ask if there has been any research to show that there will be sufficient drain line transport of solids with lower flow rates and if there are studies that show if this will impact the quality of the water. With lower flow mandates, the water treatment chemicals could dissipate and cause water quality issues. The reply is typically a deer-in-headlights stare, followed by the proponent looking left and right for someone else to answer the question.
There have been minimal studies done with respect to drain line transport and no studies with respect to increased bacterial growth due to these water conservation efforts. The Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) studies have been conducted using private donations and they have shown the effect of some of these extremely low flow rates on drain solids line transport. When we combine the new ultra-low flow fixtures with flushable products such as toilet seat covers, so-called flushable wipes, tampons, and other flushable products there will be a point of diminishing or no return.
PERC was conducted on drain line transport for 1.6 gallons per flush and 1.28 gallons per flush. The PERC study was limited in funding and could not address all of the ultra-low flow rates and various pipe sizes and slopes with various flushable products. However, there was enough data collected to have a pretty good idea of how the lower flows will or will not perform. Additional drain line transport testing needs to be done on fixtures with flushable wipes, feminine products and flushable seat covers at ultra-low flows.
We also need information about what happens to the stagnant water in the public water mains when lower flows are mandated. As we have gone from the water guzzling fixtures that were used prior to 1992 to the post-1992 Energy Policy Act flow rates. Now,it is down to ultra-low flow rate and zero flow rate fixtures (grey water recycling, rainwater catchment systems or non-water using urinals), where the water is diverted away from the drainage and water supply flow rates are significantly reduced in the water mains. We are reducing the amount of water consumed to the point we are experiencing a phenomenon known as “Aging Water.” Aging water occurs when the water flows so slow in the water utility mains and building water distribution pipes that the water treatment chemicals dissipate down to ineffective levels to fight bacteria and pathogens in the water pipes for consumer’s farther out in the systems. These pathogens end up colonizing in a biofilm on the pipe walls and creating an ecosystem similar to a coral reef of bacteria and organic pathogens in and on calcium and scale build-ups on the pipe walls.
EPA Research Grant
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Research has been listening and paying attention to these issues and they realized there needs to be some research to assess the impact of water conservation efforts on water quality in plumbing and water distribution systems. They recently put a research grant out for bid for researchers to Research the Impacts of Water Conservation on Water Quality in Premise Plumbing and Water Distribution Systems. It is Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2016-ORD-B1, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.511. The research bids were due in mid-March, so we should hear who will be doing the research soon.
The synopsis of the research program includes the following language: "The responsibility to ensure that public water systems provide safe drinking water is shared by EPA, the various states, tribal nations, water systems, and the general public, as mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Section 1442 of this Act authorizes EPA to conduct research, studies, and demonstrations related to the causes, diagnosis, treatment, control, and prevention of diseases resulting from contaminants in drinking water, or to the provision of a dependably safe supply of drinking water."
As consumers become more aware of the need for water conservation, they are decreasing water consumption which has led to lower flows of water being conveyed in water systems and buildings designed to manage higher flows. In turn, these lower flows influence water quality, costs, energy consumption, and public health. As water shortages and competition for water resources increase the need for using water more efficiently, we need to consider how systems and buildings can be better designed, renovated, or managed so that water can be used efficiently while ensuring public health and safety.
EPA is issuing this Request for Applications (RFA) to fund research into issues of water quality and availability related to distribution systems and premise plumbing systems under lower-flow conditions.
ASHRAE Guideline 12 nearing completion for review
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) completed and published the ASHRAE 188 standard in June 2015. Since then, the Guideline 12 committee has been busy updating the standard. The last edition of the standard was published in 2000.
The committee is nearing completion of latest edition of Guideline 12, which will be titled, “ASHRAE Guideline 12 Managing the Risk of Legionellosis Associated with Building Water Systems.” The document should be out for public review very soon. Stay tuned to the ASHRAE website for the public review document.
Ron George, CPD, is president of Plumb-Tech Design & Consulting Services LLC. He can be reached at: office 734-322-0225; cell phone 755-1908; and website www.Plumb-TechLLC.com.