Subscribe to our newsletters & stay updated
This month we will cover some of what has been happening in the industry. We start with a review of the ISH trade show in Germany and then cover the recent and upcoming events at ASSE, ASHRAE and ASME.
ISH Trade Fair
On World Plumbing Day, March 11, I traveled to the International Sanitation & Heating (ISH) Trade Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. ISH Frankfurt is the world’s largest trade show focusing on plumbing and HVAC-related products. The show is so large; it is hard to comprehend the size of it. It is very much a big deal for Europe and the world. The show has a lot of glamour production, food, beverages and new product introductions.
The ISH Trade Fair is always held at the same location in odd-numbered years in mid-March because no place else is large enough to host this show. The Messe Frankfurt Fairground is 5 million sq. ft. in comparison to: Chicago’s McCormick Place at 2.6 million sq. ft.; Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center at 2.1 million sq. ft.; Las Vegas: Las Vegas’ Convention Center at 1.94 million sq. ft.; and Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center at 1.4 million sq. ft.
The ISH trade fair grounds are unmatched by any other facilities in the U.S. There are eleven buildings with eight multi-level convention halls. The eight larger halls have either two or three levels of trade show halls with a total of 20 convention hall floor areas with just under five million sq. ft. of floor space for exhibiting. The ISH show has more than 2,500 exhibitors and 190,000 attendees over a five-day show.
To manage the show and make it easier for attendees, the exhibitors are categorized and segregated into exhibit halls where like products can be on display, which makes it easier to compare products — boilers, water heaters and heat exchangers are in a hall together; piping, valves and fittings are in another hall together; contractor tools are in a separate hall; pumps are in a hall; air-handling units and fan coils are in a hall together; and plumbing fixtures have multiple halls on multiple floors.
One of my favorite booths at the show was where a plumbing fixture manufacturer had swimsuit models in swimsuit bottoms showering in one of the many shower units surrounding the bar and dining area of the booth.
I remember way back when, a U.S. water heater manufacturer had a large water heater at a U.S. plumbing show with a beer tap on the side of the water heater. Word quickly got around that there was free beer at its booth and there was soon a very large crowd in the booth. The other exhibitors complained, so now there is no free beer on the show floor.
At the ISH Show, the plumbing fixture manufacturers were spread throughout several buildings, with two or three levels of exhibit halls. Many of the larger manufacturers at the show had booths that approached or exceeded the size of a hockey rink. Inside many booths would be an upstairs lounge, conference rooms for working out special show prices, offices for exhibitors with all the supporting business machines, dining areas with tables and chairs, and lounging areas with comfortable chairs or sofas.
One exhibitor had an entire building with two floors of trade show exhibit halls for its exhibit space.
The restaurants and bars within the booths had servers taking orders from beer and wine, brats and pretzels to schnitzel, German potatoes and desserts. There were coffee bars, margarita bars and ice cream bars. You name it and it was there somewhere. Some of the nicer dining facilities required you to meet with a salesperson and be pre-qualified as a quality lead to get a slip of paper or ticket inviting you to have a seat and eat, drink and be merry. There was plenty of German beer, wine and food for all.
Here is some advice if you decide you want to go to this show. Get some comfortable shoes and consider gel insoles. The long distances and the size of the halls require wearing comfortable shoes because you walk all day and the show lasts five full days. It is a challenge to visit all 20 exhibit halls during the five days of the show. To do this, you would have to visit four trade show halls per day. You would also need to pace yourself to make it through an entire exhibit hall the size of the typical U.S. trade shows every two hours to make it through the ISH show.
During the ISH trade show, as with many shows, you also pick up vendor bags and backpacks and the usual assortment of give-away trinkets such as hats, rulers, levels, pens, flashlights, magnets and such as you make your way through the show. By the end of the day, you are carrying about 40 pounds of literature and trinkets.
My feet and ankles started to hurt by the end of the show. One vendor was handing out duffel bags with wheels. We went out of our way to find this booth to take a load off our shoulders and feet. In the future, I would like to see a pedicure or foot bath manufacturer displaying its products where you can stop for a quick soaking and foot massage. During the ISH Show, I saw several people came prepared with an empty suitcase with wheels or a cart with wheels to carry all the literature and trinkets in.
Many of the booths had lounging areas where you could stop and rest your feet on a sofa while sipping a coffee or a beverage and having a pastry or dessert. Many of the booth workers wear colorful company uniforms or shirts to match. I liked the German outfits the servers wore in many of the booths. Many of the female servers in the food service area of exhibit spaces were wearing traditional German dresses and the men were wearing were German Lederhosen.
The Italian manufacturers’ booths had some Italian supermodels. That marketing technique has always drawn a crowd. The ISH trade show is like a combination of the Kitchen & Bath Show, with the AHR Expo and the ASPE Engineered Plumbing Expo all in one.
It is a good idea to plan which exhibit halls you will visit in order of priority. I noticed a lot of new and innovative products on display and a few focused a little too much on design and not enough on comfort or function. The form vs. function seemed to be a little out of balance for a few products with a heavy emphasis on design.
There were some interesting faucet designs including 3D-printed metal faucets, with some almost-impossible-to-cast faucet designs and an assortment of uniquely styled and shaped faucets and fixtures. The ISH Trade Fair allows you to see a year or two into the future to see what some of the manufacturers are planning on releasing as their new product lines.
Comparing Show Statistics
The ISH Show and the Frankfurt Messe trade fair has almost 5 million sq. ft. of exhibit space. There were more than 190,000 visitors and 2,500 exhibitors at the March 2019 ISH Trade Fair.
The 2019 ASHRAE show held in Atlanta in January had 493,120 sq. ft. of exhibit space with more than 1,800 exhibitors and 27,000 visitors. For comparison, the ISH show is 10 times the floor area size of the AHR Expo, two times the number of exhibitors and seven times the number of attendees.
ASPE held their convention and exposition in Atlanta in fall 2018. According to the data about the convention center, the Georgia World Congress Center space for the ASPE Engineered Plumbing Expo had about 200,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and more than 300 exhibitors and more than 4,000 attendees. For comparison, the ISH trade fair space is more than 20 times the size of the ASPE Expo and had about 47 times more people attend than the ASPE Show.
It is not fair to compare the shows based on exhibit hall size or their attendance. When you look at the engineered or specified plumbing products compared to the commodity products, tools and other non-engineer-specified products of the ISH show, the ASPE Expo shines bright for the number of engineered plumbing products on display. There are also technical people in the booths available to talk about the performance and material qualities of a product with the engineers and designers in attendance.
On the flip side, the ASPE expo has a high percentage of quality engineering design and specifying attendees. ASPE has always been good at making sure the exhibitors have their technical people in the booths rather than just salespeople who cannot seem to answer the technical questions. Although I think a free beer might be pretty cool. The ISH show has a lot to see and it is worth the trip.
Many of the products at ISH would not obtain standards and code approval in the United States. Many of the faucets and fittings in Europe and from other parts of the world do not meet our lead-free requirements. I talked to many disappointed manufacturers when they found out there were standards their products must conform to in order to sell them in the U.S. market. They would need to have some product testing done to their products to comply with standards listed in the U.S. codes. Meeting these standards often means those manufacturers may have to change their manufacturing process.
I make a trip to the ISH show in Frankfurt, Germany, every two years around mid-March. I would recommend you consider planning a trip also to experience its size and many different products for out-of-the-box thinking. While you are there, you could spend a few days before or after touring Germany, France and the surrounding area. There are many castles, cathedrals and buildings dating back hundreds or thousands of years.
ASSE Professional Qualification Standards
On Feb. 26, I attended the first meeting of the standard committee for the ASSE Series 4000, Professional Qualifications Standard for Legionella Water Management Specialist. The idea for this professional qualification standard was born out of a discussion I had with Matt Frejie around the year 2000 after he gave a seminar in Detroit. We discussed many of the plumbing, HVAC microbiology, chemistry, medical and transmission issues associated with Legionnaires disease and the fact that not many people have a good grasp on all the subjects.
There seemed to be many self-proclaimed experts who know a lot about one subject area such as chemicals but not much about the plumbing and HVAC systems and other issues associated with the cause of the disease. We also talked about many of the stories Matt had learned from his interviews with victims and families associated with Legionnaires’ disease.
And we discussed the need for training that covers all these areas: the history of the disease, the microbiology, the chemistry, the water quality, environmental factors affecting bacteria growth including temperature, pH, pipe materials, water treatment chemical residuals, aging water, biofilm, disturbances leading to outbreaks and other factors.
We also discussed the need to eliminate dead legs, add sampling locations, add temperature gauges to monitor system temperatures, how an inspection of a building’s mechanical system should be performed and how to document an as-built flow diagram of the building water system to properly assess the risks in the system.
We agreed there was a critical need for a training program to certify people as Legionella Prevention Specialists. At the time, it was noted there were many building owners wanting to ignore the issue, as well as some chemical salesmen with little or no background or understanding of the plumbing and mechanical systems providing Legionella remediation services for facilities that had outbreaks. Their solution always seemed to be to sell chemical feed pumps and chemicals to the facility.
We discussed going to several different organizations to set up a certification program. We contacted representatives from ASHRAE, ASPE, ASSE and many other organizations suggesting a Legionella Risk Assessor Certification Program in the early 2000s. Most of the organizations did not see a need for a certification standard. Other organizations did not want to take on any liability associated with certifying professionals.
After IAPMO and ASSE merged, they started to develop professional qualification standards. A few years ago, I met with Conrad Jahrling and Marianne Waikman of ASSE during one of its annual meetings. They both seemed receptive to the idea of making this into one of their professional qualification standards. I worked with them on names for some key people as contacts to help get the standard off the ground.
ASSE staff pulled the Project Initiation Numbers from ANSI to develop this into an ANSI Standard. The committee is now working toward developing a standard identifying training outline and certification exam program criteria for a Professional Qualifications Standard for Legionella Water Management Specialist.
ASSE Mid-Year Meeting
ASSE held its mid-year meeting in Mokena, Ill., April 2-3. ASSE working groups are forming to develop the following professional qualifications standards: ASSE Series 7000, Professional Qualifications Standard for Residential Potable Water Fire Protection Systems Installers & Inspectors for One and Two Family Dwellings; and ASSE Series 22000, Professional Qualifications Standard for Water Treatment Equipment Personnel.
Working groups are forming to develop the following product standards: ASSE 1003, Water Pressure-Reducing Valves for Domestic Water Distribution Systems; ASSE 1017, Temperature Actuated Mixing Valves for Hot Water Distribution Systems; ASSE 1049, Individual and Branch-Type Air Admittance Valves for Chemical Waste Systems; ASSE 1050, Stack Air Admittance Valves for Chemical Waste Systems; and ASSE 1051, Individual and Branch-Type Air Admittance Valves for Sanitary Drainage Systems.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) released the Report on Comments for the proposed revisions to the 2021 edition of the Uniform Plumbing Code in late winter. The Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code Technical Committee meeting is April 29-May 2 in Denver. As of this writing, the meetings have not occurred yet. I will be attending and will report on the outcome in a future column.
The International Code Council’s 2021 International Plumbing Code has been completed as part of the Group “A” codes and is awaiting publication after the Group “B” and “C” codes are completed. They should be published in 2020 so various jurisdictions can review and adopt the code by 2021.
National Standard Plumbing Code (NSPC) Technical Committee meetings will be July 11 in Atlantic City, N.J.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A112 committee and sub-committees or task groups will hold their summer meetings jointly with the Canadian Standards Association, June 17-21, 2019 at the Westin Ottawa, 11 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1N 9H4.