Architects know what they are doing

A recap of the IAPMO Plumbing and Mechanical Technical Committee meetings.

CODES || By Julius Ballanco, P.E., CPD, FASPE

CODES || By Julius Ballanco, P.E., CPD, FASPE

By Julius Ballanco, P.E., CPD, FASPE

IAPMO held its Plumbing and Mechanical Technical Committee meetings the first week of May in Anaheim, California. The meetings were run as hybrid meetings — in-person and virtual. The majority of Technical Committee members appeared in person. Approximately five to six members connected through the computer link each day. In addition to Technical Committee members, others could join and testify remotely through the computer link.

The four days of meetings were held to review and vote on comments submitted to the code changes published last year. The comments respond to the committee’s recommendations during the first review of the code changes.

During any Technical Committee meetings, there are always some interesting statements and decisions made by the committee. This year was no different. What was expected to be an intense discussion was the allowance of all-gender toilet rooms. The Technical Committee originally rejected the code change, with the statement that the Building Code already allows all-gender toilet rooms. What was not included in the committee’s statement was that the Uniform Plumbing Code specifically prohibited all-gender toilet rooms.

One of the first questions raised was, “How do you deal with privacy in all-gender toilet rooms?” Since the privacy compartment code change was a few changes later, the code change on all-gender toilet rooms was tabled until after the privacy discussion.

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Most assumed that the privacy requirements would be accepted, followed by the approval of the tabled code change. That was not to be. The code change on privacy referenced the new standard on partitions, IAPMO Z124.10. The standard specifies three levels of partition privacy: All-gender, individual gender toilet rooms and urinals.

The argument opposed to the privacy requirements was that the Building Code should regulate privacy. It is not a Plumbing Code issue. Then one Committee member stated, “The architects know what they are doing. We don’t need to regulate privacy.”

Such a comment received a myriad of responses, such as, “Why do we bother to have a code at all?” With a close vote, the privacy code change was rejected.

The discussion on all-gender toilet rooms then continued with a slight modification to require all urinals to be in a privacy compartment. While the change specifies privacy for all-gender water closets, there was no definition of how private, privacy must be. Even without a clear understanding, the code change allowing all-gender toilet rooms was recommended for approval.

The issue generating the most debate was Legionella. This surprised many on both committees since the Technical Committee originally thought the work of the Legionella Task Group was good. ASHRAE and members of ASHRAE SSPC 188 submitted a number of comments on both the plumbing code change and mechanical code change. Additionally, a smaller group of the Legionella Task Group members submitted comments accepting, in part, some of the changes proposed by ASHRAE.

ASHRAE preferred a direct reference to ASHRAE 188 and ASHRAE Guideline 12. The code officials on the Technical Committee emphasized that it is not possible to enforce a risk management standard. In the end, the small group’s changes were accepted, plus a few ASHRAE changes. At the end of the discussion on the comments on the code changes, the Mechanical Technical Committee voted to recommend a new Task Group of IAPMO and ASHRAE members to review all of the Legionella requirements in both the Plumbing and Mechanical Code.

If you were a first-timer attending the code meeting, you would swear that both Technical Committees do not like UL standards. Every time a UL standard was included in a code change, it was scrutinized and often rejected. While UL standards were constantly challenged, one code change that flew by with an approval allows an engineer or contractor to use any SMACNA, ANSI or other organization’s standard for duct construction. Another case of no rhyme or reason regarding the acceptance of standards.

There were a number of comments to the Plumbing Code regarding the sizing of sanitary drainage systems, storm drainage systems and the design of venting systems. The remarks regarding sizing were directed toward the engineers on the committee with the statement, “Can’t engineers do this already as part of an engineered design?” The answer was always, “Yes, but don’t you want to provide the same opportunity to plumbing contractors?” Apparently not, since every one of the code changes was rejected. The vent design code changes received mixed reviews with the acceptance of single stack system changes under the alternate engineered appendix and a few changes to wet venting.

During the Mechanical Technical Committee meeting, a lot of debate centered around the acceptance of press connect fittings for refrigerant systems. The union representatives requested that press connect refrigerant fittings be removed from the code. If you are looking for good technical justification for such a change, it does not exist. There were two different code changes that would accomplish the same result. After a long discussion, the first change to remove the acceptance of press connect refrigerant fittings was rejected.

When the second code change came up for review, everyone thought it would have the same result, namely, being rejected. There was no discussion, and it went right to the voting. However, while watching the balloting, all of a sudden additional votes started to appear. For the entire day, only 24 or 25 votes were ever cast on a given comment. After a short delay in the voting process, 27 votes appeared with the code change being accepted by a single vote.

The staff took time to examine why the number of votes increased for this one code change. Jokes started about being in Chicago (picking on my area of the country) or getting some dead bodies out of the cemetery. After a short delay, every vote was verified and the code change to remove press connect refrigerant fittings was approved.

All of the voting results now go to the Technical Committee for an electronic ballot. During the meeting, only a simple majority is required to determine the recommended action. Electronic balloting requires a two-thirds majority for acceptance of the recommendation. When a code change does not receive a two-thirds majority, it is automatically listed for rejection of the comment.

The results of the electronic ballot will be reported in the Report on Comments (ROC) which will be published over the summer. The final review of the code changes will be at the IAPMO Annual Conference held in Charlotte, North Carolina, this September. At the Annual Conference, the IAPMO membership gets to vote on all of the proposed code changes.

andreswd/E+ via Getty Images.

The views expressed here are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily represent PM Engineer or BNP Media.

Julius Ballanco, P.E., CPD, FASPE, is president of J.B. Engineering and Code Consulting, P.C. in Munster, Indiana. He can be reached at by email at

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