Magazine Milestone, Industry Challenges in 2004

BY BOB MIODONSKI, Publisher and Editorial Director CONTRACTOR MAGAZINE will celebrate its 50th year of publishing in 2004, an accomplishment of which were proud. Ive been aboard for almost one-fifth of that time, marking my 10th anniversary as CONTRACTORs chief editor next month. About the time I came to the magazine, I recall that the now-defunct Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Information Bureau was trying

BY BOB MIODONSKI, Publisher and Editorial Director

CONTRACTOR MAGAZINE will celebrate its 50th year of publishing in 2004, an accomplishment of which we’re proud. I’ve been aboard for almost one-fifth of that time, marking my 10th anniversary as CONTRACTOR’s chief editor next month.

About the time I came to the magazine, I recall that the now-defunct Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Information Bureau was trying to revive the logo of the plumbing contractor who protects the health and safety of the nation. The image of the ruggedly handsome plumber went back even further than the beginnings of CONTRACTOR. After all, the PHCIB reminded us, the plumbing industry had done more in the last century than the medical profession to stem the spread of infectious diseases and to save lives.

While the retro logo of the plumber enjoyed a short-lived revival, it seemed to me that many contractors were taking for granted that they were protecting the health and safety of the country without actively promoting the cause or seeking out new ways to safeguard the nation. With new strains of viruses and bacteria causing illness and death; continuing concerns about scalding, flammable vapors and fire safety; and a growing shortage of quality potable water, now is the time for you to reassert yourselves in the role of the nation’s protector.

Be assured that you can do this while helping your businesses to grow at the same time. Just look at the places where you can make a difference:

Infectious diseases. No one likes to benefit from another’s misfortune but the chance for you to prevent illness and death is substantial. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization reported that faulty plumbing in a Hong Kong high-rise was responsible for the spread of the SARS virus, which resulted in 65 deaths. The presence of legionella bacteria in mechanical systems continues to be a concern as well. Contractors once again will be at the forefront of providing systems that stem the spread of disease.

Mold. Perhaps no single topic has grabbed more attention in our industry in the last few years than mold and the large monetary settlements that have been handed down in mold-related lawsuits. Juries have been swayed not only by evidence of mold-related property damage, but also by the threat to human health that certain strains of mold bring with them. Contractors must work to remedy those situations where mold already has taken hold and install systems that prevent the possibility of mold from the outset.

Scalding and flammable vapors. Earlier this year, manufacturers introduced new technology that greatly reduces the risk of vapors from gasoline and other flammable liquids causing water heaters to ignite into dangerous fires. As they have done in the past, contractors must work with manufacturers to actively promote the safe and sensible use of water-heating equipment among consumers.

Fire safety. We discussed the urgent need for fire sprinkler retrofits in commercial buildings in last month’s Editorial. Contractors must promote the life-saving value of fire sprinklers in new nonresidential and residential construction as well as in retrofits.

Water conservation. One-third of the world’s population already is water-stressed, and two-thirds will be water-stressed by 2025, according to information presented by our sister publication, HPAC Engineering. Most freshwater occurs in ice and snow locked up in Antarctica or in deep groundwater aquifers. The water available for human use in lakes, rivers and groundwater basins represents less than 1% of the world’s freshwater and about 0.01% of all water on earth. Contractors find themselves in a key situation to promote water-saving technology and practices.

I recently spoke with a specifying engineer who had written his doctoral thesis on change in the construction industry. He had concluded that codes, unions and contractors who do things the way their fathers did make construction one of the industries most resistant to change.

Too much is at stake for that resistance to change to continue. Put yourself in a position to participate in the challenges that lie ahead in 2004 and the years beyond.

Now is the time for you to reassert yourselves in the role of the nation’s protector.