One national plumbing code just makes sense

Hurricane Katrina overshadowed another news story last month that promises to have far-reaching impact on the plumbing industry. We'd be remiss if we didn't comment on it now. Katrina captured our attention because its devastation was swift and naturally occurring, although its damage was compounded by a large dose of human error. This country's conflicting model plumbing codes have caused a calamity

Hurricane Katrina overshadowed another news story last month that promises to have far-reaching impact on the plumbing industry. We'd be remiss if we didn't comment on it now.

Katrina captured our attention because its devastation was swift and naturally occurring, although its damage was compounded by a large dose of human error. This country's conflicting model plumbing codes have caused a calamity of their own, although on a smaller yet more persistent scale, causing confusion and unnecessary expense for plumbing contractors, engineers and vendors.

The codes chaos has an entirely manmade origin and has been prolonged for far too many years. A problem that people create, however, can be solved by them too. Officials from the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and the International Code Council finally are talking about creating a single national plumbing code and mechanical code.

This makes so much sense that we ask others in the plumbing industry in joining us in supporting this objective. Now that the talks have begun, we all must do what we can to make certain that officials of the model code bodies iron out the differences between the International Plumbing Code and Uniform Plumbing Code.

A few naysayers already are pointing out how difficult and complicated this process will be. For starters, legal matters have to be addressed. The National Fire Protection Association, which is aligned with IAPMO, and the ICC are suing each other, claiming that each used substantial parts of one of the other's codes when developing one of its own codes.

The
objective
of protecting the public
cannot
be compromised.

Rather than being a point of contention, the lawsuits should demonstrate to the code bodies that they share more common ground than they may think. Similar language in competing codes may have arrived there because it outlines practices that help protect the public's health and safety.

That concern for the public's wellbeing should be the foundation of a single national plumbing code. Meeting the goal of safeguarding consumers should enable code body officials to overcome the political, legal, geographical and labor issues that may divide them today.

Room for compromise between code bodies exists on each of those issues. The objective of protecting the public cannot be compromised.

That being said, a single national plumbing code must be broad enough

to contain options for products and systems so that plumbing contractors can make choices that are best for their individual customers. The code also must be developed in such a way that it includes a common-sense method to update it to keep it current. The code process today stifles innovation and adds unneeded expense for product development.

IAPMO and ICC representatives made enough progress over the summerto invite United Association and other industry officials to join the discussion on code consolidation. They gathered at a special meeting in August at the UA training facility in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The next step will take place when ICC and IAPMO officials sign a memorandum of understanding. The MOU will address core principles, ownership of copyrights, how documents will be maintained, the mechanics of the code change process, which organization would run educational programs including inspector education and certification and other issues that go with implementing a model code.

One unfortunate aspect of the MOU is that it will prohibit code officials from speaking publicly about their negotiations. We're not sure that the secrecy is necessary, and we trust that IAPMO and ICC will give the industry periodic updates on their progress.

We will continue to report on their efforts toward reaching a single national plumbing code. You should support their work too. Consistent national plumbing standards would benefit not only consumers, but also contractors and the rest of the industry.