If you are a plumber, chances are you know how important water conservation is to the trade. Green Plumbers USA accredits Green Plumbers that go through its 32-hour accreditation in environmental and technical topics, and when finished with this program, he or she will have expertise in residential water-efficient products, heating and cooling appliances, hot water heating, solar hot water and water conservation.
All Green Plumbers USA courses are taught online and cover subjects, such as Climate Care, Caring For Our Water, Solar Hot Water, Water Efficient Technology, and Inspection Report Services. Even though the courses are taught online, students have to go to a local testing site to take the accreditation exam administered by National Inspection Testing and Certification.
“We have always preferred to have ‘live’ classes, but it is also very important that anyone, anywhere has the opportunity to become an accredited Green Plumber, and the online courses make it possible,” says Steve Lehtonen, Senior Director of Environmental Education Green Plumbers Training & Accreditation, the IAPMO Group. In April of 2011, The IAPMO Group acquired the North American rights to the Green Plumbers USA Training and Accreditation Program from Onni Inc. and the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Contractors Association of Australia (MPMSAA).
According to Lehtonen, 2012 was the slowest year for accrediting Green Plumbers, mostly due to the recession and a slow-down of all things “green,” but also because the association concentrated on developing its complete on-line package of courses and publishing the Green Plumbers Reference Manual.
“We have already seen a surge in interest in 2013,” says Lehtonen. “In July we had ‘live’ classes in Atlanta and Sacramento, in addition to our online offerings. Green Plumbers USA and the Green Cities Initiative, www.niagaragreencity.com, a waterand energy conservation program by Niagara Conservation and Green Plumbers USA, have certainly been a factor in the increased interest, because plumbing contractors need to see the possibility of new jobs as a result of green training. Most plumbers taking the courses these days are residential, but over the course of the program the majorities have been commercial because there are more green mandates in commercial work.”
Lehtonen says there are thousands of Green Plumbers that have been through the Green Plumbers USA training program.
“The state with the most by far is California, but the following states have a considerable number of plumbers who have been through our training: Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, Oregon, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin and Colorado,” said Lehtonen. “I believe that we have trained Green Plumbers in 34 states.”
A constantly evolving industry
There are a variety of reasons contractors should want to stay current in their trade by taking Green Plumbers USA courses.
“First, I think that all workers need constant ‘up-skilling’ to increase motivation, perception, and productivity,” says Lehtonen. “Just think how the electronics industry transforms itself virtually every year! Well, the plumbing industry is also changing constantly, but many plumbers are still stuck in the 1990s with regard to knowledge of product technologies. Green technologies are a part of just about everything we do in plumbing these days — more efficient products, lead-free, water quality, rainwater harvesting and so many others. When plumbers take our courses, they get re-motivated in their careers, and excited when they realize how their actions make a difference, saving water, energy and dollars for consumers.”
Since the economy is improving, and as housing gets back on track, the interest in Green Plumbers USA is ramping up once again.
“In the past, the really motivated plumbers that have taken our courses approach us and ask to be instructors because they want to share what they’ve learned with others in the industry,” says Lehtonen. “Potential instructors should be plumbers, and we prefer that they have been teaching in apprenticeship programs or community colleges, but the occasional person comes along with a natural talent for engaging the audience.”
And John Smith, Rooter 2000/The Arizona Green Plumber, is one of those people that have the natural talent and industry knowledge to be a Green Plumbers USA instructor. Smith first became certified with Green Plumbers USA in October 2009 and continues to take a variety of classes to keep his skills fresh. Recently he completed a solar course offered by Green Plumbers USA in conjunction with Alternate Energy Technology, and he is currently enrolled in a sustainability course at a local college.
“I am certified as a Green Plumbers USA instructor and always look for opportunities to help educate our staff about sustainable plumbing alternatives,” says Smith. “That being said, our office also takes full advantage of the Green Plumbers Training and Accreditation programs that are now available online. This works out well due to the need for our workers to be able to maintain a flexible schedule and fit their training in during regular operating hours. When possible, we try to get our plumbers into training with Director of Green Plumbing Curriculum Doug Kirk, as his experience in this field is incomparable and his passion for green plumbing is both legendary and contagious.”
Smith told CONTRACTOR that the plumbing trade is constantly evolving.
“The world around us is changing, including the plumbing trade,” says Smith. “Every day, new water-saving models of commonly-used fixtures come out on the market. Municipalities have their fingers on the pulse of the conservation market, with some even looking to mandate the usage of certain water-saving products in the future. It won't be long before green products become the norm rather than a novelty. By staying ‘ahead of the times,’ Green Plumbers can ensure the satisfaction of their customers and the productivity of their business, all while improving the health of our planet.”
Smith had no idea that he would become hooked on water conservation after taking Green Plumbers USA courses.
“I make no secret that my initial attendance to the Green Plumbing training was a direct result of its location in Las Vegas,” said Smith. “I was looking for an ongoing education opportunity that would offer me the chance for a change of scenery and a little excitement. It didn't take me more than a few hours into the program before my outlook changed and my enthusiasm was sparked. I immediately saw the benefits that water conservation could have to both my business and the world around us.”
Just like Smith, Todd Fulton, vice president of Syntrol Plumbing, Heating & Air, Roseville, Calif., was immediately hooked on water conservation when he began the program.
“After attending the first course, Caring For Our Water, I was hooked on the idea of water conservation and the impact that I could personally have by spreading the new way of thinking in regards to system design, and retrofits that would reduce consumption,” says Fulton. “It is a wake-up call to action, and it spurred me to learn more. Within one month of the first training, I gave a seminar to the North State BIA on water conservation and hot water system designs for new construction residential homes.” North State BIA is a community-based organization representing more than 440 homebuilder and associate members.
When asked if he would recommend Green Plumbers USA to other plumbing contractors, Fulton told CONTRACTOR that not only would he recommend it, but he believes that plumbers have a responsibility to learn what Green Plumbers USA has to offer.
“I’m reminded of the famous American Standard poster from the early 20th century that states ‘The Plumber Protects the Health of the Nation,’ ” says Fulton. “It’s still true today. The focus at the time of the poster’s creation was the spread of Cholera, and the plumber’s mission was to create plumbing systems that would keep separate waste water and potable water. Today’s focus for the plumber is to continue protecting the nation by ensuring that everyone will have water to drink and bathe with in the future.”
How it all began
In 2007, Lehtonen, CEO of Green Plumbers USA, brought the program to the states from Australia. Then in 2009, Green Plumbers USA contracted with IAPMO to take the Green Plumbers program into India. A few months later, Megan Lehtonen, president of Green Plumbers became director of IAPMO’s business development in India and Australia.
“We were very impressed with IAPMO’s GREEN commitment, and the leadership of IAPMO CEO Russ Chaney,” says Steve Lehtonen. “Our relationship with IAPMO coincided with a change in Green Plumber’s Australia operations, where the business of Green contracting was turned over to a company called Green Invest, and the Green Plumbers Training operations remained with the program’s founder, the Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association of Australia (MPMSAA).”
In early 2011, Lehtonen reached an agreement with Green Invest to sell the Green Plumbers USA (licensing of contractors) to Green Invest, and he moved to IAPMO with the Green Plumbers Training program.
“Jon Cruz is heading up the Green Plumbers USA program now, and doing an excellent job,” says Lehtonen. “We work very closely with Jon to coordinate training opportunities for contractors that want to establish their green credentials.”
When Lehtonen went to work for IAPMO, one of his main responsibilities out of the gate was coordinating an effort to work closer with other associations.
“Soon after my arrival, IAPMO signed MOUs with American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) and Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI), both of which included educational efforts,” explains Lehtonen. “We have been pleased to work with PMI to develop an online version of their excellent Codes and Standards workshop, which I believe should be mandatory for everyone working in the plumbing industry. The High Performance Water Heating (HPHW) course came out of a three year study for the California Energy Commission, administered by the Gas Technology Institute.”
The Green Plumbers USA contract to develop a workshop was inherited by IAPMO Green Plumbers Training, and nine workshops were presented in California, prior to the study becoming finalized. Since then, the course was accepted by ASPE, and Green Plumbers USA is working with ASPE to promote the course to plumbing engineers and ASPE members across the country.
“Speaking of other courses, we are proud to have worked with ASPE and ASPE subject matter experts to adapt (and significantly add to) Green Plumbers material, to create the ASPE Green Plumbing Design course,” says Lehtonen. “The beta class was held this summer in Ontario, at IAPMO headquarters, and the first official run-through will be Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 at the ASPE Technical Symposium in Orlando.”