DENVER – The Green Technical Committee of the International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials has voted to limit showers to 2.0-GPM total at 80-PSI in a 1,800-sq.in. shower compartment. The GTC is developing a Green Plumbing and Mechanical Supplement as an adjunct to IAPMO’s Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code.
The vote during the GTC meeting here the morning of August 21 reversed a vote from the previous evening when GTC Chairman Bill Erickson cast the tie-breaking vote that would have imposed no limit on the number of showerheads in a compartment. Erickson, chairman of C.J. Erickson Plumbing, Alsip, Ill., told CONTRACTOR that he found arguments that much more water is wasted from other sources, such as underground leaks from water utilities, to be compelling.
It remains to be seen how to 2.0-GPM/1,800-sq.in. limit in the Green Plumbing and Mechanical Supplement will jibe with the still-developing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense for New Homes standard, although EPA will probably become aware of the GTC’s action shortly. WaterSense for New Homes currently does not allow multiple showerheads, no matter how few gallons per minute are coming out of them.
The vote also puts the GTC at odds with the recently announced position of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute that a house should have an overall water budget with no limit on shower flow. Committee member Larry Oliver, LEED AP, Glumac Engineering, also said the committee should consider a household water budget.
The Green Supplement, including the shower standard, will face what no doubt will be a vigorous public comment period beginning in early September. The Green Technical Committee plans to consider all of the public comments and finalize the supplement at its November meeting in Chicago. IAPMO plans to publish the supplement by February 2010.
Kohler’s GTC representative Rob Zimmerman said he had held his nose and voted in favor of the provision.
“We sacrificed a lot on the altar of water conservation,” Zimmerman said, noting that the limit is bad for Kohler and its competitors.
Zimmerman said that the number of households with more than one showerhead is less than 5%. The number of households with elaborate multi-head shower systems is less than 1%, he said, and those are the same people putting thousands of gallons of water on their lawns.
Consulting Engineer John Koeller, Koeller & Co., Yorba Linda, Calif., said he had mulled over most of the winning proposal the night before and knew what he wanted and was willing to trade. Koeller said that he was pleased that the wording of the section removes the word “potable,” meaning that all water, potable and recirculated, flowing through all showerheads at any given time cannot exceed 2.0-GPM. This discourages sumps and recirculating showers. Recirculating showers waste water, Koeller maintained, because they require 30-gal. to fill the sump before recirculation begins.
Koeller said he was hoping he could sneak in the change removing “potable,” but Zimmerman and PMI Technical Director Shawn Martin caught it immediately. Martin argued unsuccessfully that the committee should concern itself with how much water goes down the drain, not the volume coming out of the showerheads. Martin also said that any flow rate of less than 2.5-GPM could be a scalding hazard.
Delta Faucet Manager of Product Compliance Sally Remedios, who attended the meeting as an observer, said that Delta Faucet studies have shown that any flow rate less than 2.0-GPM presents a scalding hazard because of the limits of temperature compensating valves.
Committee members debated the whether the gallon limits could be accomplished with body sprays and other fittings producing 1.0-GPM and whether the best way to do that will be with diverter valves or if it would require separate temperature compensating valves for different showerheads. The language approved by the GTC provides for diverter valves for multiple-head systems and for scald protection for all showerheads.
Kevin Tindall, Tindall & Ranson Plumbing, Heating and A/C, Princeton, N.J., urged the committee to settle on a 4.0-GPM limit in a compartment.
“Don’t limit my ability to think out of the box,” Tindall said. Tindall is on the committee as the representative of the IAPMO Committee for the Awareness and Understanding of a Sustainable Environment.
The committee debated a variety of proposals beginning with the size of a shower compartment. The section originally defined a shower compartment as 2,600-sq.in. before it becomes a two-person shower. Zimmerman urged 1,500-sq.in. and Tindall noted that the UPC minimum for a shower stall is 1,024-sq.in. Koeller suggested a compromise number of 2,050-sq.in.
Doug Kirk, GreenPlumbersUSA, advocated 1,800-sq.in. as a more realistic number because that’s a standard 30-in. x 60-in. space. That was echoed by City of San Francisco building official Mike Mitchell, who noted that homeowners are removing bathtubs and installing shower stalls in 30-in. x 60-in. spaces.
It remains to be seen if the 2.0-GPM limit will survive the comment period and final revisions. Clark County (Nev.) Building Department official Jordan Krahenbuhl, predicted that the 2.0-GPM limit will be problematic and receive a chilly reception from building officials around the country.