Just about everybody in the industry thinks of himself as one of the good guys and the industry in general as being on the right side of the issues. After all, the plumber protects the health of the nation. Industry contractors save their customers energy and water and fire sprinklers save lives.
It was rather startling, then, to see some potshots taken at the industry and at industry initiatives.
Green construction and energy- and water-conservation have become hot topics, but if you mention that global warming is one of the driving factors behind green construction, the issue immediately becomes politicized.
We recently attended the Mechanical Contractors Association of America’s Green Opportunities Conference in Milwaukee (see pages 1 and 3 in this issue). The green construction issue still has to overcome an Al Gore, bunny hugger image and the notion that global warming is a made-up political ploy.
The best answer to all this to come out of the Green Opportunities Conference was, so what?
“It doesn’t matter if you believe it,” Tom Hicks, vice president of LEED for the U.S. Green Building Council, said about global warming. “Action is being taken.”
And it’s being taken by your customers who are paying the utility bills, by your competitors and by government.
The MCAA Green Opportunities Conference, by the way, was fantastic. We really hope that MCAA repeats it, bigger and better, in 2008.
A second shot at the industry came from the online newsletter HGTV Pro that makes the Louisiana Plumbing- Heating-Cooling Contractors and the Mechanical Contractors of Louisiana look like obstructionists.
In mid-May, the contractor associations and Louisiana United Association locals banded together to fight legislation that opponents said would lower the requirements to become a master plumber (June, p. 6). The bill also would have killed the Louisiana Plumbing Board and shifted oversight to the state’s GC-dominated Licensing Board for Contractors.
“The general contractors said the bill would ‘provide more boots on the ground with plumbers in them,’ but professional plumbers don’t want just anyone filling those boots,” said PHCC-National Association Presidentelect Jim Finley, who is chairman of the Louisiana Plumbing Board.
In its September 19 edition under the headline “Plumbers clogged up in New Orleans,” HGTV Pro ran a blog posting from Sheldon Liber, AIA, stating that KB Home had been blocked from bringing plumbers in from Houston, calling it “short-sighted, bureaucratic nonsense.”
“If you know anything about Louisiana’s political history, it might not surprise you at all to learn that after KB Homes sponsored a bill in the state legislature to loosen these arcane requirements, the state’s Plumbing-Heating- Cooling Contractors Association promptly squashed it dead,” Liber wrote. “Never mind that thousands of locals needed housing, and the workers pouring in to help rebuild the city needed housing. Nope. It was business as usual.”
If you want to read the entire posting, it’s at http://blogs.hgtvpro.com/ hgtvpro/weblog_marjie/archive/2007/09/ banning_plumber.html.
We’re wondering who, exactly, are the plumbers that KB Home wanted to bring in from Houston?
But the potshot at the industry that really took me aback was an e-mail that read, “The NAHB has consistently countered the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s aggressive propaganda.”
The e-mail cited The Nation’s Building News, the online weekly newspaper of the National Association of Home Builders, that said that residential fire sprinklers cost twice as much as sprinkler manufacturers and contractors say they cost. The article said that insurance savings don’t begin to cover the cost of sprinklers. The e-mail also cited another article in Nations Building News about a county court in Pennsylvania killing a local sprinkler ordinance. The court ruled that the township didn’t prove that local conditions justified a building code requirement more stringent than the state code.
That sounds like a technicality to us. And we don’t agree that residential sprinklers need to pass a zero net cost test. We don’t believe that home builders weigh every single item they put into a home on that basis — unless you’re talking about fire sprinklers.