Since I was appointed chair of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association's Green Plumbing and Water Conservation Task Force last Fall, I have been emphasizing the need for plumbing and HVACR contractors to have a voice in the “green” movement. Well, I got a chance to state my opinions to some really influential people when I testified before Congress on behalf of PHCC on July 10.
Why is this topic of such interest to me? My company, Tindall & Ranson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Inc., Princeton, N.J., first got involved with “green” through our work with Whole Earth Foods, an environmentally friendly organic food store that was LEED-certified. Because of my customer's interest in green processes, I became more educated on the subject to help meet their needs. Then I was asked to become the chairman of the PHCC Green Plumbing and Water Conservation Task Force, which helped my knowledge expand even more.
As both a business owner and an association volunteer, my interest has grown throughout this process, and I have some pretty strong feelings about how important the green movement is for our industry. From a business angle, the green market has recently opened more doors for me, in some cases more than the tried and true specialties my company has. From an association member perspective, I am very interested in the educational opportunities a trade association can offer on this subject — for me and other PHCC members. That is why I did not hesitate when I was asked to come to Washington to give a small business owner/contractor's perspective to the House Small Business Committee.
Here are some of the issues I addressed in my oral and written testimonies for the “The Role of Green Technologies in Spurring Economic Growth,” hearing:
Bring us to the table
First, I asked that Congress and federal agencies consider the expertise and opinions of professional p-h-c contractors as new green technologies are evaluated and implemented. Because we are the experts when it comes to installing and maintaining water devices and systems, our perspectives must be heard before new laws are passed and regulations mandated.
I also stressed that in order to achieve the ultimate goal of water conservation, new technologies aimed at specifically saving water, such as water-efficient plumbing, wastewater management systems, wastewater recycling systems (graywater), and desalination technologies, must undergo a thorough process, including research, evaluation and testing. All involved parties — especially plumbing and HVACR installers — must be included. We all know what happens when this research phase is not completed: the installer is a perfect target to become the bad guy to the customer. We don't want that to happen again as it did in 1992 when 1.6-gpf toilets were mandated.
Although I can't take credit for staging it, I was really pleased when a member of Congress asked during the hearing if I thought that water-efficient plumbing products would pose a big problem to our nation's aging water systems. Well, was I ever prepared, because it is a concern. I stressed that the impact of proposed low water consumption products on the entire plumbing system must be considered. I also emphasized the importance of investing in our nation's water infrastructure and the need to update the aging systems currently in place. New technologies will not operate as efficiently until the infrastructure is updated to fit new high efficient products. I hope my response got them thinking.
Tax incentives recommended
I also brought up PHCC's support of tax and other incentives, such as customer rebates for water conservation and water-efficient product systems installed by a qualified plumber. Some manufacturers are telling us that they are seeing surprising sales of their water-efficient products. We need to make sure there are incentives in place to keep the interest going.
To ensure that green technologies continue, PHCC continues to support adequate federal funding for water-related initiatives, such as the annual EPA appropriations measures, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. Money also should be dedicated toward research into recycled water technology and toward improvements in water and sewer infrastructure.
As Congress considers PHCC and other groups' input on green technologies, PHCC will continue to do its part by promoting new, emerging green technologies that are flexible, market-driven and encourage water conservation that preserves, protects and promotes the health, safety and comfort of our nation. We'll do this not only on Capitol Hill, but also through activities such as our 2008 Summer Water Conservation Initiative, which is designed to raise public awareness about the importance of saving water. Our partnership with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program helps us foster a national ethic of water conservation. We will continue to educate our members and the industry on water conservation and green technologies. The next opportunity will occur at our annual convention Oct. 1-3 in Atlanta, when many green seminars will be offered.
Through all of these efforts, we are hoping that we can help drive the momentum in ways that will benefit the industry, our customers and the economy. The customer wins by saving water, energy and money. The contractor wins through new business opportunities. It's definitely a “win-win” situation.
Kevin Tindall, owner of Tindall & Ranson Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning, Princeton, N.J., is chairman of the PHCC Green Plumbing and Water Conservation Task Force. He can be reached at [email protected]