BY ROBERT P. MADER
Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – In a turnabout that has gratified proponents of corrugated stainless steel tubing and flexible copper gas tubing, the California Department of Housing and Community Development has voted to accept the materials in the California building code.
HCD had been scheduled to make a final decision Jan. 16. Instead, it published a modified text of the building standards that included the materials and put it out for another 45-day comment period. The comment period ends March 14.
Last October, the California Building Standards Commission, which helps HCD develop the building code, proposed prohibiting use of CSST, PEX water supply pipe and flexible copper tube for gas service (November 2001, pg. 1).
HCD’s current proposal does not include PEX water supply pipe. Randy Knapp, AquaPEX brand manager for Wirsbo, said PEX manufacturers are still working through the Plastic Pipe & Fittings Association and hope to get the material approved in California.
The modified text of the proposed building standards contains an important qualifier: Local building officials may disapprove of CSST or copper gas tubing. That change is enough to mollify the California Pipe Trades Council, which had opposed the materials.
Dan Cardozo, legal counsel for the Pipe Trades Council, said he expects the plumbers union will withdraw its objections to the materials.
“Our position has always been that there are legitimate health and safety issues with regard to CSST and our concern is the blanket approval that the manufacturers were proposing that the state adopt, which would have made use of CSST mandatory in local jurisdictions throughout the state,” he said. “We see what HCD is proposing is to grant local building officials the authority and discretion to disapprove use of CSST based on health, safety or performance considerations. I don’t have a final decision from my client, but I suspect that would be adequate to address our concerns.”
The proposed building standards state that gas piping may be wrought iron, steel, yellow brass, or types K, L or ACR copper tube. Approved polyethylene pipe may be used in underground applications. CSST may be used if it is part of a system listed by an approved agency, “ ... except that the local administrative authority may disapprove use of corrugated stainless steel tubing based on health, safety or performance considerations.”
HCD noted that both copper tubing and CSST had previously been approved in California under the 1998 California Mechanical Code. The department said it could not find any corroborated reports or scientific evidence that the materials posed health and safety concerns.