Plumbing Codes vs. Plumbing Standards - Part 3
The name game: Plumbing standards — think of them as the code’s superhero friends
When I first met my wife, cooking was an art form that she had not yet mastered. Despite the fact the food my mother-in-law makes seems to be gifts from the gods, the woman I found myself dating and eventually marrying had a hard time making Minute Rice. However, for some inexplicable reason, it turns out she’s a really good baker. Cookies, brownies, cakes and other treats are delicious, even if a chicken breast is an unsolvable mystery.
Thinking about it, baking probably came easier to my wife because it is more scientific and clear-cut with its precise measurements, temperatures and cooking times. If she mixes these ingredients and bakes at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, science happens and she has the desired product baked to near perfection.
As you can imagine, standards in the plumbing industry need to be more like baking. In order for them to come out right in the end, they need the right ingredients prepared in the right way. In the previous two articles on this topic, standards were introduced with regard to what they are and what they accomplish, and then covered at a deeper level by discussing the different types of standards and some of the major standards organizations. This final article in the series explores the ingredients that go into a standard.
Form and style
Each standard includes a title, scope, purpose, referenced documents, terminology or definitions, materials or classification, test methods and performance requirements, mandatory installation practices, product marking and quality assurance. In addition, mandatory and non-mandatory information with recommended installation practices are included.
A scope defines the boundary by stating what will and will not be included as part of the referenced standard. It provides a common understanding of the standard with defining the standard’s overall boundaries by suggesting what it will and will not perform (objectives). In addition, scoping sections include physical and performance testing methods with material component references.
Terminology or definitions
Standards have definitions that are specific to the applicability of the standard and apply only to the requirements of the standard. These definitions aid the user in understanding the application and extent of requirements within the standard. It is important to stress that these definitions are applicable to this specific standard. There may be instances where the standard promulgator uses the same definitions in many referenced standards; however, the user should be aware that only those definitions indicated within the standards are applicable to the performance and testing requirements.
Material or physical requirements
Material or physical requirements specifically define the materials used, such as its origin, composition or properties. Within this, such specific requirements may include physical, mechanical or chemical properties. In addition, many physical and chemical properties reference various standards or cell classifications and such materials must be in accordance with the applicable standard. The material or physical characteristics must be precise and specific to satisfy the performance criteria.
Test methods and performance requirements
Test methods and performance requirements identify the methods for deciding whether each of the requirements is satisfied. Many standards include provisions for sampling or test specimens; test conditions and procedures; calculations and acceptance criteria. Each standard must have standardized methods for testing and evaluating each product or device. Test methods are the key to ensuring product performance is measured accurately and consistently. As with all standards, test requirements include mandatory and optional elements that vary according to the test methods.
Many standards include some installation instructions that give specific application, cleaning, installation, preparation and training methods. Typically, these are in the form of a set of instructions for performing specific methods to ensure installing the product or device complies with recommended practices. These practices are important for people who install such products or devices, as they contain significant input from many subject experts in the field and ensure the health and safety of the consumer. Codes contain many of these installation practices as specific code requirements based on the specific standard.
Product marking and quality assurance
Standards specify the required product markings and detail if the markings are required to be permanently applied. Methods such as stamping or embossing with specific lettering and coloring are often required. Each standard has specific requirements, which may include the manufacturer’s name or trademark, standard designation, model number, sizing and spacing intervals.
Non-mandatory information is located in the appendix and provides a guide without recommending a specific action. The purpose of this is to provide the user with help based on a consensus of subject matter experts. This information is intended to provide added techniques in supplementing the standard. For example, the installation guidelines and joining methods for a particular piping material may be covered with information about other uses and practices.
Wrapping things up
Acting like a close group of friends, standards are important and work with the plumbing code to promote health and safety. They help produce consistent performance requirements and lead to better specification of materials so the end user knows the properties of that material. This means designers and installers can specify the material that best suits their needs. Standards lead to harmonization of performance requirements, which provides for the greatest opportunities for consumers, businesses and the industry.
Understanding the roles and types of standards, as well as what they are made of, should hopefully provide some clarity when they are encountered in the code. Rather than feeling frustrated at being sent to another resource for the answers you are looking for, remember that utilizing standards is the code’s way of saying, “I’m not totally sure what the correct answer to your question is, but let me direct you to my superhero friend who does.”