Doug Kirk: Caretakers of the uniform codes
History and the future.
In March 1980, I was hired by the PHCC of San Diego to teach a basic plumbing class (history, materials, tools, safety, etc.). The training materials were from NAPHCC and pretty detailed.
In the fall of 1980, after some closed-door meetings with the directors of the local PHCC and officials from the San Diego School District, I was informed the funding would now be coming from the Regional Occupational Program. Because most attendees would be college-age or above, the program would be administered by the San Diego Community
I was a second-generation plumber and somewhat familiar with the Uniform Plumbing Code since the mid-1960s, but had never really dug into it until I was asked to teach Plumbing II in 1983. I read complete chapters (administration and definitions) and portions I’d never read before. I found out many of the things I’d been taught were inaccurate — especially gas pipe sizing.
I found a 1971 IAPMO UPC Interpretations/Inspectors Manual to go along with my 1979 UPC and 1982 UPC study guide I was using in the class. I was using a 1979 UPC in 1983 because of an ongoing issue with the state of California and the use of CPVC, PVC and polybutylene for the distribution of potable water.
California never adopted the 1982 UPC.
In 1984, the PHCC of California gave me an IAPMO conference pass. Since the conference was in San Diego, the decision to attend was a no-brainer. I saw those I thought of as the giants in the three-year UPC process of refreshing the code.
George Kauffman was the first guy I focused on because he wrote so many intelligent articles for trade magazines. There were many others through the years, including Slim Norris, Pat Higgins, Phill Ribbs, Ed Saltzberg, Tony Scarano, Tim Collins, Jay Munday, Adele Bacon, Bob Courtnier and so many others I wish I could remember.
From 1985 to 2010 I attended the code changes and later the Technical Committee meetings, usually focusing on the plumbing side. I may have missed a couple but I was usually there.
Let your voice be heard
I’ve had many people say the code should include this or eliminate that. While I was an instructor I had dozens of students suggest amending the code language. For those who think the language should be amended, if you want to be heard submit a code change!
I did it with my students and we were successful about 50% of the time.
It’s too late to submit a code change for the 2021 cycle, but you can submit one (or more) when the 2024 cycle opens.
People often call asking for code assistance and say, “Well, you guys write the code so you ought to know what section such and such means.”
Let me let you in on a little secret: IAPMO is a caretaker for the codes we publish. Anyone — yes, I said anyone — can submit a code-change proposal. There has to be substantiation and sometimes validation. But IAPMO doesn’t decide which code changes are adopted; the Technical Committee, made up of building officials, installers, labor, users, consumers, manufacturers, special experts and individuals from the standards and testing world, vote for or against each submission in a public forum as part of the consensus process to which IAPMO is committed.
This all results in the release of new code books and companion publications on a regular basis. For instance, IAPMO is pleased to announce the completion and publication of the 2018 Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code, which now are available for purchase. The process began three years ago with about 600 code-change submissions.
Additionally, the 2018 UPC Illustrated Training Manual and 2018 UMC Illustrated Training Manuals, which are companion publications, are available for purchase. The publications can help even the most seasoned building officials, designers, contractors, project managers, journeymen, installers, apprentices, etc., to understand new and existing code sections in their intended manner. Each contains the full text of their respective code, with hundreds of full-color illustrations, graphics, design and sizing examples.
The 2018 UPC and UMC study guides are almost complete, with publication and availability expected within 60 days.
Many people are not aware of some of the free services IAPMO offers. If you’re struggling with code language you can find three options at this link: www.iapmo.org/pages/askacodequestion.aspx. You also can call and speak with our code representative at 800-201-0335, or request written clarification.
Our answers and analysis committees have been appointed to respond to all requests for clarification on any published IAPMO plumbing or mechanical code. You may submit your question online or download a PDF form. Allow 30 days for a reply. You also may request a formal interpretation of ANSI codes (UPC and UMC).
Also available is the IAPMO Historical CD, containing every UPC published from 1946 to 2009 in PDF format. It is a great tool to win the plumbing code argument or a legal battle: bit.ly/2wNHwwd.
For IAPMO members, we also have a database where you can find hundreds of answers to previously asked questions: bit.ly/2L6OmQH.