Plumbing Codes

The aim of this article is to develop a conceptual framework on importance of Plumbing Codes within the construction industry

Five major groups of independent variables, namely project-related factors, project procedures, project management actions, human-related factors, and external environment are identified as crucial to project success. Putting it differently, 4 Ms play a crucial role in overall success of a project: Money, manpower, machinery and management.

Time is money. The success of any project lies in its timely completion. Delays lead to an increase in overall cost of the project. Hence, approvals from the statutory bodies which need to comply with the regulations, becomes the core rather a sore point. Thus availability of codes and standards to which a project complies has to be uniform, understood, and adhered to by all those involved in design, construction and commissioning of the building.

Competent manpower is a critical component of construction projects as in any manufacturing industry. Time has proven that unskilled manpower has resulted not only in poor construction quality but has resulted in structural damages leading to huge losses due to maintenance of post construction care by means of retrofitting, especially the leakages that prop up in best of buildings due to poor plumbing. Skilled manpower in any project will not only give a better performance but will save money in terms of less expenditure in maintenance!

Machinery, in the form of materials of various forms used in the buildings, such as cement, concrete, fire fighting, solar installations, pipes, fixtures, heaters, air-conditioning – all of the products that make up the content of the building – must be tested and listed to the appropriate standard to ensure quality and performance. Third party certified and efficiency rated products play a crucial role towards timely completion of any project and by having confidence of the quality of the material prior to installation.

Management of the project, both by following best management practices and seeking appropriate management system certification has been taken up as a big tool by the industry. Sometimes these are made mandatory by various regulations, such as OHSMS (Occupational Health and Safety Management System), QMS (Quality Management System), and EMS (Environmental Management System). The most recent introduced into the system is Third Party Inspections as per ISO/IEC 17020 – conformity assessment- requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection. This gives confidence to the client and consumer to be sure that the construction, supervision and commissioning of the project has been carried out as per the requirements specified by the client. Plumbing is a crucial element in the construction process; however the importance of a standardised and solid plumbing system has yet to receive the essential attention from within the construction industry. As far as the plumbing industry is concerned, the essential demands of the plumbing system in a structure have been neglected for quite a long time now. It has always been over-shadowed by other activities such as structural and heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) activities.

Impacts of poor plumbing
Poor plumbing has huge impacts not only on the colour/ texture/ durability of the structure but plays havoc on the health of the occupants. Thus, it not only affects the appearance of the structure and lead to a reduction in the total lifecycle of the structure but is also responsible for various water borne diseases and other health issues. Further, water is a very rare commodity and due to its limited resource, we need to give more importance to this sector. However, with the concept of various certifications and construction of green buildings gaining momentum, the concept of plumbing is increasingly gaining importance.

Qualitative and effective plumbing installations are always a boon to the structure’s total lifecycle. The sector, although steadily gaining importance, still lags behind when compared with the focused approach emphasised in international regions. The situation witnessed in the Indian context is that the plumber involved in this process will often be unskilled or will be hired on a labour contract basis. Hence, the person with little or no qualitative experience when designed to deliver his duty will be able to give an output which is below the standardised mark. A plumber’s technical knowledge and skill is essential to the outcome of the entire project, and qualitative education of this section of the construction workers plays a pivotal role in ensuring longer durability of a structure and health of its occupants.

Qualitative education can be considered as a need of the hour today for effective plumbing. It is a must for the plumber base to deliver effective plumbing in a structure. In any construction project a distinct level of expertise is essential, starting with the designer who shapes or visualises the projects, supervisors who monitor the execution and the third and most important level involving the workforce who actually implements the project. Quality in this on-field level thus becomes of prime importance for the sustainability and lifespan of a structure.

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) has been focusing on this need and requirement and have spent exhaustive resources on the need for personnel credentialing for nearly a century, with a constant focus on enhancing the skills of the plumbing workforce. IAPMO India provides training sessions, programs, workshops and even educative courses for the individuals interested in adopting plumbing as a profession. The education programs related to the plumbing segment has been developed as per the interest and qualification levels of the students – at various levels – from school dropouts to Engineers. IAPMO is the industry leader across the globe having developed various codes such as Uniform Illustrated Plumbing Code (UIPC), Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement (GPMCS) focusing on best international practices. IAPMO is the only ANSI accredited code developer within this realm. Due to the variation in the socio-economic and technical background in India, customisation or localising these standards is of utmost important. IAPMO India and IPA, Indian Plumbing Association, have developed Uniform Illustrated Plumbing Code of India and Green Plumbing Codes Supplement (GPCS) suiting to the needs of Indian industry and the best practices available.

To complement the Uniform Codes that have been developed, IAPMO and Indian Plumbing Association have dedicated resources to also develop the necessary training programs to focus on the need to credential personnel and up skill the workforce.
In addition to the need for a skilled workforce there is the continuing need and focus on sustainability. Transition is needed here into green buildings tying into educational programs. A green building uses less water, optimises energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants, as compared to a conventional building.

Apart from focusing on other factors to optimise energy efficiency, using water efficient products leads to an instant 25 – 40 per cent savings of water without compromising on the purpose of the product. Many decision makers in different capacities at different times have completely supported on the initiatives made by green building certification bodies for healthier and sustainable infrastructures of tomorrow. They remain open to adopting and propagating the recommendations of drafting a policy to mandate all public buildings to be green, through necessary phases, with possible incentives. Third-party inspections have also been identified as the need of the hour. This has been identified as one of the major outcomes of various seminars and workshops as a tool to check on the sustainability of the green building.

As green building or environmental buildings are designed to conserve water, electricity, energy apart from the use of recycled material in construction, there is a need for empanelled skill training providers for unskilled labour used in construction, use of star label water appliances and inspection of buildings certified green for plumbing and HVAC and refrigeration.

Over one third of the water savings come from more efficient showers, about 34 per cent from washing machines and 23 per cent from toilets and urinals. By choosing to use more water-efficient products in the home, Australians will save water and reduce their water and energy bills. The same can be true and made a reality in India.

What stops India from adopting the same model? WEPI, Water Efficient Products- India is one such similar standard developed by the industry and other stakeholders, accepted by the major manufacturers with over three major players, local and international, with water efficient labelled products in the marketplace. To give it a wider acceptance, there is a need for this standard to be adopted by the government and be mandated as a primary requirement for a green building.

Thus apart from existing project related factors there is a need to have a control on the critical success factors by way of utilising skilled manpower in construction through code based education programmes – not only to get the best outcome but also to protect the health and safety of its occupants.
Skilling India
IAPMO India has code-based education programmes which lead to employability. The programmes are based on UIPC (Uniform Illustrated Plumbing Code), prepared by the technical committee of IPA, taking UPC developed by IAPMO US as a base document. Through Plumbing Education to Employment Programme (PEEP) offers programmes such as:
• Plumbing System Design (PSD) for engineers and architects
• Plumbing Construction Management (PCM) for ITIs and graduates
• Plumbing Technology Programme (PTP) for 12th-class pass outs
• Plumbing Apprentice Programme (PAP) for school dropouts.

Government of Kerala, Higher Education Department, for implementation of programme has initiated Additional Skill Acquisition Programme (ASAP) with an objective of improving the employability of students in schools and colleges by imparting plumbing skill training. IAPMO India is imparting Plumbing Apprentice Programme (PAP) to the students all over Kerala for 150 hours: 50 hours theory and 100 hours practical by entering into MoU with the government to develop competent manpower in plumbing sector, facilitating skill oriented courses, jointly developed by IAPMO-IPA for 12th-class students.

The programme has been running since 2014. Over 800 students in 30 centres spread across all districts of Kerala have already completed the training and assessment. Another batch of over 800 students is taking this programme across Kerala. The students also undergo internship for 30 days. After completion of their theory and practical interested students are given suitable job opportunities too.

Authored by__
Neeta Sharma, Managing Director, IAPMO India

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