The European experience was interesting, but it was also great to return home.

Every so often, you get lucky. I was lucky enough to be invited on the trip to ISH in Frankfort, Germany, this past March. The trip was sponsored by PM and Viega. I thought I would present my perspective of the trip. It was a fascinating trip, and there were plenty of interesting discussions regarding the plumbing profession.

Viega filled our days with plant tours, construction site tours and the ISH Show. They continued by making our evenings very entertaining and enjoyable.

One thing that all of us in the plumbing profession immediately noticed was that, at all of the rest areas, the urinals were waterless urinals. Most Americans are either not familiar or not used to using a waterless urinal. Contrary to some beliefs, the urinals worked fine. There was no odor or unsightliness in the men’s room.

At the ISH show, there were many manufacturers of waterless urinals. In the United States I am only familiar with two manufacturers. As I was walking through the show with Jim Olsztynski, PM’s editorial director, we came upon a waterless urinal that had a fly located near the trapway. Jim immediately commented how clever that was to attract attention at the show. He started asking about the fly that was basically painted into the urinal. That started a very interesting discussion with the manufacturer.

As it turns out, the fly is in every urinal they manufacture. They did a study that found if they put the fly in the urinal, 90 percent of the men will aim for the fly when urinating. The fly was placed in a location that produced the least amount of splash when using the urinal. Clever!

Where Are The Vents?

When we visited a German construction site, I was curious to listen to the comments that would arise from the American visitors. Having studied the DWV systems in Europe, I knew the comments would be interesting.

After examining a bathroom rough-in on an upper floor, just about every plumbing contractor on the tour asked, “Where are the vents?” Of course the German superintendent didn’t really know what they were asking about. The system was installed like all German systems -- the drainage piping was pitched in the direction of flow and connected to the stack.

Of course, for many, this was their first experience witnessing the installation of a single-stack drainage system. While very popular in Philadelphia, a single-stack drainage system is virtually unheard of in any other part of the United States.

All of the fixtures were located within about 10 feet of the stack. The stack was oversized compared to the allowable loading in the United States. And not one fixture had a vent pipe. Nor did they have an air admittance valve.

The single stack is a very simple system in which they rely on the stack oversizing to regulate the pressure differentials in the drainage system. When they do use air admittance valves, they are the stack-type of air admittance valves, as opposed to the branch-type air admittance valves that are most popular in the United States.

ISH had an entire exhibit on the smart house. Every innovative concept was included in this smart house. One of my favorite components was the moveable water closet. The water closet could move up and down, as well as tilt forward and back. You may be asking, “What is that good for?” But, if you think of the handicapped situation, or the aging of Americans, this water closet is an ideal solution.

One of the problems with the current handicapped water closet is that we give people who use these fixtures constipation. When your feet are dangling, it changes the shape of the sphincter, resulting in constipation. With the moveable water closet, the bowl can rise to permit easy transition and lower to allow for proper bowel movement. The tilting allows one to slide off the bowl after use. Very clever!

Water On Tap

One of my favorite plumbing experiences occurred on a side trip at the end of the week. I met up with my wife and youngest daughter to catch a few days of skiing in the German Alps at Garmisch. What a beautiful view as we looked out of our guesthouse window. The proprietor was named Peter. While serving breakfast, my daughter asked for “still” water. She had already learned that if you wanted a glass of tap water, you ask for “still” water. Most Germans do not drink tap water, they drink mineral water.

Peter asked me, “How come all the Americans that come to visit always ask to have still water?” My wife said to Peter that he asked the right person, and he is probably going to be sorry he asked.

I went on to explain to Peter that the United States has the cleanest water in the world. No matter where we are in the country, we know that we can open the tap of a faucet and get a glass of clean, fresh water. Peter’s eyes opened wide and said, “Really!”

I said, “Oh yeah, we love our water, and we drink quite a bit of it every day.”

Peter then asked, “How can that be? We are always worried if the water is clean. I know my water is now clean, but a few years ago it was not.”

So, I went into a long explanation of the regulations in the United States. How we started back in the 1920s to protect our water supply with backflow prevention. How my profession safeguards our drinking water. Then I explained that we have many regulations designed to protect the water.

Peter then asked, “More than in Germany?”

To which I responded, “Much more than Germany.”

His comment was, “Unbelievable.”

I felt like a very proud American justifying our wonderful water. I was even prouder that it was the plumbing profession that has made it so that every American can have a clean, safe, refreshing glass of water anywhere in the country. You realize what an accomplishment that is when you are overseas.

As we flew back to the United States, I thought of all the great times in Europe and all of the wonderful things we were returning to in the United States. One thing on the top of my list to return to was our water. Yes, we do live in a great country.