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Lessons Learned

I read Dan Holohan's column on helpers and really enjoyed it (“Why Measure?” July 2006). I've been doing plumbing work since 1998 and earned my journeyman's card in 2000. I wish I saw the same professionalism, attention to detail and adherence to the latest plumbing technology that I read about in the magazine out here in my workplace.

Some of the things I read in [his] article that helpers say, things that I have said before I knew any better, are being spoken by licensed plumbers, gas-fitters and master plumbers. It's like some kind of “Twilight Zone.” Forgive me for sounding pessimistic, but I'm amazed how some projects I've seen pass inspection or even work properly.

It's good to hear that some of us take pride in our work and look at our trade as a profession.

Thank you for your article. I have made some copies of it and will show it to the owners of the company I work for and, maybe, a surly helper, too.
Charles Ross McMillian Jr.
Selma, Ala.

Essential Calculations

The friend Mark Bromann mentioned in his column (“Substance Over Fluff,” July 2006) left out one more critical aspect for the fire protection plan review. For the most part, the local AHJ does not have the qualified reviewing personnel in the fire marshal's office to review the plans or the hydraulics.

On one of my projects, the AHJ reviewed the drawings and there were some serious errors in the hydraulic calculations. He approved them and I rejected them. The general contractor had to be educated as to why I rejected them, since the fire protection contractor had started installing the piping only to rip parts of the system out.

Most engineers, in my opinion, rely heavily on the performance specification and the contractor for the piping design to be correct. This is a serious problem, since without the calculations, how do you “prove” the life safety aspect of adding fire protection to a project?

Keep up the columns; I enjoy reading them, and passing them on to my co-workers.
Wayne A. Yevoli, P.E.
CME Inc.
Albuquerque, N.M.

Mark Bromann responds: Exactly. The calculations are probably the most critical aspect of the fire sprinkler system, since they validate the hydraulic adequacy of the system in question. I had a similar situation in a Chicago suburb two months ago. The plans were terribly incomplete and among the worst I've seen this year. The sprinkler contractor's designer obviously submitted them as soon as he could in the design stage, just to get the review comments he felt he would need to expedite approval, as he himself finished the design.

When I rejected the plans - along with including about 20 very relevant comments - and the local AHJ still approved his submittal, the designer went a little ballistic. He was very righteous about the fact that the local fire district approved his drawings and I did not.

Then to top things off, I red-flagged him on several instances where he had 1 1/2-inch pipe on the drawings in the remote area, but the calculations showed 2-inch pipe, as well as two instances where the calculations showed 1 1/4-inch pipe, and his plans showed 1-inch pipe. Well, so what if the AHJ approved this? His plans were blatantly not in congruence with his own calculations.