The Green Plumbing Codes
I receive many questions regarding the green plumbing codes; the most asked question is, “What’s going on?”
Over the past few months, there have been many announcements regarding green plumbing codes. These announcements have come from the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and the International Code Council. The two organizations have taken different approaches to the green code. Hence, it will be important as to which document we’ll be dealing with.
Both organizations developed their green codes to supplement their current codes - under IAPMO, the Uniform Plumbing Code would still be the base document. For ICC, the International Plumbing Code would be the base document. Basically, the green code goes beyond these codes in an effort to encourage sustainable construction practices.
IAPMO has published a green supplement to their plumbing and mechanical codes. The text in the supplement is written as mandatory text for a jurisdiction to adopt. The supplement would apply to all buildings, including residential buildings.
The ICC is finalizing a separate green code. The ICC code will only apply to commercial buildings. The initial requirements exempt all residential buildings. The ICC code also leaves it up to the jurisdiction as to what parts of the code are mandatory. Basically, the code is written with elective requirements.
There are goals that a building design must meet to conserve energy, employ renewable energy, conserve natural resources and sustain the environment. Many consider the ICC Green Code draft to be similar in its approach to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. The difference is that the ICC document would be mandated by a jurisdiction.
Comparison Of Water Conservation ProvisionsIt is impossible to review both of these documents in a single column, so let me start with the water conservation requirements. IAPMO has taken the approach of mandating EPA WaterSense fixtures. For gravity or pressure-assist water closets, that means a maximum flush volume of 1.28 gallons. Flushometer-valve water closets remain at 1.6 gallons per flush.
Urinals would have to flush 0.5 gallon or less. Nonwater-supplied urinals would also be permitted. However, there are additional requirements for nonwater-supplied urinals that are currently not found in the UPC. A water supply would have to be roughed in 56 inches above the floor to facilitate a retrofit. A fixture would have to be installed upstream of the nonwater-supplied urinals to provide flushing and cleaning of the drain line. The fixture must be at least equivalent to a lavatory.
Lavatory faucets would drop from 2.2 gpm to 1.5 gpm. Self-metering faucets would remain the same, with a maximum cycle of 0.25 gallon.
Showerheads would be lowered to 2.0 gpm. The showerhead section goes further in defining a showerhead as a showerhead. In other words, you cannot have multiple showerheads that flow more than a total of 2.0 gpm. When all the showerheads and body sprays are open for an individual shower, you establish the maximum flow rate.
A new fixture with the flow regulated is a commercial pre-rinse spray valve. These valves will be limited to a flow rate of 1.6 gpm. Dishwashers and clothes washers would have to meet the EPA’s Energy Star requirements.
The question that has been raised regarding water conservation is whether the requirements can be lawfully adopted. The federal water conservation requirements for plumbing fixtures is pre-emptive. That means that no law can specify water conservation requirements that are different from the federal requirements.
The ICC Green Code draft takes a different approach to water conservation. The water consumption for the building must be reduced by 20 percent, based on the calculated water demand without implementing any water conservation measures beyond what the plumbing code already requires. Basically, you have to figure out how to reduce the water used for plumbing fixtures.
They have added some requirements to supplement the 20 percent savings. Drinking fountains can discharge a maximum of 0.7 gpm. Commercial kitchen and bar sink faucets can discharge a maximum of 2.2 gpm. A commercial pre-rinse spray head must be spring-activated to close and discharge a maximum of 1.3 gpm. Hold-open devices for the pre-rinse are not permitted. Dishwashers and washing machines must be Energy Star-rated appliances. In addition, clothes washers can use a maximum of 8 gallons of water per cubic foot of clothes volume being washed per cycle.
The ICC Green Code also added requirements for having one or more lavatories upstream of any nonwater-supplied urinal.
Note that the ICC avoided any possibility of conflicting with the federal water conservation requirements. All of the fixtures in which they list maximum flow rates or water use are fixtures that are not regulated by the federal government. The fixtures that are regulated by the federal government are listed with the same water use as the federal law.
The ICC code puts the burden on the design professional or installer to determine how to reduce the total water consumption. It does not mandate 1.28 gallons per flush water closets or 0.5 gallon per flush urinals. It simply makes these fixtures very attractive to use in meeting the 20 percent reduction in water use.
It is important to remember that the ICC Green Code is still a draft document. Comments on the draft will be published on the ICC Web site July 2. You can review those comments at www.iccsafe.org. There will be a meeting in August in Chicago to consider the comments. This is followed by Round 2 of industry comments. The final document is expected to be published in the first part of 2012.
The IAPMO Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement can be purchased at www.iapmo.org.