Welcome to this week's episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing a Mechanical. This is part two of our two-part series where we'll continue our conversation about plumbing resiliency and sustainability with Emma Hughes, Project Manager in the LEED Department at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC); Mike Cudahy, Regulation and Sustainability Specialist for the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association (PPFA); Susan Kapetanovic-Marr, Principal, Sustainability Specialist at Morrison Hershfield; and Daryn Cline, Director of Environmental Technologies for EVAPCO.
If you missed part one, we suggest you go back and listen to that episode before continuing here.
To learn more about the USGBC, visit https://www.usgbc.org.
To learn more about PPFA, visit https://www.ppfahome.org.
To learn more about Morrison Hershfield, visit https://morrisonhershfield.com.
To learn more about EVAPCO, visit https://www.evapco.com.
Welcome to this week's episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing a Mechanical. This is part two of our two-part series where we'll continue our conversation about plumbing resiliency and sustainability with Emma Hughes, Project Manager in the LEED Department at the U.S. Green Building Council, also known as USGBC; Mike Cudahy, Regulation and Sustainability Specialist for the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association, also known as PPFA; Susan Kapetanovic-Marr, Principal, Sustainability Specialist at Morrison Hershfield; and Daryn Cline, Director of Environmental Technologies for EVAPCO. I’m Christoph Lohr, your host, and I’m looking forward to continuing our conversation.
If you missed part one, I suggest you go back and listen to that episode before continuing here. Now let’s jump right into part two of my conversation with Emma, Mike, Susan, and Daryn.
In our previous episode, Mike, you touched on the complexity of water, so maybe you can expand on that bit … how is water quality, pipe size and plumbing design, all linked, and maybe a question to everybody after Mike answers that is, what and why do stakeholders need to understand about it?
Mike Cudahy: All right, so I'll give you a brief history of plumbing, how's that?
Christoph Lohr: (laughs) Sounds good, sounds good.
Mike Cudahy: So your first real control of your plumbing codes came out, it was the Hoover code and that was in 1928. Before that, believe it or not, IAPMO came out around 1926. So this goes way back. But the first real sizing studies for domestic type of plumbing was done by NIST, by someone named Dr. Roy Hunter in the 1940s. And he did a clever statistical analysis to determine what size of piping would service the building at the 99% use rate. In other words, statistically 99% of the time the pipes would be properly sized. And in the 1940s, you started seeing the new types of buildings, the skyscrapers and the office towers.
So this was a good development. In our own lifetimes, or at least in mine, we've had things like the Safe Drinking Water Act in '74, the Energy Security Act in the '80s, the Energy Act in 1992. And through all these things, usage of water in our buildings is dropping by about 20%, a lot of that due to fixture flow rate restrictions. In the last 15 years or so green building has become more popular thanks to the efforts of a lot of people on this podcast. And they're asking for another 20% reduction and sometimes even more than that, so this is a further reduction in use. And the other thing that they're doing is re-imagining some of our old technologies, cisterns and rainwater collection to replace some of the potable water.
So certainly the use of the potable water within the buildings and green buildings has dropped as well. More recently, in 2020 we had the COVID lockdowns, which was a great worldwide experiment in building occupancy. So certainly in some of these larger office spaces and industries that laid idle for a long time, the water age has gotten excessively old; water generally is going to be good for several days within a building, that kind of depends on the water quality and treatment methods, but some of these buildings have been shut for months.
So what's next there is IAPMO and others have issued flushing and restart guidance. And it's not just the potable side of the lines, it's also are your traps full? Are you getting sewer gases back in the building? There's a lot of things to be concerned about if you're a building operator after these COVID lockdowns.
So water age is the primary issue. It's the decay of the residual disinfectants. And that's probably the biggest concern, although like we keep saying, there's a lot of unintended consequences; you got to look out for everything.
Christoph Lohr: Great points, Mike. Emma, when we were preparing for this, I think you had mentioned actually a few observations that you and the U.S. Green Building Council had from some of the issues that COVID caused from a water quality standpoint.
Emma Hughes: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Mike. I appreciate that brief informative history. We are seeing the impacts of these decades of decisions playing up now and really punctuated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. I think psychologically, there's that pandemic underscored that we are more vulnerable in our supply chains.
Our communities are much more interconnected and interdependent than maybe we realize on a day-to-day basis when things are going OK. We've seen a continued acceleration despite the pandemic and focus from corporations, financial institutions, cities, governments on climate commitments. And in the case of corporations, ESG reporting, none of that has slowed down and related to water quality and building efficiency. I think people being home, staying in their same building for 24 hours a day and throughout the week, working in their residential spaces has really highlighted again the need for high-quality water systems, and then also elevated concerns about people returning to these buildings that these commercial buildings that have been shuttered or idled as a response to the pandemic.
USGBC has compiled a website with resources, best practices for building re-entry, and among those is the Building Water Systems Recommissioning Pilot Credit, which Darren mentioned earlier. And that is really all about providing best practices for ensuring that we're minimizing as much as possible the risk of occupant exposure to degraded water quality.
So in today's world, I think more than ever, there's this consciousness, there's this awareness, that human health, the economy, the built environment and the natural environment are all critical pieces and we need to address these holistically to ensure a more sustainable, inclusive future for everybody.
So, yeah, there's a lot there. I sort of teed up Darren for the Building Water System Reconditioning Pilot Credit, just wanting to layer that in, in response to Mike's history.
Christoph Lohr: I do want to talk about that water quality recommissioning credit, but one thought that just came to mind, is we have this complexity and we have these challenges when it comes to the technical nature of water that we're trying to overcome maybe some stigma that was out there. I guess maybe let me ask Susan this: What's the way that we help policymakers and jurisdictions, but especially policymakers, understand that water and that these challenges are more complex, and that there's some additional challenges than just kind of waving a wand to fixing it.
Susan Kapetanovic-Marr: Yeah, absolutely. I'm happy to take this. My answer would be for stuff that there isn't a fit-for-all kind of solution. I would have to say that in my opinion, I think it's, it's more of that kind of like risk analysis perspective, like looking at what are the issues in your region?
So regional perspectives, I can't help but think of adding to what Emma said about water stewardship, looking at the environmental impacts of water to human health as well as the environment, but then also social issues. Equity comes into this, the equity and injustice that comes from weather-related events as a result of climate change, what adaptive measures do we put in place to safeguard healthy water that is good for the ecosystem as well as human ingestion at all the places that matter? So I guess that doesn't quite answer your question, but I would have to say, we'd have to look at it holistically again. I think there's a lot of good work out there. That's done by IAPMO, other organizations. And if you go to pretty much any, and I have to say, I'm biased and I look at sort of municipal guidelines in Canada, there are usually like, there's a water page and the water page has a little thing about efficiency, about reservoir, about downstream effects, about this and that; there are a lot of best practices that I think people are looking to implement and I think the biggest barrier honestly, is having these programs in place at a high enough policy level so that it actually becomes effective, and LEED and other programs actually push this mandate and put a different lens on everything we do. Like the copper leaching has an impact on water efficiency when it comes to cooling tower cycles.
Those kinds of relationships aren't obvious, and I think that the work that we do here as a group and in other groups actually brings those issues to the forefront and can actually help inform policies that can be implemented to implement better change.
Christoph Lohr: There's a lot of really great points you made in there, and I guess if I understand correctly, it sounds like a big part of the answer to overcoming that is kind of this combination of education, advocacy, and expertise, and that kind of nexus point in helping policymakers become aware of the issues and then helping them understand it, and really it takes those specialists, it takes those people that care about it. Like I imagine all the folks on this podcast here today care about it, and it takes us working together to keep elevating this issue so that way it's in front of the policymakers for them to understand that they need to do something about it.
Susan Kapetanovic-Marr: Yeah. And I also find that motivation is super important here, like what's the motivation for a lot of these policies? I did mention, again, back to Vancouver, they have an issue, they have a supply issue of water. Their water comes from melting ice caps, as we know what happens with climate change and that, they also have a growing population.
So like there's really a push to implement this and they have the political structure set up to implement things at a rapid pace and that political incentive, or like Emma mentioned, DSG is becoming front and center with different financial institutions, pushing for investments and assurance on protecting the environment or at least safeguarding their investments from that perspective.
And that could be another driver for a lot of policies or even programs that are put in place.
Christoph Lohr: I definitely agree. I think that's a great way to go. You know, you had mentioned what Emma was saying, the other thing Emma, that you had mentioned was that LEED is involved in trying to help create those conditions.
IAPMO is as well, through WE•Stand. And I think there's a lot of opportunities there to kind of help spur on that motivation. But Emma, you had brought up this point and I really have been champing at the bit here to talk about it. And I think you had mentioned that Daryn might be the best person to talk about it, which is the new water quality recommissioning credit.
So Daryn, what are some of the specifics of that credit and what are maybe, to the general group, what are some of the policy implications for that as well?
Daryn Cline: Absolutely. Thank you. And Emma, thanks for teeing it up for me. You know, this pilot credit is unique. It addresses the quality of the community water system, as well as the building water system.
So it's more than just a siloed approach where we're just focusing on the building water and maybe low-flow fixtures and stagnant legs in the building. So it looks outside the building, and that's what I like about this credit. And that's something that, with this credit design, it has policy implications where you have to make sure that you have quality water coming into the building.
Everyone in the supply chain kind of has a part in making sure that quality water is provided to the building occupants, and from the source water and treatment plant to distribution, piping and building water systems. So that may mean the EPA changes what they're measuring and what they're looking at.
I know that's up for review right now. So they may be testing for Legionella now where they hadn't in the past. So I think this pilot credit will help generate a lot of those questions and get some good answers. They can have quality water in your building.
Christoph Lohr: I'm glad you brought that up, Daryn, and Emma, thanks for mentioning it in the first place, too, because to me it's funny, my background, I am a LEED APBD+C and I've been so for 10 years and I felt like it's always been an important credential that I've maintained and then done the continuing education credits for, and it was interesting with COVID because having focused so much of my time in the water industry and the plumbing industry, I saw that IAPMO and AWWA, that they work together to come up with this Responding to Stagnant Water in Vacant Buildings document on, I think AWWA was the main driver for that one. And then now they've turned around and they're working together with IAPMO as the main driver on the Manual of Best Practices for the Safe Closure and Reopening of Buildings.
That document should be out. And both of those deal with a lot of the flushing guidance out there, and there's been a number of industry organizations that have come out with flushing guidance. And so I've seen all this, and then I saw USGBC came out with this particular pilot credit and I got really excited because I think it's a really great sign that as an industry, we're starting to work, we're working together to come up with solutions and we're at least identifying the same solutions, but I think there's opportunities for us to kind of work closer together. And I guess, let me bounce this first off of Mike, and then if others want to chime in, how do we do a better job of aligning as various organizations and associations?
How do we align to do a better job working together and pooling our resources, maybe more effectively?
Mike Cudahy: I'm a codes and standards guy. So I do like the consensus process that those things involved, there's a definite procedure and process to writing the standards and codes, they involve everyone, public comments are encouraged.
It's just the best methodology to get everyone's input because there's no white knights on this issue. It's going to take everybody.
Christoph Lohr: No, that makes sense, Mike. And are you talking like an ANSI consensus process? Yes.
Mike Cudahy: If any process should be developed in a rigorous manner so that everyone has an input and no one gets ignored, and that concerns are addressed, preferably by some committee made up of all of the interest groups.
And we need that because we know as we keep saying, there's a lot of unintended consequences here. If someone's pet project gets fixed, but then it involves somebody else having an issue that they may not have seen coming, the model codes, they get adopted everywhere. Right? So if you thought Flint was bad, that was just what happens if something bad gets into the code or into these standards; that's why it's really important to have rigorous development.
Christoph Lohr: Emma, Susan, how do you guys think we do a better job having various industry organizations and associations and companies and corporations and whatnot, work together to try to come up with solutions here?
Emma Hughes: I have one, I think, exciting example to share and also interested in Susan's perspective. About 18 months, maybe two years ago, the California urban water agencies reached out to USGBC to initiate a discussion around decentralized water resources, so basically ensuring that developers of buildings or communities are aligning with the regional or local water management objectives, if that makes sense. So specifically the California urban water agencies represents a group of water utility service providers located throughout the state of California, and they were recognizing opportunities for LEED to better recognize the leadership displayed in that state in terms of decentralized systems that might serve a community or a block of buildings that aren't really well recognized in the LEED rating systems. And when I say decentralized systems, I basically mean either stormwater management or gray water capture and reuse systems.
So over the course of that discussion, they sort of handed over the collaboration LEED to the National Water Reuse Association, and we had a subgroup of the LEED water efficiency TAG, or technical advisory group, collaborating really closely with what became known as the National Utility Advisory Group. So this water reuse association convene group represented utilities located across really diverse climate zones. So we had California, we had New York, we had Virginia, also had Illinois, Nevada and through engaging with that stakeholder group, our largely buildings-focused group of volunteers serving on the LEED water TAG was able to develop and define a process that's called the Integrated Project Water Reuse Strategy.
And it basically recognizes that solutions for effective water management look different in different regions and the absolute best way to have that holistic understanding is to reach out and to ask and to start those conversations so that the buildings industry is aligned with and working toward the same goals as maybe the local or regional water authorities where a given project is located, and that draft, I'm really excited, was just approved by the LEED steering committee. It will be published in the next month or two, but it's a process-oriented framework that focuses on what effective water management looks like in the regions where it's being implemented. So it's intentionally flexible and hopefully starts to provide best practices for enhanced collaboration between buildings and water and wastewater management authorities.
So back to your initial question of how do we do a better job working together? I think basically you have to ask, start the conversation, and it can always lead to positive unforeseen consequences as well as those negative unforeseen consequences that we addressed earlier in the podcast.
Christoph Lohr: Great point. I think that's always one of those challenges for engineers, the stereotypes that they can be introverted, but communicating more, it's that whole thing about communication is key, but I think you're right. I think that having conversations there, or on a podcast or other places to open up that passing of information back and forth, that's the first kind of, I think hurdle, I think you're spot on, Emma, and overcoming maybe that systemic friction that's out there. Susan, anything you wanted to add?
Susan Kapetanovic-Marr: Well, that was a great example. And just to add to that, actually to that specific example, working on that pilot credit, or the work with the pilot credit actually helped me to, or encouraged me, to reach out to the county green building council and municipal, actually my own local municipal utilities and kind of start asking the question. So from the perspective of talking to my municipality, a utility, they were sort of confused, and as I explained it, they caught on and understood what I was asking and then quickly said, "Oh yeah, we don't do that.' But then it sort of introduced the idea and then talking to our Canada Green building council representative about this pilot credit, just high level, she actually pointed out that there was a city that's already doing it and pointed me to the LEED here.
They're basically using centralized wastewater treatment, but then using the water for irrigation; it's not 100% potable. And I thought, "Oh my gosh, do they know about this upcoming pilot credit?" And I just thought, "This is wonderful. It's connecting what LEED's proposing as a best practice and rewarding it, with LEED credit, but also it's a way to introduce these unique, or not so common, issues to the rest of the country and internationally where it's not mandated or it's not quite yet available." So I think that's kind of how we do it. Networking, as you said, and just introducing these concepts, I think, is a great way forward.
Christoph Lohr: I love it. I think before we wrap up here, obviously we've covered a lot of ground during the course of our almost hour conversation here. Let me go down the line as far as how I introduced you all and ask, maybe top lesson if you can't get it down to one lesson, maybe top two lessons that our listeners should take away from our conversation today.
And I guess starting with the order of introductions, Emma, what's maybe the top lesson that our listeners should take away from the conversation today?
Emma Hughes: Ooh, top lesson. I think there's just so much that we've covered. In a nutshell, I will say just relentless focus on water stewardship and all that that entails in terms of water, not just efficiency, but quality. Resilient social equity, improved outcomes. And in order to get at that water stewardship, I think what we've all been saying over the course of this discussion is the need for better integration and coordination among all of the stakeholders involved.
I don't think we've set us up for success in that perspective, just thinking in the United States water is managed in such a fragmented way. We regulate it at the state, at the regional level, there are thousands of agencies involved from the Department of Health, storm water management, drinking water, potable utility providers.
So there's so much here and to realize a really sustainable future for everyone that integration, we have to break down those silos and do a better job working together.
Christoph Lohr: I like it. Mike, what about you?
Mike Cudahy: I think the key points are a holistic study of water. The stewardship of water that we mentioned already.
And consensus development of the codes and standards that can be used to safeguard the public health and yet conserve water. And as a member of the ASHRAE 514P committee, I'll make a slight pitch. There is a draft right now, and 514 sort of takes over from where 188 on Legionella first started. So it contains control on multiple pathogens, thermal issues like that thermal burning we were talking about before, and things like corrosion byproducts. So that is available. You can find that on the ASHRAE website.
Christoph Lohr: I love it, I love it. Susan, what about you? What's the top one or two lessons?
Susan Kapetanovic-Marr: Oh, man. Well, I think it's hard to follow the first two people because they took all my ideas, but I'm going to use a different word. I'm going to say the responsible use of water tying in the E the S and the G of the ESG conversation, and then tying people together. I mean, this podcast, if you had asked me, what am I doing on a sort of plumbing designer-focused podcast, I would not have imagined myself here, but the ability to speak to your listeners and to talk to the people on the technical advisory group really is that opportunity to provide that perspective that's often missed if you look too micro at a topic, not look at the bigger picture and then we don't look at the entire picture.
So yeah, the networking and considering all the issues related to water stewardship and holistic thinking.
Christoph Lohr: I love it. All right. And last but not least, Daryn, what other one or two lessons would you want to add?
Daryn Cline: Sure. I got some tough acts to follow, but I would say first, know the water quality coming into your building and setting up a communication channel with your municipal water supplier so that in the event you have upset conditions or you have other issues you notice in your water quality in the building that you know who to contact and making sure that your occupants are safe. And with the Green Building Council, healthy people, healthy places equals healthy economy; I think that's key having healthy water in the building.
Christoph Lohr: Definitely. Definitely. Well, we'll go back in reverse order. Let me ask the question before we sign off here. How can our listeners get in touch with either you specifically or your organization? I guess I'll go right back up the line.
Daryn, why don't you go ahead first?
Daryn Cline: Our listeners can reach me at email@example.com. Phone number is (410) 756-2600. So if you want to call our headquarters, they can reach me.
Christoph Lohr: Awesome. Susan, what about you?
Susan Kapetanovic-Marr: So, I'll save you the hardship of spilling out my last name. If you just cut and paste my name from this podcast description and put it into LinkedIn, you'll find me and then just shoot me a message.
Christoph Lohr: I love it, Mike, your turn.
Mike Cudahy: You can certainly find me on LinkedIn, Mike Cudahy, but I would encourage the listeners to come visit our organization, PPFA, and that's ppfahome.org.
Christoph Lohr: Thanks, Mike. And then Emma, do you want to round us out here?
Emma Hughes: Yes, happy to. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can easily also find me on LinkedIn, Emma Hughes. I'm actually located in Florida.
Christoph Lohr: If any of our listeners want to get in touch with me, as I've stated on other podcast episodes, you can follow me on Twitter @LohrThoughts, or you can find me on LinkedIn, Christoph Lohr, P E. Otherwise, you can also email the at email@example.com.
On behalf of "The Authority Podcast: Plumbing & Mechanical," I just want to say thanks to Emma, Susan, Mike and Daryn; really appreciate your time today. I learned a lot. I imagine our listeners learned a lot, and thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedules to provide some insights and expertise that I think has made an impact.
So, thanks again.
Daryn Cline: Thank you.
Susan Kapetanovic-Marr: Thanks, Chris.
Mike Cudahy: Great to be here.
Emma Hughes: Thanks.