On this episode, we'll be speaking with Gary Klein, managing director at Gary Klein and Associates, in our policy segment; Brian Potter, structural department manager at DEVITA Inc. in our news segment, and Jed Scheuermann, IAPMO Region 2 field manager and North American program director for IWSH, in our good vibe segment.
Contact Gary Klein by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out Brian Potter's Substack newsletter at https://constructionphysics.substack.com, which has links to his email and LinkedIn account.
Contact Jed Scheuermann by email at email@example.com.
Christoph Lohr: Welcome to The Authority Podcast: Plumbing & Mechanical. When talking about the built environment we would do well to remember: We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. Therefore, on each episode, we'll discuss the latest trends from IAPMO in plumbing and mechanical safety, sustainability and resiliency.
Join me, your host, Christoph Lohr, and together we'll explore the ways we can make our buildings shape us for the better.
Welcome to this episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing & Mechanical. On this episode, we'll be speaking with Gary Klein, managing director at Gary Klein and Associates, in our policy segment; Brian Potter, structural department manager at DEVITA Inc. in our news segment, and Jed Scheuermann, IAPMO Region 2 field manager and North American program director for IWSH, in our good vibe segment.
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Let's get at it. Here's my positive conversation with Gary Klein, where we discuss bringing Hunter's curve and Hunter's methodology to the 21st century to make buildings safer and more efficient with the Water Demand Calculator.
Gary, maybe you want to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.
Gary Klein: Sure. I've been in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy since I was in college; in fact, my degree is in the area, and then from 1974, I've been working on what we do. I started getting interested more in hot water as a system in the early '90s, and that started me down a long effort to better understand the plumbing world, not just the energy world. And that water-energy nexus is what I work on in my business.
And if we were meeting for the first time and you asked me what I did, I'd tell you I'm in hot water.
Christoph Lohr: Hopefully not in hot water personally, just professionally.
Gary Klein: Well, then I would say in addition to that, I'm married and I have kids, so I'm always in hot water.
Christoph Lohr: Isn't that the truth? Well, one of the things that's been interesting to me, Gary, is you and I have worked together quite a bit on the AWWA-IAPMO Manual of Recommended Practices for the Safe Closure and Reopening of Buildings, and you and I have spent a lot of time on that nexus in water and energy and then looking at the Legionella concern and working together on developing some of this guidance. You're the chair and I'm your staff support for that specific potable water section that we're working on. But one of the things that you and I have spoken a lot about, and that's what I wanted to have the conversation with for our listeners, was your work and the stuff you're doing with the Water Demand Calculator, because in conferences across the country, that's really what you have really developed a name for yourself, I think, and where you've really kind of hit on a nerve in the industry. Let me start off by asking, how did you get involved with the Water Demand Calculator?
Gary Klein: I'm a member of the WE•Stand Committee, which is where it got developed. I've been leading the hot water discussions for WE•Stand and before that the Green Technical Committee since 2010. And so when the idea came up, Dan Cole and others from IAPMO supported a lot of was to develop a Water Demand Calculator or something to bring the Hunter's method into the 21st century.
I was supportive of it. So I've known of it since it was being developed.
Christoph Lohr: And for our listeners, if you can just real quickly share what the Water Demand Calculator and the Hunter's curve, what that means in the terms of the industry, because I imagine we have some listeners this might be new to.
Gary Klein: The Hunter's curve is a method developed by Roy Hunter with the National Bureau of Standards, which would now be NIST, back in the '30s and '40s to develop pipe sizing rules for buildings of that era. There was no method prior to that, and Hunter came up with the method and we use it as the basis of our plumbing codes: Uniform Plumbing Code, International Plumbing Code, National Standard Plumbing Code, all of them — it's the same basic method. Well, it was from the '40s and it's based on flow rates and probabilities and patterns of use from the '40s.
Well, since the 1940s, all fixture flow rates have come down for the things that are included in the mathematics and the Hunter's curve. And so no one has actually done a rewrite of the sizing rules based on modern flow rates. And so there are a lot smaller flow rates than what was there in 1940-something, and so it's time to come up with a method that allows us to right-size plumbing based on current flow rates and current probabilities.
Christoph Lohr: I think you hit on that delineation, the probability and the flow rates being different. From a utilization standpoint, why is the Water Demand Calculator important? Why does that flow rate make such a difference?
Gary Klein: It makes a huge difference because you want a certain amount of water velocity moving through the pipes to help scour the pipes. Not too much, not too little, right? This is a right-sizing problem. And we want better health and safety and our plumbing.
Somebody asked me recently, "How do you think about plumbing?" and five or 10 years ago I would've said I want water-, energy- and time-efficient hot water systems. And I have to say that all this work in the last decade has said, I want safe plumbing systems that are water, energy and time efficient. We have to get the emphasis on the right syllable, Christoph, to make sure that the buildings are healthy and safe first and then be water, energy and time efficient in the hot water delivery, which is still my focus.
Christoph Lohr: Gotcha. So if I understand you correctly, Gary, what you're saying is the Water Demand Calculator, it's not just about peak flow rate. It expands into the realm of trying to make buildings safer, improving water quality. And there's a host of domino effects by getting that flow rate calculated correctly.
Gary Klein: That's correct. And for those who are concerned that it might be too small, the peak flow rates that it predicts would create pipe sizes that are too small, it still seems to overpredict by a factor of two to four, based on data we've been gathering on a lot of different multi-family buildings, which is what it's applicable to today.
Christoph Lohr: Gotcha. What was the oversizing before the Water Demand Calculator? You said two to four for that. I mean that still is oversized, but what about for Hunter's curve? What was the oversizing like?
Gary Klein: Ten times bigger, so 20 to 40, 50 to one.
Christoph Lohr: Wow. So that's a huge, huge drop in pipe sizes and materials and potentially a really big impact then on all those values in terms of safety and quality and everything else as regards to the water.
Gary Klein: Yes. And we had the chance to work with my friend Pete Skinner in upstate New York last year on the design of three apartment buildings that they agree to use the Water Demand Calculator for for pipe sizing, and the pipe sizing, you said, has some domino effects.
But when you'd size the hot water system based on the code you'd use the peak flow rates that the code tells you it is to figure out the size of your water heating system. Well, when you right-size using the Water Demand Calculator you get a new number. And we were able to take the size of the water heater down by a factor of four, we were able to take the pipe volume of the system down by a factor of two. The combined effect of everything, pipe size for both hot and cold, pipe insulation on both hot and cold it turns out in that building, the mechanical room, everything — first costs went down by over $800 per apartment.
Christoph Lohr: That's incredible. And you said that was in New York, which New York is not a state that currently adopts the UPC; I believe it's the IPC. So with the Water Demand Calculator, it sounds like it's something that can be utilized just about anywhere in the U.S.
Gary Klein: That's correct. It turns out that the IPC is very clear — the decision of what methods to use is up to the engineer, and the engineer in this job decided to use the Water Demand Calculator. It comes from a nationally recognized source — IAPMO — and it's a legitimate method of sizing. And we spent a lot of time going over the whys and the hows and whether it would be safe or not. And in fact, because we were concerned, we actually built a mockup of the worst-case plumbing for that building and tested it before it went to construction.
So we pushed lots of water through it and measured the Delta P across the network and made sure there would be enough pressure at the other end to run the appliances in the apartments.
Christoph Lohr: Fascinating. Well, you indicated that in that instance that the engineer was the one that selected you and utilizing it. But I think there's obviously a lot of work to be done to have more engineers utilizing this.
What, in your mind, in your opinion, are the next steps in getting the Water Demand Calculator in greater use?
Gary Klein: We need more examples. We need, obviously in the introduction of any new technology — and I would say the Water Demand Calculator is a new technology, right? It's a new pipe sizing technology, if you will — we need to get comfortable with its use. So the way things get adopted is there's the early adopters and the innovators, and they take the risk of trying. Well, we now have three buildings I'm certain of in upstate New York and I'm working on two more that I'm certain of now that are going to construction this year — one in Canada and another one in upstate New York — and we're getting people to use it so we can actually measure what's happening. We can go back and figure out that in fact it worked, right? That this isn't just a case of somebody says, "Well, there's no complaints, therefore it worked." We should go back and measure the flow rates and see if our predictions are any good.
And make sure that the pressures are good and make sure that the showers work right. All the things that we did for the first three buildings we should test in other buildings. The key for all of this adoption is to get people comfortable with the fact that we've been oversizing by a rather large amount for a really long time.
That's the key to making it get into greater use. And until we get comfort, it won't move very fast.
Christoph Lohr: So with that kind of work, what in your mind then, in the next five years, let's say, what does success look like to you in terms of adoption and utilization of the Water Demand Calculator?
Gary Klein: Success in the next five years is that we get 10, 20, 50 buildings built around the United States using the Water Demand Calculator for the method of pipe sizing. A hundred buildings.
It takes time to get the ramp to happen. And I'd like to see them in every state of the union so that we can get lots of people close enough to them so they could go see them if they wanted to and kick the tires if they wanted to. So they could say, "Oh yeah, that makes sense. I could do that too." I think it has to remain a voluntary choice, all the appendices are in the plumbing code and that's the fastest way to the finish line. And I think that, if we see, five years, if we see 100 buildings in five years, I'll be very, very pleased. If we see 1,000, I'll be surprised. It's just the beginning of getting any new idea developed, implemented is it takes time to get past the learning curve and the comfort with it. And then we'll start to see people using it.
Christoph Lohr: Right on. All right, last question. If you were going to give me one word that sums up everything you spoke about with me here today, what would that one word be?
Gary Klein: Right-size.
Christoph Lohr: Right on. I like that. Well, Gary, if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to reach out and connect?
Gary Klein: My email, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the best way to reach out.
Christoph Lohr: Awesome. And we'll try to provide that link in the show notes as well. Gary, on behalf of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing & Mechanical, thank you so much for joining us today. I look forward to having more conversations with you moving forward.
Gary Klein: Thank you very much, Christoph. I look forward to making all this happen.
Christoph Lohr: In our next segment, I talk with Brian Potter, structural department manager at DEVITA Inc., about structural and mechanical engineering and the benefits of plumbing and building codes that meet 21st century challenges. Brian, welcome to the show.
Brian Potter: Thanks for having me.
Christoph Lohr: Do you want to tell the audience maybe a little bit about yourself before we jump into some of our questions here?
Brian Potter: Sure. I'm a structural engineer for DEVITA, which is an engineering firm in the Southeast that does structural and mechanical engineering plumbing. I'm probably best known — for the extent that I'm known — for being the author of the Construction Physics Substack newsletter. I write just about various construction topics, a lot about innovation and how to move the construction industry forward
Christoph Lohr: I'm glad you gave our audience that, that Construction Physics Substack it's one I've definitely subscribed to and I think that's how I met you, actually, was through that. I was reading a few of your articles and really interesting blog posts, very thought provoking. Can you tell our audience a little bit about how that started, and why you started it, and what are some of the subjects that you cover within that blog?
Brian Potter: Sure. So I used to work at a company called KATERRA, which is now known for being a huge construction startup that took a lot of investment money that ended up declaring bankruptcy, and kind of after that happened, I wanted to better understand what made doing what KATERRA was trying to do, which is have a more innovative, industrialized building process for buildings that are built in factories using modern manufacturing methods.
I wanted to understand what made that so difficult because Katara failed to do it and not only them, but many, many, many people over the years have tried something similar to bring down construction costs by using something closer to manufacturing to build buildings, and it never seems to quite work in the sense that you get a building that's a lot cheaper to build than it would have been built onsite.
And I wanted to understand why that seemed to be true. And so the newsletter just came out of my research in trying to basically put that together one little piece at a time.
Christoph Lohr: And one of your more recent blogs, you actually talk about the Toyota production system, which to me is very fascinating.
One of the people that I have most enjoyed reading about recently is John Boyd. And he's an innovative thinker that talked about lean systems and the Toyota Production Systems and some of the differences there. And I've seen, having been an engineer just like you on the consulting side, I've seen the IPD and design build really trending, especially in the health-care work that I did. So your subject caught my eye because I had been thinking for the last several years about how there's this nexus point. And so one of the things that I'd be really curious and really interested to hear your thoughts on, and ultimately a big reason why we wanted to have you on, was codes and standards, and you're a structural engineer, so obviously just like plumbing it's so important that that building doesn't fall down. It's so important that plumbing systems carry waste, human waste, away from the buildings. These are things that impact people and their safety and their health. Obviously in the U.S. for a very good reason. Even starting earlier in civilization, world civilization, we have building codes and we have standards that support those building codes. We have guidelines and guidance documents for engineers and for everyone in the industry to improve public health and safety and to maintain that so that way people can confidently walk into a building without worry of their lives being at risk. My sense is that, as a structural engineer, you see codes and standards being a really important part of public health and safety based on your work every day, right?
Brian Potter: Yeah, I have a few thoughts on that. I think just talking about the importance of codes and how we could maybe change them and improve them to make them better. I think a big one, and I'm curious as to your thoughts on this, if your code says you must use this specific material or system or whatever, it makes it really hard to improve on that when you, if some new technology comes along or some new process or system that you can maybe get the same result in a different way, if it's now locked into a building code that says one specific way of doing things that makes it really hard to change.
If your code specifically says you must use copper pipe for blah, blah, blah, blah, it makes it really hard to place it with PEX or something else that may be cheaper, that may be easier to install. So that's kind of a big one, and then another big one that I think is perhaps underappreciated is that you really want your code to be as kind of simple as possible; really, really easy to understand, really easy to apply, really easy for the code practitioner and the engineer working with it to work with this code.
There's one thing that you see in structural especially where as time goes on, you look at your code books over time and they only ever get thicker. And if you look at like the actual loads they're prescribing, they don't necessarily get, like, it's not necessarily that the code gets more strict over time in terms of the design loads are higher and higher and higher.
And sometimes in some cases they actually get lower, but it gets more and more and more complicated and time consuming to implement and to understand exactly what it is saying. It gets less and less simple over time. And I think that has a really big cost. It makes it a lot more design work to implement and design a given thing.
And I think it makes it harder for the building official who has to interpret it, which I think in turn makes it more difficult to demonstrate that some given system meets a code requirement if your code requirement is so complex and ornate and difficult to see that the building official is going to fall back on something that they know meets it.
And same with the design engineer. So the extent that you can make it simple to understand, simple to implement without necessarily compromising health or safety or whatever, I think that can have really big benefits.
Christoph Lohr: This is such a fascinating conversation. I'm so excited to have you on the show because we could, I think, do a really long segment on this because I've given this a lot of thought and there's a difference in structural versus especially plumbing, let's say, plumbing design has been very much codified in many respects because of Hunter's curve and everything else.
And then the way the whole U.S. engineering market is set up for plumbing, which has, there's a lot of systemic structures and things in place. Your point about keeping codes simple, though. I think there is some truth to that. What the challenge right now that I'm seeing in the plumbing side is that I think people, and especially engineers, especially on the MEP side, a lot of non-plumbing engineers have this mindset that plumbing is very simple, and what we've really found out, I think over the last five, 10 years, especially as this Legionella concern has come up, is that plumbing is very complex, especially dealing with water. Actually, there's a great quote by the American Water Works CEO. David LaFrance that says, "People think that water is simple, but it is highly complex."
And I take that quote and modify it a little bit and substitute water for plumbing. And I think that's one of the tricky parts is, you mentioned materials, right? We have to be careful with materials because we put in chlorine or other disinfectants in the water, and if that water chemistry isn't right and the water quality isn't properly controlled, that can cause corrosion issues. And then those things are ingested by people. And so it's like on one hand, you want to keep things simple and so, we're exploring things at IAPMO and I think there's opportunities for developing better standards and codes that way, but it's a really tough challenge, but you also brought up a good point though, because there's a lot of technology changes, and especially with something that people ingest like water. I think the most key component in terms of developing, having codes and standards that are innovative is the process to make them. And I think going with an ANSI process, getting all the stakeholders involved, it's such a good process to making sure that the latest trends are brought to market in a quick and efficient way that public can have confidence in that solution.
My sense is that it's not just the way that the codes are written, but it's even more important, probably one of the most important things, is the way in which they're put together and making sure to get the right stakeholders and giving them a voice and not just a voice, but a say, the ability to make the decision on what is good for public health and safety.
But I think there's a little bit of a difference there between structural and plumbing in that sense, but it's really interesting hearing your points about innovative codes. What do you think about that?
Brian Potter: I think you can separate needing to make a code safe with complex enough to capture the reality of installation versus a needlessly complex way of implementing it. And structural is an example, the way of calculating sort of wind forces on the roof got much more complex between the 2010 version of the code and the 2016 version of the code, and for forces that didn't really essentially change very much. It just added a large burden for the design engineer for the building official to evaluate, that it's not super clear cashes out into an actual safer building.
So I think you can separate those two things out versus a code that captures what is actually going to happen with this system and how it needs to work to perform safely versus the house specifically that system is described in the code and can you describe it in a way that makes it easier to sort of actually implement.
Christoph Lohr: That makes sense. Let me ask a wrap-up question here. If there was one change to codes and standards that would be a positive impact without sacrificing public health and safety, what would be that one change?
Brian Potter: Gosh, if I could wave my magic wand, probably to have way fewer different fields jurisdictions and move more toward true regional codes or true national codes where it wasn't being locally interpreted and change in dozens of different counties, depending on what source you look, you'll get a different number, but it's like 10 or 20,000 different jurisdictions in the country that maybe all are interpreting these things in slightly different ways or have slightly different variations on the code.
I think you can, again, streamline that, have a much more uniform code that basically doesn't sacrifice health and safety at all, but it makes it much, to the extent that it's been, the same thing has been used in more places, the easier it is to implement not having to sort of redo certain calculations or designs every time you cross a county line. People are on different uptake cycles and people, local jurisdictions interpret things differently or have different local addendums and stuff like that. So that would, I think, be pretty close to the top of my list.
Christoph Lohr: Well, thanks for the interview and for the time this morning. I want to ask, how can people get in touch with you, whether social media or otherwise?
Brian Potter: The best place is to check out my Substack newsletter it's at constructionphysics.substack.com, and you can see the things I write about. And then I have links to my email and LinkedIn, if you feel like contacting me.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Well, thanks again for joining me today, Brian. I really appreciate the time.
Brian Potter: For sure.
Christoph Lohr: In our last segment I speak with Jed Scheuermann, IAPMO Region 2 field manager and North American program director for IWSH, who discusses exciting volunteer projects and the good vibes being put forth by IWSH.
Jed, welcome to the show.
Jed Scheuermann: Thanks, eh. Appreciate it.
Christoph Lohr: Before we kind of get into some of the work and how our paths crossed, do you want to give a quick background to our listeners about yourself?
Jed Scheuermann: Sure. I'm a master plumber by trade, learned my plumbing skills in Canada. As IAPMO Region 2 manager, I look after the Pacific Northwestern states, along with all of Canada for IAPMO's needs in Canada.
And then I'm also involved with IWSH looking after North American projects.
Christoph Lohr: That's awesome. And recently, you and I were talking because you were coming into my backyard here in Arizona and doing some work on the Navajo Nation. You want to tell our listeners a little bit of what brought you out here and what you were doing?
Jed Scheuermann: Yes, indeed. We did two specific things. One is Local 469 in Phoenix, Arizona, was part of our Wash Station Challenge 2021, and they built two wash stations for use on the Navajo reservation. A wash station is intended to provide six people with water for sanitation, personal hygiene and hand washing for a one-month supply.
And so we deployed two of those units into the Navajo reservation, and as well we were involved with a project at Navajo Mountain, where we were doing a state-of-the-art plumbing system to help with water conservation.
Christoph Lohr: What was some of the water conservation stuff you guys were working on?
Jed Scheuermann: We estimate that nearly 50% of a building's water consumption is used to flush toilets. On the Navajo reservation, water is incredibly scarce. And so if we can reduce the amount of water that's used for toilet flushing — potable water, that is — then we can radically reduce the reliance on potable water. They fill their cisterns once a month, and maybe we can extend that to two months. And we also reduce the impact on the septic and disposal field, because there's no infrastructure out there.
So by cutting down water reuse by encouraging the reuse of gray water for toilet flushing, we can reduce potable water consumption by quite a bit.
Christoph Lohr: That's amazing. So it's really just an all-of-the-above approach, but definitely trying to hit on the most important, maybe the most impactful activities there to make the biggest difference.
Jed Scheuermann: Precisely.
Christoph Lohr: Obviously you were out here, I think it was in December, you were out in Arizona. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the plans moving forward for that particular project here in Arizona on the Navajo Nation?
Jed Scheuermann: Yeah. We continue to work with the Navajo Nation, with our partners there. We had 21 wash stations built by 10 different UA locals all over North America.
And so we are deploying those at sites nominated by Navajo leaders and by our partners DigDeep, and they are being placed now at schools, at homes, at small Navajo businesses to provide basic hand-washing facilities where they don't currently exist. Moving forward, our flagship initiative called the Community Plumbing Challenge, we hope to do another one of those on the Navajo Nation. Probably later this spring, we're looking back at the area of Baca-Prewitt, where we're going to put plumbing in homes, as well as revisit homes that we did some plumbing for back in 2018, which was our first Community Plumbing Challenge on the reservation.
Christoph Lohr: That's really incredible. I think it's a good reminder that a lot of places even here in the U.S. don't have access to plumbing, and I think it was the British Medical Journal in 2006 that voted indoor sanitation systems, and sanitations in general, one of the top medical breakthroughs since 1840, beating out vaccines and anesthesia.
You mentioned the number of hand-washing stations being deployed. Timeliness of that, especially with the concerns of the COVID pandemic and hand-washing kind of being on the forefront of a lot of stuff. It's timely in many respects. Obviously there's a lot of germs and whatnot outside of that, but definitely a timely deployment for those folks that don't have access to water, to sanitize, and promote proper hygiene of hands and whatnot to prevent spreading germs.
Jed Scheuermann: You've hit it right on the head there. It's estimated in the Navajo Nation on the reservation that upward of one-third of homes do not have a toilet or a tap in the house. And that's a pretty scary statistic.
Christoph Lohr: It is, it is. Well, it sounds like a lot of good work being done there. Obviously the Navajo Nation is only one place that IWSH is working.
Can you tell our listeners a little bit, some of the other, maybe North American projects that you're involved with that are — no pun intended — potentially coming down the pipeline?
Jed Scheuermann: Yeah. The next one that we have on the go is the Community Plumbing Challenge in the state of Alabama. There's a region there called the Black Belt where the soils are really impervious, they're not conducive to conventional septic-type systems, there is no wastewater infrastructure in place whatsoever, so a lot of the folks there straight pipe their sewage out into the backyard. We are going into Alabama, we're going to go with a two-fold project of putting in high-efficiency plumbing fixtures to reduce the volume of effluent or sewage that goes in as well as to be putting in innovative wastewater treatment facilities. And those will range from totally engineered and designed systems to vegetated swales and wetlands and things like that to deal with the sewage problem that is existant there. And so we hope to help the folks in Alabama, Lowndes County.
Christoph Lohr: That's amazing. Lots of great work that's being done in that regard, that's really having an impact on a lot of communities. As we wrap up here, can you give our listeners one word to sum up your talk?
Jed Scheuermann: I would say life. Water is life.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Jed, if folks want to reach out to you, whether social media, email or anything, is there a good way for them to get in touch with you?
Jed Scheuermann: Sure. They can reach out to me by email, email@example.com. And my last name is spelled S C H E U E R M A N N. Or I'm available by cell phone, (971) 300-7649.
Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Well, Jed, thanks so much for being on the show this week, and definitely will want to have you on at some point here in the future to talk about some of the next steps and updates that you guys continue to do at IWSH.
Jed Scheuermann: Would love to share with you what we're doing. Thanks for your interest in it; really appreciate it.
Christoph Lohr: Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing & Mechanical. Love this episode of the podcast, head over to iTunes to subscribe, rate and leave a review. Please follow us on Twitter @AuthorityPM; on Instagram at theauthoritypodcast; or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us next time for another episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing & Mechanical. In the meantime, let's work together to make our buildings more resilient and shape us for the better.