Piping for Today

A manufacturer's representative looks at low consumption water closets

On May 12, the Virginia Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) hosted a “table top” at its monthly meeting held at Bulls Steakhouse in Forest, Va. The chapter’s table tops present an opportunity for reps to highlight new and innovative offerings to allow chapter members to experience products firsthand. The focus of the May table top was water closet supports and waste piping for today’s low water consumption water closets, and the presenter was Otto Sales.

Otto Sales is a third-generation, family-run manufacturer’s representative based in Ashland, Va. John Otto started the business in 1966. John’s son, Jay Otto, grew up in the company. Both of Jay’s sons have also grown up in the family business; Joey Adams and Jacob Otto are the third generation.

“Being involved in industry associations is an integral part of our business plan,” Jay Otto said.

Otto Sales supports all three of the ASPE chapters in Virginia, and is represented on the board of directors for two of the chapters. Otto is the membership chairman of the Blue Ridge chapter of ASPE, so he welcomed the invitation to lead a table top. Adams as well as Brian Denton, the chapter’s table top coordinator and a plumbing engineer at Southern Air Inc., decided on the topic of low consumption water closets.

“Brian asked if we could put an ASPE-style presentation together that deals with behind the wall carriers and piping systems for today’s low flow fixtures. Thankfully, Brian gave us enough time to do the proper research,” Adams joked.

Denton is a contractor who took a genuine interest in closet carriers and piping after realizing that while the fin- ished side of the wall has seen progression, the unfinished side of the wall has remained unchanged. There have been several governmental mandates dealing with water con- sumption. Coupling those mandates with LEED initiatives has caused water consumption requirements be altered. Fixture and flush valve manufacturers now have to provide designers, contractors, and building owners with quality products that operate at 1.6, 1.28, and 1.1 gallon per flush. The use of High Efficiency Toilets (HET) requires water closet supports that are designed for low flow applications in combination with new cast iron soil pipe, such as epoxy coated soil pipe that has smooth bore interior and spray- applied epoxy coating for a low co-efficient of friction.

The industry has become water efficient in bringing water to the fixtures. Yet, carriers and piping systems are lacking in the ability to remove the waste with less water to act as a transport.

“Blockages in low flow systems using the existing car- rier and piping designs are a real problem for contractors, designers, and building owners,” Otto said. “In the near future, 1.1 gallon per flush water closets will be the cut- ting edge. That’s half of a gallon less than the 1.6 baseline used today.”

For the most part, products behind the wall have not changed or kept up with demands created by reduced water consumption. The systems were designed when the industry was using 3½ gallons per flush fixtures and flush valves.

“Our research for this presentation uncovered some ‘workarounds’ that are almost comical,” Otto said. “For example, installing a timed flush electronically operated flush valve at the farthest end of a branch to periodically flush the line. On one hand, we are forcing the use of low consumption fixtures and flush valves. On the other hand, we are wasting water to keep the lines flushed.”

During the presentation, the feedback from attendees ranged from frustration with line blockages to having to deal with disappointed building owners over the perfor- mance of the piping system. Otto and Adams discussed line size options and pitch to maximize line carry. Water closet carriers designed for use with low flow fixtures along with smooth wall cast iron soil pipe can provide an attractive option for low flow issues that designers, con- tractors, and building owners face on a daily basis.

“The ZURN EZ-Carry Water Closet Support system was designed with key features specifically with contrac- tors in mind,” Adams explained. “New specific features include OSHA-compliant 50-pound assemblies, innova- tive coupling solutions, the new lightweight carrier system and ergonomic handle for easy transportation, and patent- pending EZ-Set coupling and part packs organized by stage. The new EZ carrier also continues to aid in efficient prefabrication when used in contractor fab shops.”

Another discussion that came up at the table top was plumbing design in chain restaurants. Otto noted that Chipotle Mexican Grill, a national fast-casual restaurant chain, now does its carriers in its buildings with 3-inch pipe instead of 4-inch to allow for  better  line  carry. Otto added that the transition in pipe size has yet to be addressed by code and that addressing such a change is a necessary next-step for the industry’s drainage discus- sions.

“The next thing people look at is how the codes address going from 4-inch to 3-inch pipe,” Otto explained. “Is 3-inch the way to go? Or, is it better to use 4-inch with smooth wall and spray applied coating instead of a dipped tar coating, which attracts clogs and is not as smooth and easy-flowing?”

It is not just codes that are leaving industry professionals with questions, but also initiatives such as LEED, the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design green building certification program. Though Otto and Adams did not go into to detail on the subject at the table top, both agreed that there is industry chatter not only about how LEED requirements are affecting water closet plumbing design, but also other fixtures such as faucets.

“LEED is a great idea, but it’s just a learning process of how we get to that result that we’re looking for,” Otto said. “Getting the water to the fixture is fine. Getting water away from the fixture is where we seem to be struggling right now in standards and code enforcement.”

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