Plumbworks is getting greener. Chris Goodwin and his son, Chris Michael attended a conference in October taking classes offered by GreenPlumbers USA. We took 32 hours of classes in four days, and though there was not much time for fun, we are now certified GreenPlumbers.
GreenPlumbers began in Australia, the driest continent in the world. They have been on the cutting edge of green plumbing for quite a while due to major water shortages. A member of the PHCC picked up on the program and brought it to the states. Here in the states they have partnered up with some major players such as EPA WaterSense, California Urban Water Conservation Council, Alliance for Water Efficiency and others. GreenPlumbers work hand in hand with many public utilities to provide Green solutions to the public with minimum costs. You can check out their web site at http://www.greenplumbersusa.com/
The conference topics were Air and Climate, Water, Solar, Recycle and Reuse and Green auditing. They dealt specifically with water conservation, grey water, rainwater harvesting and solar just to name a few. Despite the fact that these courses were thorough and extensive, they are really just a jumping off point and there is still much to be learned. Here at Plumbworks, we are hoping to implement the GreenPlumbers audit in the beginning of 2009.
I think the most important message I came away with is that being Green doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of the simplest things such as changing aerators, showerheads and toilets are really where you can get the most return. If you minimize your water use than you minimize the waste and the grey water system, you want, may not have to be quite as fancy.
One other issue that does concern me is that we as contractors are some times held back by antiquated codes, which makes some green projects either very expensive or impossible. I am afraid the result is that a lot of “do it your selfers” design and build their own systems not knowing the consequences of poorly designed systems on themselves or their neighbors.
The codes are a result of trial and error over the last two centuries. Although in some instances the codes seem excessive, their accomplishment is reflected by the fact that there have not been any outbreaks of diseases related to improperly installed plumbing systems for a long time.
I have watched numerous videos produced by amateur groups such as the “greywater guerillas”. My observation is that their systems are designed without even a basic knowledge of grey water systems. Yet they are the ones on the front page of the Chronicle and on the evening news. One example I saw had the kitchen sink water being used for a greywater system. Kitchen sink water and toilet waste are considered black water and not to be used in greywater systems, even in the most liberal areas.
I think it is important for all of us to keep up to date on green issues and be in contact with our counterparts in the building department to identify code changes that would allow for more green plumbing without jeopardizing the health or safety of the public for whom the codes are in place to protect.