The ear underground
A recently constructed posh building in South Mumbai, so I am told, has wastewater flowng out from the few flats that have just been occupied. No one is complaining so far because the neighbouring area is a squalid and overcrowded street inhabited by poor people. Such sights are not uncommon in metro cities where the pace of construction far outpaces the method. This is just one of the ways of doing things “on the cheap”.
One of the reasons for such shoddy construction as above is not because developers want to do so. Reputed developers would not want to put their image under scrutiny because of a few leaky pipes. For that matter, nor would little known ones. Most often than not, it is because detailed design drawings were somehow changed at the last minute just when construction work began or the consultant has not paid attention to details.
Jurisdictional officials are the last line of defence to protect the public’s health and safety when plumbing products are to be installed in a new construction project or a major remodelling one. The officials must know and understand the latest information to ensure that the minimum standards are being complied with. The Uniform Plumbing Code India is a code that is updated and published in three year cycles, along with most its cited standards.
Anup Kumar Tripathi, country head, Sloan India, says, “The regulatory body in India for plumbing products is the Bureau of Indian Standard, which states the norms for our industry. Another organisation is the India Plumbing Association (IPA). In recent times there has been more emphasis on green buildings and the idea is to have products that save water. There has also been emphasis on using new materials and technology.”
The plumbing industry continues changing at a rapid pace, and sometimes more so each day. It is important that officials stay abreast of the new rules in order to protect the public’s health and safety. Over the years, most of society has become complacent because unlisted plumbing fixtures look like most other products that are certified.
As per the National Building Code (NBC, 2016), plumbing system consists of water supply, drainage & sanitation (including solid waste management). For water supply, there are majorly two systems, e.g., gravity flow and pressurised, whereas for sanitary & drainage, there are majorly five systems stipulated in the NBC: Single stack system, one pipe partially ventilated, one pipe fully ventilated, two pipes system with common vent, and two pipe system with independent vent system. Solid waste management again has two kinds of piping: One is door-to-door collection and another is through the garbage chute. Section 301.1.1 in the UPC-I requires all plumbing pipes, pipe fittings, fixtures, materials, and devices shall be listed or labelled by a product listing agency, such as IAPMO India. For example, a product that has a label with the UPC-I shield mark of conformity designates that this product complies with the respective requirements within its product standard and the UPC-I. Other products’ labels, with a different mark of conformity, normally comply only with the product’s performance standard, without reference to any other document, or code. Hence, these two types of marks of product conformity exist on the market, but the labels that confirm compliance to a standard and to a code appear to be the most beneficial to everyone as they’re more comprehensive than compliance only to a standard.
Vijay B Pawar, founder and director, Mirador Dewellers, says, “We follow a very simplified process when it comes to ascertaining the plumbing system best suitable for any project. A system is selected based on the type of the building i.e. residential/commercial/institutional. When choosing a plumbing system, we need to adhere to the norms prescribed in the following systems: NBC, IS 12183, IS 1172 and IS 2065.”
Speaking of some of the standards that manufacturing companies adhere to, Nitin Kulkarni, president, sales & marketing, Finolex Industries, says, “We ensure that we manufacture the best quality material and our brand USP has been built over this bedrock of quality products. At Finolex Industries, we produce the same standard quality products so that there is no ambivalence in the buyers’ mind when it comes to choosing products from among our brands. We ensure that we meet IS specification standard.” Now that RERA is in force, it is mandatory for the builder to offer quality assurance of five years.
As far as Kulkarni is concerned, he says that Finolex Pipes is the only company in India that believes in backward integration. It manufactures its own raw material, which is resin. This assures complete control over quality starting from the raw material to the finished products with the help of advanced technology and the automation. Finolex Industries has launched two new products: The new SWR pipes and fittings with integrated rings; and Finolex FlowGuard plus CPVC pipes and fittings.
Explaining the grounds on which plumbing products are chosen by developers, Avijit Datta, VP, projects, The 42, says, “Selection of appropriate plumbing system is very specialised and a delicate task, which we attend to with utmost care. The choice of a particular plumbing system depends majorly on type of building (residential, office building, IT Park, mall & multiplex, hospital, institutional, mixed-used building etc.).”
Other factors that he incorporates are stack of the building (low-rise, high-rise, extra high-rise, etc.); and the category of the building (LIG/MIG, HIG, ultra luxury etc.). Some of the other factors taken into consideration are number of toilets per floor, number of toilets per stack, relationship with other services, acceptability to the authority, ease of maintenance, and special requirements of users.
Managing the system
In terms of building design, an architect’s job has come to involve planning, designing and overseeing the building’s construction as well as the architectural services. Over time erection of buildings has seen a new kind of sophistication that was not present about a couple of decades ago. Technology has come to play a vital role in designing of buildings in addition to the aesthetics and practicality. When it comes to designing plumbing systems for a building, an architect is required to work closely with consultants. The aim is to rationalise and design optimal plumbing services.
Avijit Bose, AVP, contracts, URBANA, says, “Choosing a norm depends on the height of the building. In case of buildings above 10 storeys, there are several points to consider. For instance, the water supply has to be divided into zones so that pressure distribution can be evened out. The consultant should ensure that the contractor uses good quality PVC pipes, if not stainless steel, for interior concealed piping. Intermediate service floors should be planned so that maintenance in the future can be executed smoothly. It would help to use heavy quality ‘silent’ pipes that ideally last for 50 years. Cast iron drain pipes should not be installed as they hinder maintenance.” Whatever be the norm chosen, fundamentally the system should be hassle-free. Quipping a line from R Woodson, he adds, “There are qualities that separate professional plumbers from renegades. These principles are what make the plumbing profession a trade to be proud of.”
What is being done
Ask the developers on how they deal with issues in plumbing, and Bose of URBANA says that service agents need to maintain a record of ‘as-built’ drawings. “The plumbing team that executed the contract should explain the drawings and routes to the service plumbers before handing over. For example, a faucet leak can be replaced with a cartridge or washer. But a choke in the concealed piping would require the the service person to track the piping according to the drawing,” he adds.
Pawar of Mirador Dewellers says that like any other developer, they have their our own non-negotiable expectations from the plumbing systems supplier when sourcing products. All products need to be as per IS standard, carry an ISI mark and the same should be labelled at regular intervals as specified in IS standard. Test certificates shall be verified on receipt of materials.
Sloan uses high quality brass for casting basic products and special plastic for the plastic parts, which are corrosion-resistant. High quality finish engineered plastic does not allow any corrosion to deposit on its surface and thus increases the life of the product. The products are also chemical-resistant and scaling proof. Tripathi says that it is important to remember that products should be made using materials that do not break down easily and one that do not require constant repair. Sloan was the first company to bring out the first Flushometer.
As far as advancements are concerned, the Indian market needs products which can work on low pressure and in bad water conditions. Most vendors are already working in that direction. As for the builders, water sustainable products are the need of the hour. Water is a scarce resource and no one can afford plumbing products that lead to usage of large amounts of water.