It’s incredible when you consider how much our industry has changed in the 85 years since IAPMO first convened an education and business conference. New technology and methods of practice have revolutionized our work, a greater diversity has enhanced our ranks, the communication age has connected the globe in the name of safe sanitation — and at every turn IAPMO has been one step ahead, ensuring that the Uniform Codes not only reflect these changes, but often times pave the way for their acceptance.
The face of IAPMO has changed exponentially since that day in 1926 when a small group of Los Angeles plumbing inspectors sparked the idea of forming a plumbing organization that emphasized the promotion of safe sanitary plumbing for public health and safety. I think they would be very proud of what the organization has evolved into.
One of the many changes has been the continued improvement and enhancement of the IAPMO annual Education and Business Conference. The first convention was held on July 14, 1930, in San Jose, California. It was reported that 24 cities sent representatives to the convention. This one-day meeting was comprised of a dinner followed by the officers and members gathering to discuss general plumbing topics. By 1937, the convention was represented by more than 50 cities, and the topics for discussion had expanded and become more specific. There were discussions on such topics as heating and ventilation, sewage disposal, natural gas in industry, grease traps, “Necessity of Examination and Qualification of Plumbers,” “The Relationship of the Plumbing Inspectors to the Health Office,” “The Straight-Angle Method vs. the 90-Degree Method and the 45-Degree Cross-Angle Method of Uniting Fluid Streams,” Lead as a Plumbing Material,” “Proper Drainage for Auto Trailer Camps,” “Dangerous Bacteria in Sewage Differs from Harmful Gases in Sewers,” and “The Handyman in Hotels, Apartment Houses and Plumbing Work Done by Homeowners.”
The first conventions were attended primarily by plumbing inspectors. Now we have a wide spectrum of additional participants from several sectors of our industry attending each year, such as mechanical inspectors, building officials, engineers, contractors, labor representatives, manufacturers, other codes and standards developing organization representatives, the board of directors, and staff. With this very diverse group of people comes an almost immeasurable amount of technical knowledge and expertise that covers every aspect of our industry. It is no wonder we are receiving so much attention as a leader in our industry both nationally and globally.
There was very little code development that took place at the early conventions since the codes were relatively new and not very extensive in comparison to today. These days it is not unheard of to have nearly 400 plumbing code items to address in addition to approximately 100 mechanical code items, all of which requires the membership to take the larger part of a conference day for discussion and voting for two of the three years in the code cycle.
Conferences today run from Sunday through Thursday, Sunday being set aside for the annual Roscoe King Memorial Golf Tournament, registration, and evening cocktail reception, which has been so graciously provided by our good friends at the Western Pipe Trades Council for many years. So what once was an evening outing has grown to a five-day event. The clear common denominator between the first convention and what is now known as the education and business conference is the importance of public health and safety.
Technology has played a huge role in how we do business, not only in regard to the products that are manufactured, but also how we exchange information. Technology is one of the main drivers of the code. As products become more technical, so do the codes. It is important to embrace technology, but not at the expense of lessening the life and safety provisions of the codes. There is a constant flow of new products being developed to save time and money, but may provide an unnecessary risk to our health. It is our job to make certain that product approval does not jeopardize the health and safety of the end user.
We live in a world where there is so much information available at our fingertips. All of the mobile technology that is readily available keeps us connected during our waking hours. By use of tools such as e-mail, text messaging, Twitter, FaceTime, and Skype, we are able to exchange code-related information instantly. Inspectors use mobile technology in the field to perform inspections where the results can be sent wirelessly to a database for instant viewing by contractors, homeowners, and other staff within the office. We can provide training via webinars, saving thousands of dollars of resources each year that would otherwise be spent on travel and lodging. The codes are available for electronic download, providing instant access to them. Time is forever becoming more of a commodity that needs to be used wisely and sparingly; technology helps us to achieve that.
Although we have many more tools available today than the founders of our organization had, we continue to have the same core concern of maintaining public safety by developing codes and standards that ensure safe and sanitary plumbing and mechanical systems.
It won’t be long before we are ready to gather at the 85th annual Education and Business Conference in Minneapolis, Minn. There is no doubt that there will be plenty of training in the way of seminars and workshops, which will be taught by some of the most talented and knowledgeable instructors in the industry. If those who have had the opportunity to attend a past IAPMO conference had to revert back to the one-day gathering of yesteryear, I am sure they would be very disappointed considering all that is packed into current conferences. In addition to all of the training, there will most certainly be plenty of evening entertainment planned for us by IAPMO’s unparalleled staff and the Conference Planning and Special Projects Committee, which is chaired by my lovely wife and comprised of the Board of Directors spouses and significant others. They do an incredible job as showcased during last year’s conference in Kansas City, Mo. It’s never too early to register, so I recommend you do it as soon as possible to take advantage of the early-bird pricing and secure your hotel accommodation.
I look forward to seeing you there, and if you have a spouse who likes to shop, I hear they have a little place called the Mall of America nearby.