Pods from Pudong
With imports of non-compliant bathroom pods on the rise, it may be time to take another look at the regulations that apply to them. Plumbing Connection turned to IAPMO Oceana’s Glenn Tate to get his take on the subject.
Pre-fabricated bathroom pods present a host of potential benefits to the construction industry but issues can arise when trying to certify an entire bathroom – a process that is made even more difficult when pods are fabricated offshore. To make matters worse, the WaterMark Standard that applies to these ready-to-go bathrooms was written at a time when the most complex pre-fab bathroom system on the market was a self-contained fibreglass shower enclosure.
“It’s a concern. I really think that the Australian Technical Specification has been taken beyond what it was intended for. I was on the WS31 committee when this Specification first got developed and the product that was being considered at the time by the committee was for a self-contained shower enclosure pre-fabricated with taps, shower head, waste outlet and water supply pipework. The pods that are coming out nowadays have taken the pre-fabrication process to the next level – they are complete bathroom modules – and I don’t know whether ATS 5200.050 is really suitable,” says the Technical Manager of IAPMO Oceana Glenn Tate.
Far from wanting to stifle innovation, Glenn’s concerns are not with the use of bathroom pods per se, but whether the existing regulatory framework is effective in ensuring that their manufacture and installation complies with the relevant standards.
“I’m not against pods as long as they’re using WaterMark certified or WaterMark compliant components and are installed or signed off by a licenced plumber (both at the point of manufacture and hook-up back here in Australia) to ensure they’re in accordance with AS/NZS3500. If you can streamline the manufacturing or the building process by using these pods – so be it, that’s progress. But you have got to make sure that the person who is installing them and connecting up to the water supply and the sewage knows what he’s doing and knows what the AS/NZS3500 requirements are and have that signed off to say that it complies.”
Glenn is concerned that pods fabricated overseas (often in countries where plumbing qualifications don’t even exist) are then brought over to our shores with a WaterMark certification logo on them. The problem is that there’s no one to take responsibility for the interconnection of all the pod’s components during fabrication, no one to verify that each component is WaterMark certified or has been verified as meeting the relevant WaterMark Standard.
“I believe that it would be cost prohibitive to test ever single fitting, pipe and fixture that are incorporated in the modern day bathroom pods in accordance with the requirements of the ABCB WaterMark scheme, if they are not already WaterMark certified. And I am concerned that if these modules are manufactured completely overseas and imported into Australia, they may not be fully compliant with AS/NZS3500 and WaterMark compliance requirements,” Glenn says.
Pre-fabricated bathrooms are likely to have a big part to play in the future of the construction industry. But if appropriate controls aren’t put on pods now, in a few years time when all that non-compliant pipe-work/fittings begins to fall apart behind fully-sealed, fibreglass pod walls, we’re going to regret it.