By Jennifer Rice, Staff Writer of Fox Valley Labor News
Looking ahead to next year, publisher and editor
of Plumbing & Mechanical magazine Bob Miodonski
said plumbing contractors should look to building
green as a way to breathe some life back into their
In addressing a group of contractors at the Plumbing
and Mechanical Contractors Authority of Northern
Illinois (PAMCANI) two-day conference last
weekend in Downers Grove, Miodonski said the nation's
environmental climate is becoming a business
"Companies are taking it upon themselves to incorporate
their green initiatives into their business
strategies," Miodonski explained. "Many businesses
are starting to implement greenhouse gas reduction
on their own," he added.
Many businesses are looking at Walmart's green
initiatives and are trying to model their company
after it. Miodonski said Walmart is making its suppliers
show how green they are. "Walmart wants to
make its supply chain more efficient, which will help
it lower its prices and be more competitive," he said.
Other businesses taking the green initiative and
building green are Kohl's, Nike, Ford Motor Company
For contractors, Miodonski said you have to ask
yourself if going green would help your company's
image and save your company money by lowering
fuel, energy and water costs. Most of the time, he
said the answer would be, "Yes."
"Green business strategies benefit companies by
lowering utilities cost, reducing the carbon footprint,
boosting employee morale and reducing risk associated
with future spikes in energy prices," Miodonski
He predicts that as businesses become more green
and energy efficient, they will become more competitive,
asking contractors to help them go green and
reach their goals. "If some of your customers have a
green building project, I think the stimulus dollars
will help them," he added.
Miodonski believes the plumbing industry will
see an increase in attention paid to clean water, and
it won't be only for developing countries, but also
the U.S. It is predicted that by 2030 there will be
drought-like conditions in the Midwest.
Starting in January 2011, a 2009 International
Residential Code requires fire sprinklers for all
townhouses built in the 2009 codes. It also will require
fire sprinklers in all single-family homes and
duplexes. Before this rule takes affect, the code has
to be adopted by a local code authority and put into
the building code. Long Grove is the first village in
the area to require sprinklers in new home construction.
Downstate Urbana also has adopted the code.
Miodonski is an advocate for residential sprinklers.
As a former newspaper reporter, he saw firsthand
the damage and destruction fire does to residential
buildings. "I think fire sprinklers in houses
just make sense. I've been an advocate for a long
time," he said.
Since the code has been announced, builders have
lobbied state and local officials to have the code implementation
delayed or scrapped altogether. "Builders
say the sprinklers will cost too much money at
a time when the home building industry is clearly
suffering," Miodonski said.
On the flip side, sprinkler advocates say the builders'
estimates on the cost of installing sprinklers in
homes are inflated. "They are arguing the fact that
[sprinklers] do save lives and reduce property damage,"
What needs to be sorted out is who will install the
residential sprinkler systems in the new homes. It
could be fire sprinkler contractors installing stand
alone systems or it could be plumbing contractors
who are installing multi-purpose systems that will
combine plumbing and sprinklers.
In the end, the installation of residential sprinklers
may be a moot point unless the economy picks
up. "With new home construction down so much,
I don't see decisions having to be made just yet on
who will install the sprinklers," Miodonski said.
"And the economy may just force some commercial
sprinkler contractors to add residential sprinklers to
their business plans and it will lead some plumbing
contractors to expand their services to include sprinklers."
Installations of residential fire sprinklers will be
tied to whether or not new home construction increases.
Good news for the economy predicts 2011
will be better than 2010 and we there won't be a
double-dip recession. The bad news is economists
predict the recovery will be slow and the housing
market will continue to be sluggish. Jobs will come
from renovations, not from new construction.
Miodonski said stimulus money will make a difference
in some building categories and will significantly help moderate the downturn. "The recovery
may not be around the corner, but we certainly seem
to be on the road," Miodonski said.
When making plans for your business, he stressed
for contractors to not be afraid to change their plan,
as certain circumstances change. "Contractors
around the country who have been doing good have
been willing to change, have been willing to be flexible,"
Economists' forecast for 2011 predicts residential
spending will grow between 5 and 10 percent and
total construction spending is expected to grow between
3 and 7 percent.
Photo by Achim Hering courtesy
Starting on Jan. 1, 2011, residential sprinklers
like this one will be required in all newly constructed
single family homes and duplexes.
This article originally appeared in the Fox Valley Labor News