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Setting The Standard

Plumbing industry leads harmonization charge


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March 1, 2014 by PATRICK CALLAN

The push is on to harmonize codes and standards on both sides of the border
The push is on to harmonize codes and standards on both sides of the border

Whether you are a contractor, manufacturer, distributor or wholesaler, a problem you likely share is frustration with the overlap and duplication of codes and standards in the North American HVAC/R and plumbing industries.

For those who conduct business outside of their home province or in the U.S., the lack of uniformity means complying with several different provincial benchmarks, as well as those of our American neighbours. Fulfilling these many different requirements ends up costing valuable time, money and industry efficiency. But help could be on the way.

Harmonization talks in a number of different industries have been ongoing between Canada and the U.S., facilitated through the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) established in February 2011.

And on the heels of two bi-national pilot projects launched in July 2013, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) in January selected the balloon-type ball backwater valve as the product for the first joint Canada-U.S. standard in the plumbing industry.

A selection panel of industry representatives, including members of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating (CIPH) and several U.S. organizations, evaluated project submissions and determined that standards development for balloon-type ball backwater valves would benefit the greatest number of Canadian and American users.

“We have consulted with industry and our allied associations on both sides of the border, and the consensus is that the balloon-type ball backwater valve pilot project will help industry in both countries to avoid inefficiencies and to contain potential development costs,” said Ralph Suppa, CIPH president and general manager. “Our ultimate goal is to improve speed toward harmonization, especially in new technology areas with the end result being one standard, one mark, one test accepted in both Canada and the USA.”

The SCC will now issue a request for proposals to accredited Standards Development Organizations (SDO) and
provide as-needed funding to facilitate the development of the joint Canada-U.S. voluntary standard for balloon-type backwater valves. (An SDO develops a standard through consensus from a technical committee of volunteers consisting of industry, government and academic experts. There is a public review component as well.)

In order to be selected, entities must be accredited to develop national standards in both countries – whether as a single SDO with dual accreditation, or through a partnership of U.S.-Canada SDOs. When completed, the joint standard will be submitted for approval by both the American National Standards Institute and the SCC.

“We’re trying to get it started. Start small and get one,” says John Walter, SCC’s chief executive officer. “The value for us on a continent is to have the same heating, refrigeration, air conditioning and plumbing standards. It’s really hard to say that a standard for a toilet in Detroit is that much different from a standard in Windsor.”

CIPH, SCC, Electro Federation Canada and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute also formed an alliance in July 2013 to work together on a second bi-national pilot project focused on new or emerging product areas where neither standards nor regulations currently exist. 

Shift towards regional, international standards

The SCC defines a standard as a document that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their
results to “achieve an optimum degree of order in a given context.” Standards can be either voluntary or mandatory (enforced by law), and they cover four main areas: performance, design, prescriptive and management systems. Developed nationally, regionally or internationally, they are generally reviewed every five years minimum.

A code is “broad in scope, intended to be given the force of law through adoption by a provincial, territorial or municipal authority,” according to the SCC. It can also include a number of referenced standards.

Walter says codes and standards are developed similarly and there really is no difference between them – except that codes tend to be used more in government.

“There are hundreds of standards referenced in federal, provincial and territorial regulations, and they’re used
exactly the same as a code,” he says. “Quite frankly it would be easier if everybody just called them a standard.”

Currently there are more than 30 000 standards worldwide and 3000 in Canada alone, ranging anywhere from
elevators to light bulbs. However, a recent trend in Canada has seen the number of standards decline by about 800, says Walter.

 “Industries and governments are moving more towards using international or regional standards,” he says. “From Canada’s point of view it’s a good thing that we’re moving more and more into the use of international standards.” Next up is harmonization within our own backyard, he adds.

“That’s the big challenge across this country,” he says. “If we could get our provincial governments to agree that certain standards would be adopted on the same date it would make it much easier for our industries.”

Using an example of any given heating standard, Walter says if it is adopted at different times in different provinces there will likely be some variation as each jurisdiction puts its own spin on it. However, it is up to the contractor to know the subtleties if they intend to work in multiple provinces. 

At the moment there is no website or document that aggregates the different industry standards across provinces. “We’re trying to rectify that,” says Walter, adding that the SCC has done similar lists of standards in the federal
government and is currently working with several provinces to do the same. In terms of cross border trade barriers: “It’s simply an extension of the problems we have across the provinces,” he says.

Walter emphasizes standards are the bedrock of society. The goal is to develop more common standards with the U.S. and to reduce existing red tape between provinces. But it will not be easy, he admits.

“The big challenge is what do we do with the dozens and dozens of standards that are already there?” he asks.

If consumers and the HVAC/R and plumbing industries have any hope of reaping the benefits of bilateral standards, it will require SDOs on both sides of the border to make compromises, he concludes.  <>

SCC accredits AHRI to develop National Standards of Canada

The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) has accredited the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) to develop National Standards of Canada. AHRI, which is based in Arlington, VA and has offices in Toronto, met SCC’s program requirements for the accreditation of standards development organizations (SDO). The SCC has accredited the AHRI in product, process and service certification in the subject areas of p
erformance ratings and energy efficiency since 2009.

“The accreditation of AHRI as a standards development organization in Canada demonstrates SCC’s continued efforts to ensure more standardization solutions are available for use by government, industry and consumer groups,” said John Walter, SCC’s chief executive officer.

It is also a significant step towards the goal of complete standards and certification harmonization throughout North America, added Stephen Yurek, AHRI’s president and CEO. “The accreditation of AHRI as a Canadian SDO fulfills a long-sought goal of our organization and its 300-plus member manufacturers, many of whom provide products and equipment to Canadian customers,” he said.

Ralph Suppa, president and general manager for the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating, applauded the addition of AHRI as an accredited standards development organization in Canada. “This accreditation is a key step in helping industry fulfill its ongoing binational harmonization works with the Standards Council of Canada for the development of joint standards through our active involvement with the Regulatory Cooperation Council,” he said.

 


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