I’m a plumber first (with an engineering and sales heart) and when I see an unexpected opportunity pop up I can’t help myself; I have to act! So when two new five-story apartment buildings with 157 and 95 units specified with CPVC were going up in Lynnwood, Wash., I couldn’t control myself.  I had to offer up Uponor’s alternative design solution to overcome the traditional trunk and branch design using CPVC.

My hope was to have a chance to have the conversation on alternative installation methods with the installing contractor, Wolfe Plumbing, Inc., with the hope to prime them for future uses on similar projects. As those of you in this industry know, one progressive company with an open mind can pave the way for significant future change. (At least that was my thinking when I first spoke with Wolfe Plumbing.)

Timing is everything; well, timing and a contractor willing to listen!  Wolfe Plumbing heard my presentation and my offer to provide them with a viable design and installation guide in a timely manner, and he decided to take a chance on us. I reached out to design services for expedient help creating CAD drawings, submittals, design, etc., and Mike Rostvold and his design team provided the needed expertise to fulfil the contractor’s list of needs.  

Originally designed with a CPVC trunk and branch plumbing distribution system, Wolfe Plumbing agreed to change to PEX, if the engineer would approve. Pac West Sales and their existing relationship with the engineering firm helped us seal the deal, and with all the stakeholders on board, we were ready to finalize the system design.

The homerun system was created with 2" dedicated PEX lines running from the water entry to independent riser locations throughout the building. The design shows Building One with 16 dedicated lines and Building Two with 11 dedicated lines feeding water to the separate risers which then distribute water to the individual water heaters in each unit throughout the buildings. This will offer the best overall system performance and a full Uponor all-inclusive warranty for years and years to come.

Yes – a homerun design is more complicated and time-consuming than a traditional trunk and branch design for designers as well as the installing contractor. This is due to the amount of calculations and CAD designs required, as well as the total amount of pipe to be installed. This hybrid design offers individual risers shut-offs enhancing building isolation, more precise flow rates to independent fixtures and minimized future maintenance for facilities staff.

Wolfe Plumbing installed 1.3 miles of 2" Uponor PEX piping for the apartment project with additional sizes from ½" to 1 ½" Uponor AquaPEX®, ProPEX® Engineered Polymer (EP) Fittings, lead-free (LF) brass sweat adapters for large-dimension ball valves and LF brass male threaded adapters to transition to water mains.  

It’s both an art and a science to design projects of this magnitude, and I’m very grateful to have great contractors and awesome resources on our side when we put the wheels in motion – everyone’s expertise was invaluable. It takes time and education to change habits, but there is no doubt in my mind that patience and perseverance will continue to move the needle in the industry – one project at a time – from traditional materials and methods to PEX and hybrid PEX installations.