The phrase “plumbing engineer” might just sound like a fancy five-dollar term to use when “plumber” sounds too pedestrian. Like, if your stodgy old eighth-grade English teacher comes to visit, and the toilet breaks, you might say something like, “Alas! It seems as though it may be time to avail myself of some of my local plumbing engineer’s finest handiwork! Forsooth, and such.”
Luckily, your stodgy eighth-grade English teacher didn’t bring your persnickety eleventh-grade science teacher with her, because you’d be wrong.
You call a plumber to fix a broken toilet, repair a leaky pipe or unclog a stubborn drain. Plumbers are a vital part of the specialized engineering community, but a plumber just is not the same as a plumbing engineer.
So what is a plumbing engineer, you ask? The easiest way to make the distinction is to think of the plumbing engineer as the guy who designs the system, and the plumber as the guy who maintains it. You’d call Jack the plumbing engineer to map out the hot and cold water system in the new home you’re building; you’d call Joe the plumber to fix it when a gasket wears out.
Plumbing engineering relies on design, planning, creation and implementation. A plumbing engineer draws up a pipe system for a new building or series of buildings, makes sure every pipe connection is substantial and every delivery method is efficient. He chooses the right materials to make sure the system lasts for years with minimal maintenance. If you get a top-notch plumbing engineer, you probably won’t need to call the plumber very often.
The Whole Building Design Guide, an expansive web-based information resource for contractors, designers and architects, provides a good working definition of plumbing engineering:
The Plumbing Engineer is involved with systems that overlap into the mechanical, civil, and chemical engineering disciplines. The Plumbing Engineer is in a meaningful position to influence the water efficiency, sustainable site, energy, fire protection, and pollution systems of a facility.
Plumbing engineers are qualified to supervise a wide range of public and private building projects:
- When a new shopping center needs a stormwater management system, the engineering firm designing the center would hand the job over to a plumbing engineer.
- A plumbing engineer might work closely with a fire protection engineer to to make sure a new sprinkler system is in good working order.
- An complete team of plumbing engineers might design a sewer system for a new housing development.