In the United States in the mid-1900s, plumbing engineering was an indistinct branch of the overall mechanical engineering industry. The reason for this was the lack of a national, unified voice for plumbing engineers and designers, although most other segments of the engineering industry had their own representation. The American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers were founded in the 1800s, and in 1959, the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the American Society of Refrigerating Engineers merged to form the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. A minor segment of the American Society for Sanitary Engineering was comprised of plumbing system designers, but no specific association dedicated exclusively to plumbing engineers existed.
In early 1964, a Los Angeles-area manufacturer representative, Arnold "Bogey" Bogart, who specialized in air-conditioning products, took on a line of plumbing products. In his search for more information on plumbing systems, he could not find a convenient source of reference material for plumbing design or a place where engineers, designers, manufacturer representatives, contractors, and local officials involved in plumbing engineering and design met on a regular basis. After discussing the matter with Donald F. Dickerson of John Kerr Associates, Bogart contacted approximately 50 plumbing engineers and designers in the Los Angeles area about the possibility of starting an organization for plumbing engineers.
On April 8, 1964, the first organized meeting was held in the office of John Kerr Associates, with approximately 35 people in attendance; John Kyzivat was Acting President for control of the meeting. After a two-hour session, a temporary Interim Committee was established, called the Charter Executive Committee, consisting of the following members: Donald Dickerson (President), Edward Saltzberg, Eugene Handel, Horace Yeh, Jess Donovan, Al Stromerson, and Herbert Berger.
Around the same time, a plumbing design organization was being formed in New York City, led by Vince Pantuso. The Charter Executive Committee contacted Pantuso about merging the efforts of the two organizations; unfortunately, no agreement could be negotiated, and the Los Angeles group decided to go its own way. Therefore, the Charter Executive Committee drafted plans for formal organization.
With the assistance of a local attorney, Luis Graham, Saltzberg undertook the duty of drafting bylaws and a slate of interim officers to form the American Society of Plumbing Engineers. The officers elected at a July 1, 1964 meeting were as follows:
On September 18, 1964, the original meeting attendees reconvened and voted in the bylaws and slate of officers, and the American Society of Plumbing Engineers was officially registered and incorporated. The first official Society Board of Directors was elected on October 7, 1964:
The term of office was for one year, and at the end of the year, the following second Board of Directors was elected:
In 1965, a call for a logo design was sent out to all ASPE members. The Society received various submittals of a humorous vein, such as a "plumbing friend" and "half a toilet seat" with the acronym below each of them. On the last day for submittals, Richard Regalado Jr. submitted a proposed logo, and it was adopted. The logo was designed with the following symbols representing the various aspects of the plumbing engineering field. The letters ASPE were superimposed over a slide rule (representing engineering), laid over a triangle (representing design/drafting) over the end of a pipe (representing sales representatives and contractors), with a blue block background (representing a blueprint).
By 1966 the total membership had grown sufficiently to warrant the creation of local chapters, and the bylaws were modified. At the annual business meeting, the Los Angeles Chapter was officially created, and the chapter board was elected, with Ed Saltzberg as president.
Only July 19, 1967, the national Board of Directors retained the services of Harry Kerman (Conventions West Inc.) to assist in the planning and execution of the first ASPE Convention & Engineered Plumbing Exposition, which was held in Los Angeles at the Ambassador Hotel Conventional Center on September 11-15, 1968.
From ASPE's inception, organizing and disseminating technical information regarding plumbing system design has been of prime importance. The first active project of the Society in its early years was the development and introduction of a plumbing engineering program at the university level—first implemented at UCLA in 1966.
The need for a single, codified reference text on engineered plumbing systems was also an early priority of the Society, and in 1964 the first volume of the ASPE Data Book was presented by the Data Book Committee (Joseph Pulici, Chair) in loose-leaf binder format. In 1974, the Data Book was put into a single, bound volume, and in 1978 the reference text was split into two volumes: Volume 1, Fundamentals of Plumbing Design, and Volume 2, Special Plumbing Systems Design. In 1980, ASPE entered a new phase of technical information publishing with the production of single-topic handbook, Solar Energy Systems Design.
Throughout the early years of the Society, the need for a professional journal devoted primarily to engineers of plumbing systems was consistently seen. Following lengthy discussions, a commercial magazine publisher was contracted to produce The American Plumbing Engineer, which first appeared in March 1968. In 1973, the publication was renamed Plumbing Engineer, which was then declared the official publication of the Society. When the publishing company encountered editorial and corporate problems in 1979, the publication was transferred to a Chicago-based publishing firm. In 1981, the Society inaugurated an internal newsletter, ASPE Board Review, to establish a direct link between the national leadership and the individual member; not technical in nature, the Board Review carried news of and about the members and the Society and was distributed exclusively to members.
While the Data Book Committee continued to develop and disseminate existing technical knowledge, a separate Research Committee was established to further the effort to expand the existing technology. Realizing the full scope of the task, the Society formally established, in 1976, a separate ASPE Research Foundation, with past ASPE President George V. Runkle as President of the Foundation Board of Directors. With the stated purpose of encouraging research projects and new technical papers, the Foundation sought to expand the horizon of the profession and shortly saw the completion of its first two sponsored projects: a pipe size analysis conducted at Stevens Institute of Technology (1979) and an analysis of reduced-size venting design by mechanical engineer Edward Brownstein (1978). (Click here for an expanded history of the ASPE Research Foundation.)
Technical education also received high priority from the earliest days of the Society. From the first Convention in 1968, a major portion of the time has been devoted to technical programming. In all chapter meetings, a technical speaker is included, and in 1980 the Society initiated a series of technical seminars, including topics such as solar energy systems, corrosion control, and hydraulic fire sprinkler systems.
Codes & Standards Involvement
In its early years, ASPE was active with the major code-writing organizations, maintaining an active liaison with such bodies as the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and Code Administrators (now IAPMO) and the International Conference of Building Officials (now ICC). Further, for several years the Society worked as co-sponsors with the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors to develop and produce the National Standard Plumbing Code.
In addition to working with code-writing organizations, the Society provided input to several national agencies and committees such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Committees A112, A117.1, and A40, the National Metric Council, and several agencies of the National Bureau of Standards (particularly the Center for Building Technology) for which ASPE provided a U.S. representative for the joint US/USSR working committee on building standards.