Written by Eamonn Ryan
One graphic example of government departments in South Africa working in silos is the building and water departments. Building regulations are managed under the Department of Trade and Industry, while water supply is managed under the Water Services Act by the Department of Water and Sanitation which imposes a duty to make sure water is supplied to all communities.
Herman Strauss, head of the PIRB’s audit department, points out that the absence of water supply in the building regulations emphasises the current ‘silo effect’ whereby building regulations are contained in two different Acts and consequently not adequately policed. “The Water Services Act covers installations between the water meter (where the water supply enters the property) all the way to where it water runs out of the tap/toilet. It includes the geyser, pipework, insulation and the like.”
It additionally addresses other aspects of building regulations such as energy efficiency, which at the moment are so far not being policed under any other regulations. This is a vital area of responsibility for the Building Compliance Officer to conduct audits, and falls within these draft regulations given that the heating of water is a big part of energy efficiency.
“For instance, regulations would define limits as to water temperature. Effectively a new regulation would adopt elements of the current standards SANS 10252 Part 1 the standard for water supply and SANS 10254. These standards outline everything safety related for water supply. Building regulations are all about safety and useability. So they would certainly look at the temperature of hot water in the geyser and deadlegs. If it’s too low, there’s the risk of Legionnaire’s disease and perhaps others. It would cover the materials, deterioration and maintenance of installations and pipework and the risk of leaks and water loss.
“A challenge in the plumbing trade is that trainees in many cases are not being trained on the SANS standards. It’s not part of the curriculum. This results in plumbers, while having the best intentions of doing a job for a client, simply not knowing the standards, and it is the standards which ensure safety. The danger consequently exists that a plumber who doesn’t know the standards, does job after job contrary to the standard without ever knowing it. Similarly, any inspector from the municipality who might check it, themselves don’t know the standards. Thise installations may well be a danger to the homeowners,” says Strauss.