This section is from the book "American Plumbing Practice", by The Engineering Record. Also available from Amazon: Plumbing: A working manual of American plumbing practice.
(Reprint of an editorial from The Engineering RECORD of September 22,1894.)
There are few features of modern building construction which do not now receive thorough treatment when the design is fortunate enough to fall into the hands of competent architects and engineers, and yet there is one very important portion of the structural outfit, so to speak, of a building, which up to the present time receives no intelligent consideration whatever, except in very rare cases. We refer to the gas piping of buildings of all classes. The gas companies have made practically all possible advances in processes of manufacture and distribution, and while there may be unfairness in some exceptional instances, in the main the gas consumers have largely reaped the benefit of the resulting economies.
Municipal building regulations have generally prescribed fairly wise and reasonable general rules under which buildings and their various structural appointments are to be constructed, but on the question of running gas lines for proper distribution within the buildings they have been essentially silent. Architects also virtually have turned over to gasfitters, as a general statement, the whole question of fitting the buildings which come under their design and supervision. What ought to be everybody's business seems to have been nobody's business, and consequently there probably has never been any portion of the construction and fitting of a building which has exhibited more ignorance and gross blundering than the general run of the gas-pipe plans of many structures now standing, and that is saying a great deal. As is almost or quite the invariable result in rich matters the purchaser and the consumer are the principal sufferers. It certainly is not creditable to the architect or engineer thus to fail to properly specify, or generally to specify at all, for so important a part of his work, and no municipal regulation can be considered as complete, either in its form or operation, unless it suitably covers a class of work which so immediately affects the comfort and health of almost every human being and the welfare of every business within its corporate limits. It is the legitimate desire, of course, of the gasfitter to reduce to his client the total cost of his work to a minimum, and he gets his work as the lowest bidder, hence the result is all but a universal decrease of size of. pipes in a building far below those which ought to exist for a proper supply at the points of actual consumption. Besides, a lack of proper knowledge of design causes a very general and sometimes an utterly absurd disproportion between the main and running lines and branches, which results, in connection with the fundamental difficulties of small pipes, in excessive complaints from users in many instances, and in costly and inefficient, if usually unnoticed, illumination or heating, and very costly alterations and additions to the piping in the modern fireproof building.
Indeed it cannot be expected that gasfitting will be done carefully and efficiently or with materials and workmanship of excellent quality unless, like other branches of mechanical work, it is done under intelligent specifications, faithfully executed.
It is true that there have been a few very creditable efforts to remedy this state of things, but they may be said almost to be included in the excellent little work by William Paul Gerhard, and perhaps the unduly short printed regulations of one or two gas companies in the country, and they have not produced any apparent improvement in the general situation.
Since the advent of high buildings with fireproof floors and the demand for gas for cooking and heating has arisen, the embarrassment due to the causes cited have been more pronounced. In view, therefore, of the interests involved, The Engineering RECORD, in pursuance of its policy to elevate and advance all branches of building construction, submits to architects and engineers, as well as munic ipal authorities, a general system of specifications and rules under which buildings may be fitted with gas pipes so as to produce the greatest excellence in design and the most efficient and economical use of gas. After a very thorough examination of the whole question, and after many conferences with large firms of gasfitters, engineers of gas works, and others directly interested in the attainment of the desired end, the specifications, tables, and rules ■which we print herewith have been prepared. These regulations have been made essentially to agree with the few best efforts which have already been made for the same purpose; they involve no conditions inconsistent with the best interests of gas consumers, gas producers, or gasfitters, but they have been based upon such reasonable conditions as will secure in all respects the best practice to all those departments of gas interests. The tables showing the sizes required for the prescribed number of burners, logs, heaters, and ranges are based upon a very careful and thorough investigation, both analytical and experimental, in regard to the flow of gas through the pipes of the maximum lengths indicated. The resulting sizes are in some cases a little larger than hitherto prescribed, while in other cases they are not; but in all cases they will insure the free flow of the necessary volume of gas, and thus entirely avoid the annoyances and loss due to too small pipes. The slight increase of cost of piping from this source is too small to be appreciable in the total cost of any building whatever.
Should it be desired by architects or engineers, these general regulations can easily be supplemented by other clauses or paragraphs designed to cover special cases or details which it would not be proper or suitable to recognize in the concise regulations designed to meet the purposes of those which we print. We commend these specifications to the most careful and favorable consideration of architects, gas companies, and the building departments of cities. They have been carefully and rationally designed to fill a gap in building specifications and general regulations which has been the cause of most serious and widespread annoyance and loss.