"It is held as a fundamental principle in science that every opinion, before it is admitted as true and taught to others, shall first be established by proper proofs, which must not in any way run counter to established truths, such as, for instance, that twice two are four and not five. Inferences and conclusions which are opposed to such truths are rejected by science." - Liebig.
Fig. 4. Lavatory of the Monks in the Abbey of Fontenay, France.
From Viollet le Due.
TO EXECUTE the plumbing of a modern building after the methods now prescribed by the laws of many cities in such a manner as to provide perfect security and convenience would involve so great an expense as to be beyond the means of the ordinary house owner. A very general impression prevails that complete safety in this domain is unattainable and that all the plumbing should be relegated to some detached building or at least to a room especially devoted to it and ventilated by a window of ample size opening directly upon the outer air. This is, however, a popular fallacy. It is possible to enjoy the advantages of plumbing fixtures with safety and economy wherever convenience dictates, and to present the grounds for this assertion and show the manner in which the work may be done is one of the objects of these papers.
It is no very flattering commentary upon our methods of self government today that both legislation and common practice in one of the most important domains of household sanitation have, for a long time, been directly opposed to the actual demonstrations of science, and to the teachings of acknowledged authorities.
Yet such is the fact. The public has preferred to suffer very serious dangers and submit to a very burdensome form of taxation rather than, by independent experiment on suitable apparatus, to establish the truth for itself by proper proofs where conflicting opinions as to facts originally existed. It has assumed the right to legislate, but not always to investigate, and this even in a case where direct investigation was clearly essential to serviceable legislation.
Since, however, no attempt at exhaustive or satisfactory public investigation and experiment had been made, so far as I could ascertain, to establish a sound basis for plumbing legislation, and since the public records of private investigations were both incomplete and fundamentally conflicting, I decided, in 1883, to make an attempt myself to obtain sufficient data for independent judgment by careful original experiment.
These investigations were made originally in behalf of a medical client, who, like myself, considered sanitation a feature of primary importance in the construction of his house, and soon resulted in a conviction that the complications of the system of plumbing in vogue were worse than useless.
They led subsequently to a more elaborate series of experiments, with the aid of Major L. F. Rice, C. E., for the Boston City Board of Health in 1884 and still later in 1885 to others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the simpler system of plumbing, including the abandonment of back-venting and of unnecessary trapping was advocated before the Suffolk District Medical Society of Massachusetts, the Boston Society of Architects, and others; to a series in the city of Worcester and elsewhere; and to a critical study of the subject of household sanitation extending up to the present time.
They have, I think, established certain facts which had previously been in dispute, and suggested certain improvements in methods and in details which will be referred to in their proper place.
Suffice it to say, for the present, that in accordance with the precept of Liebig, quoted as our heading, nothing has been accepted, or will here be presented as a fact unless it has been established as such by positive demonstration; and with the aid of the excellent apparatus which Mr. Hubbard* has here erected for us, we shall be enabled to present to you some of these demonstrations in an attractive as well as instructive form. In order to make our meetings as satisfactory and fruitful as possible, it is hoped that every one present will make a note of any points which may not be perfectly clear to him, or of any deductions with which he may not be fully in accord, and mention them in the discussions following the lectures, so that the reasoning leading to these deductions may be re-examined or more clearly stated.
Just as a healthy mind and body are the first requisites for the enjoyment and usefulness of life, so the items of house construction which affect its healthfulness should be the first concern of those in charge. They require and justify the attention and decorative treatment of the architect as much as do lighting, ventilating, warming, roofing, fire-proofing, painting, floor or wall construction; for architecture consists in nothing but the proper assemblage of all these parts, and style in architectural design is nothing but a graceful expression of the truth in treating them and in combining them into one harmonious whole.
*Mr. Samuel Hubbard, Director of the North End Union, under whose auspices these lectures were originally given.
It is sometimes objected that the architect cannot be expected to have the equipment of civil and sanitary engineer as well as that of architect; that to permit of this he must first be relieved of half his present cares and responsibilities. It is certainly true that he should be relieved of many burdens, legal and commercial, which have no bearing whatever upon the art and science of architecture. Cooperation and system will ultimately afford him this relief.* But architecture can no more stand as a living art without its engineering base controlling everywhere the outward form than can an animal stand without its muscles and skeleton. The arrangement of the plumbing pipes and fixtures influences the entire plan from foundation to roof. Some of the rooms are designed almost exclusively for the plumbing, and all are more or less dependent upon its arrangement. The walls and beams must be slotted and framed for its reception, and differently for each different kind of fixture or system of piping, as well as for the lighting and heating apparatus. Hence the architect may feel that upon him will ultimately lie the responsibility not only for the healthfulness, convenience, attractiveness and cost of the particular work over which he may have immediate charge, but also, in a great measure, for the general status of plumbing art and legislation throughout the country. A few illustrations from the architectural monuments of the past will show in what manner and with what loving care the architect of former days was permitted to dignify the simple plumbing work of his time.