Plumber Sustainability Training Expands to Canada under AWE Grant

April, 2014 

In the fall of 2013, the Green Plumbers® program was piloted in Canada, thanks to a grant from the Royal Bank of Canada obtained by AWE.  Canada’s 44,280 licensed plumbers are now in a unique position to advance environmental awareness and water conservation across the country. They directly interact with residents and businesses and have influence over their clients’ fixture and fitting purchasing decisions. This makes them key players in improving urban water sustainability.

About Green Plumbers®

greenplumberslogo_whitebackground-SmrFollowing extensive research into sustainability training programs for plumbers during the first phase of this project, Green Plumbers® was selected for the Canadian pilot workshops. The program originated in Australia in 2001, driven by prolonged drought.

In 2007, the first Green Plumbers® training was brought to North America and delivered in California. Training and accreditation in North America has been provided by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) since 2011. More information about training in the USA is available on the Green Plumbers® website.

Pilot Workshops

As part of this pilot project, three workshops were held: one in Vancouver, one in Kitchener/ Waterloo/ Guelph, and one in the Greater Toronto Area. The goal was to provide training to 120 plumbers. Overall, 128 Canadian-licensed plumber and apprentices took part in the pilot program. 

Picture1-rbcThe curriculum was a condensed one-day version of the USA Green Plumbers® program that was adapted to the Canadian context. It included information about environmental sustainability, high-efficiency technology, water audits, and alternative sources.

At the end of the workshop, participants completed a short course assessment and were awarded a certificate upon successful completion, making them a certified “Green Plumber®”. Workshops were delivered by Doug Kirk, the lead American trainer, and Sam Steele, a plumbing professor from Humber College in Toronto, Canada.  To help customers find a local plumber who has attained certification, IAPMO maintains a searchable database.

Market Research

As well as training workshops, the pilot program included extensive market research that was designed to discern plumbers’ behaviors, attitudes, and current practices related to sustainability. We also wanted to know whether there was a difference between those who attended the training sessions and the general plumbing population. Workshop recruitment, evaluation and market research was led by Metroline Research Group, a full service marketing research company in Ontario, Canada.

Information was obtained from three sources: workshop evaluations completed by plumbers who attended a training session; six focus groups, two in each training market – one with plumbers who had attended a workshop and one with plumbers who had not; and, a national phone survey of 200 randomly-selected licensed plumbers from across Canada.

iStock000015574531Small-SmrKey Findings and Observations

  1. Sustainability training works. A large majority (86%) of workshop participants expect to recommend and/or install water-saving devices more often in the future as a result of the training.
  2. Plumbers are keen to learn. Of the 200 randomly-selected plumbers we talked to, 47% were interested in attending sustainability training. As well, in all three locations apprentices and instructors responded enthusiastically to the workshop offer.
  3. It’s all about technology. Future workshops need to showcase and demonstrate emerging products, teach proper installation procedures, and provide access to manufacturers.
  4. Plumbing is a business. Residents, businesses, contractors and municipalities need to start demanding high-efficiency technology and expecting their plumbers to be familiar with sustainability practices. Plumbers will make recommendations, but in the end will install the technology their clients want.
  5. Fragmented governance of the trade in Canada makes implementing a program of this nature on an ongoing basis challenging.

Econics, a BC-based company that specializes in urban water sustainability and managed this pilot project, provides additional detail about these findings in a blog post and in the final project report. The project was also recently featured in the online blog section of Water Canada, Canada’s national magazine containing water-related news.

Project Funding

The project was supported by the Alliance for Water Efficiency and made possible by a grant AWE helped secure from the Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Project.  Additional funding and support was received from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and by a consortium of local governments who are committed to enhancing water efficiency in their regions: City of Guelph, Region of Waterloo, Region of Peel, Regional Municipality of York, Halton Region, City of Toronto and City of Vancouver.