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When millions of gallons of water are traveling through your piping system every month, it’s bound to put wear and tear on the system. The folks at Model Linen Service in Ogden, Utah, realized that huge volumes of water were doing a number on their copper; so in a new laundry facility building, they incorporated Read more

When millions of gallons of water are traveling through your piping system every month, it’s bound to put wear and tear on the system. The folks at Model Linen Service in Ogden, Utah, realized that huge volumes of water were doing a number on their copper; so in a new laundry facility building, they incorporated stainless pipe instead. 

Viega’s ProPress Stainless fittings, pipe connections, pipe joining, plumbing, Viega ProPress, Press Technology, PVF

Then, in looking at options for connecting the 3” and 4” pipe, they discovered Viega’s ProPress Stainless fittings and thought it could be a better option than threading. 

“ProPress made the day!” said Ryan Thon, Chief Engineer at Model Linen. “I’ve been using copper over the years and just found that I wasn’t getting the life out of it. We get so much water volume through the pipes that it wears out the copper. So we decided to go with the Schedule 40 stainless.” 

 

Model Linen services about 700,000 pounds of linen a week. Their main business in the facility where the ProPress fittings are located is restaurant service items like bar towels and floor mats. Running at capacity, Model Linen needed to expand, so they built a 19,000-square-foot facility bordering the original main plant. 

Viega’s ProPress Stainless fittings, pipe connections, pipe joining, plumbing, Viega ProPress, Press Technology, PVF

When Thon and his crew started on the building in April 2018, circumstances beyond his control meant they had to start threading instead. He said the first quarter of the building was threaded. 

 

“There’s so much time and effort involved with threading Schedule 40 pipe,” he said. “Then [when circumstances changed], I was able to get the press tool and jaws. And I’d say it probably took me the same amount of time to press the other three-quarters of the building with Viega as it did to thread the first quarter! 

“It’s a big facility and it took months of time—but pressing made it so much easier. I’d probably still be threading right now!” Thon said with a laugh. 

Viega’s ProPress Stainless fittings, pipe connections, pipe joining, plumbing, Viega ProPress, Press Technology, PVF

In the building, there is a 4” water main that brings in the cold water. It’s softened and goes into an exchanger. Thon explained that old, dirty water coming from the washers is recycled and feeds through the exchanger to work as a heater. It raises the city water up to about 95 degrees without any heating elements. 

 

“It’s hot water. Why let it go straight into the sewer?” Thon said. “All we’re using is the radiator and pumps to pump it, but we re-water to get our tempered water.” 

From there, half of the tempered water goes into the washers and the other half goes through a heater to make hotter, 165-degree-water. 

Model Linen does a good job in saving as much water and energy as possible. In addition to using the reclaimed hot water to heat the incoming water supply, the washer’s final-rinse hot water is also reused. 

Viega’s ProPress Stainless fittings, pipe connections, pipe joining, plumbing, Viega ProPress, Press Technology, PVF

“At that point with the last rinse, the soap is out and it’s clean, so that water drops into its own trench and recirculates to be used in the first part of the wash cycle with the detergent,” he explained. “It’s a pretty cool process instead of using more clean city water.” 

In total, nearly 100 Viega fittings were used in Model Linen’s new building, ranging in size from 1¼ ” adapters to 4” fittings in various configurations. 

Thon said he’s confident the ProPress Stainless fittings will hold up well to the demands of Model Linen’s system. He said there are not many chemicals that run through the pipes, just a mild softener. 

One of the concerns in piping a laundry facility are issues with water hammer, Thon said. 

“If the washer has a 3” valve open, that’s a lot of water going in quickly; and if it shuts off too quickly, then it shakes the whole system,” he said. “Luckily we have good equipment dialed in well so that they close slowly. There has been no movement with the pipes at all—I was impressed.” 

Thon was so pleased with Viega fittings that they’ll be appearing in Model Linen’s other building a few miles down the road, where all of their hotel linens are serviced. He said he purchased a “whole stack of 3” ProPress Stainless” and was getting ready to tear out all the old copper and put in stainless piping at that facility, too. 

“Pressing these fittings down saved the day,” he said simply. “I’ve been pretty impressed with the whole thing.” 

Designed with an effortless sense of style and definitive beach-house chic vibe, Lido House by Marriott has quickly become one of Newport Beach’s favorite upscale destinations. The hotel’s design and iconic architecture celebrates the town’s Cape Cod aesthetic with elegant twists on a variety of nautical themes, making this a sought-out locale for out-of-town visitors Read more

Designed with an effortless sense of style and definitive beach-house chic vibe,
Lido House by Marriott has quickly become one of Newport Beach’s favorite
upscale destinations. The hotel’s design and iconic architecture celebrates the
town’s Cape Cod aesthetic with elegant twists on a variety of nautical themes,
making this a sought-out locale for out-of-town visitors and area residents
alike. Residing on the site of former City Hall, the Lido House features 130
stylish guest rooms, along with five unique cottages—each curated by a local
designer, paying homage to the unique ambiance and coastal lifestyle of the
affluent community. The resort also includes a full-service restaurant, rooftop
deck and full day spa for guests.

LG’s Multi VTM 5 and Multi VTM S VRF systems, LG, VRF, variable refrigerant flow, HVAC, ACH Mechanical Contractors

The Lido House is shown on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 in Newport Beach, Calif. (Carlos Delgado/AP Images for LG Air Conditioning Technologies)

With a location just minutes to the beach, the property often faces fluctuations
in weather and temperature, necessitating an HVAC solution that provides
year-round heating and cooling with superior energy efficiency.

After analyzing the design and overall HVAC requirements for the property, the project team and property management were quick to realize that they needed to maximize open space for leisure amenities for hotel guests. The team also required an ultra-efficient system that could unobtrusively fit within the interior design aspects of the upscale property while maintaining a sense of quiet serenity and guest comfort throughout the hotel’s various communal and guest rooms. With these necessities identified, the team set out to find an HVAC solution to satisfy the unique criteria of the property.

Construction partner R.D. Olson tapped into leading local HVAC expert ACH
Mechanical Contractors, Inc.’s expertise to design an efficient solution that would allow for simultaneous heating and cooling throughout the property and individual guest rooms, while at the same time, seamlessly integrating into the overall aesthetic of this upscale hotel.

LG’s Multi VTM 5 and Multi VTM S VRF systems, LG, VRF, variable refrigerant flow, HVAC, ACH Mechanical Contractors

The Lido House is shown on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 in Newport Beach, Calif. (Carlos Delgado/AP Images for LG Air Conditioning Technologies)

Once plans for the design were complete and LG was identified as the ideal solution due to their expansive offering, design flexibility and energy-efficient units, local HVAC equipment company DMG Corporation specified LG’s Multi VTM 5 and Multi VTM S VRF systems, both of which have garnered critical acclaim for their incredible energy efficiency, flexibility in design and installation options, to satisfy this project’s needs.

In order to properly condition a large property that regularly sees wide
temperature swings, thanks to the cool ocean breeze, LG’s Multi V 5 was the ideal solution for the main hotel, as it features an expanded operating range that will allow for individualized comfort throughout the entire shared spaces, guest rooms and cottages. Multi V 5 also comes with exclusive LG features such as Smart Load Control which measures ambient air humidity and temperature to monitor changing weather conditions in real-time, adjusting operation before the change has an opportunity to impact indoor comfort. This was a key benefit given the weather and temperature fluctuations in the coastal
California climate. Two LG Multi V S systems were incorporated into the Lido House’s kitchen and IT/Data Server room. They provide dedicated temperature control while taking into account the increased need for cooling within those spaces, no matter the ambient temperature throughout the year.

Additionally, LG Multi V 5 systems were selected to condition the five rental cottages on the Lido House property. In an effort to create maximum comfort for guests, the Multi V 5 allows for personalized comfort control within each zoned area of the cottages. The system allows for a wider operating range
with cooling capabilities in ambient temperatures up to 122° F as well as a
continuous heating in colder temperatures. Ideal for residential settings, it is an effectively efficient, quiet and seamless solution for the Lido House’s goal of tranquility and relaxation throughout its property.

LG’s Multi VTM 5 and Multi VTM S VRF systems, LG, VRF, variable refrigerant flow, HVAC, ACH Mechanical Contractors

The Lido House is shown on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 in Newport Beach, Calif. (Carlos Delgado/AP Images for LG Air Conditioning Technologies)

LG’s outdoor units were placed on the hotel’s roof, thanks to their innovative space-saving and light-weight design, rather than other locations that could take up precious real estate that could be used for other purposes. Additionally, two LG AC Smart central controllers were installed to help building managers effectively control the HVAC system throughout the main building space.

“The Lido House is an Autograph Hotel – among the most luxurious of Marriott’s offerings – and is meant to be an intimate residential-style boutique hotel,” said Matt Ewing, development manager, R.D. Olson Construction. “One of the big benefits of partnering with LG is not only its quietness, but that they manufacture slim-profile ducted units that we were able to install above the ceilings of all the bathrooms, allowing for maximum comfort and tranquility
for each guest. The last thing we want is for our guests to see and hear the HVAC unit.”

Jason Freeman, sales engineer for DMG Corporation added, “We used almost the entire LG equipment offering on this project, throughout the hotel and the custom-designed cottages. We believe that LG’s VRF systems are the highest quality on the market and that’s why we use them consistently throughout our projects.”

The advanced HVAC systems help Lido House guests have a premium vacation experience. To ensure guest comfort and experience at the property, the team installed 24-total LG VRF systems, allowing for more efficiency, control
and space-saving positives for the property. Additionally, two LG AC Smart controllers were installed in the building engineer’s office, making managing the overall system a seamless process for the management staff.

“With the location of the property being so close to the beach and cool Pacific Ocean breeze, we needed an HVAC solution that can simultaneously heat and cool our spaces, providing maximum comfort for the most discerning clientele,” said Ted O’Brien, Ventura operations manager, ACH Mechanical. “LG’s efficient and effective solutions checked off all the boxes, as we’re able to get way more with less equipment thanks to LG VRF condensing units, which fit perfectly on the roof of the hotel space.”

Alex Ramos, chief engineer for Lido House noted, “I love the feedback that we receive from the guests. This system is so quiet, they can barely tell that it is on, which is music to my ears when it comes to their ultimate satisfaction. The LG VRF system requires low maintenance, guests love it and it’s so simple to manage and operate, thanks to LG’s AC Smart central controllers being easy
to navigate.”

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Missoula, Montana, specializes in plumbing, HVAC and boiler service, and high-efficiency systems. Starting his own business out of necessity, or perhaps the illusion of it, Andy Mickelson (@mick_plumb) launched Mickelson Plumbing & Heating New Year’s Day, 2011. I guess you could say it’s all part of Mickelson’s fabric and mental make-up—there Read more

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Missoula, Montana, specializes in plumbing, HVAC and boiler service, and high-efficiency systems.

Starting his own business out of necessity, or perhaps the illusion of it, Andy Mickelson (@mick_plumb) launched Mickelson Plumbing & Heating New Year’s Day, 2011. I guess you could say it’s all part of Mickelson’s fabric and mental make-up—there is no end result other than success. “I am a terrible loser; I hate not winning daily,” says Mickelson.

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Andy Mickelson, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronic, boilers, Missoula Montana

Turning the clock back to where it all began, Mickelson was eight years old when he got his taste of real hard work, helping out his father, a remodeling contractor. “It was easy to have my brothers and me helping out, and at that time, we were eager to get dirty and learn how to build things, and THAT has never stopped,” says Mickelson.

Soaking up knowledge whenever he had the chance, Mickelson has had many great mentors in his first shop, and the UA produces an incredible brotherhood of knowledgeable folks. “Dick Darne was one of the Journeyman that I learned the most from; he had a hip replacement, and a few weeks later I began my service career, carrying his tool bag and being his hands in the field when he couldn’t. All I had to do was listen to directions and retain the methods of his madness. The troubleshooting tactics I learned in a roundabout way were invaluable.”

Today’s Landscape

Nearly 10 years after venturing on his own, who could’ve ever foreseen the situation we are faced with today? “The first quarter was one of the best we’ve ever seen, but April produced only 68% of the average business produced in the first three months of the year,” says Mickelson.

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Andy Mickelson, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronic, boilers, Missoula Montana

Thankfully, Montana has seen fewer COVID-19 cases than the rest of the country, and the state has re-opened for business. But that’s not to say Mickelson isn’t taking the necessary PPE precautions, and Mickelson is screening all customers at this time. “For the most part, we are not taking on work that can be postponed.”

In general, needless to say, Mickelson loves what he does—creating solutions for his customers. “Service work allows me to do that several times a day. It’s a good thing.”

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Andy Mickelson, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronic, boilers, Missoula Montana

But thinking of going out on your own? A heavily-involved Boy Scout leader, Mickelson suggests taking its motto to heart—Be Prepared. “Plan, Plan, Plan. There are fantastic resources available to help people prepare to start a business. USE THEM! Also, you have to answer the simple question, am I ready to be a business owner first and a plumber second? If yes, then proceed. If no, rethink the approach get your mind right. Businesses hire good plumbers, not the other way around.”

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Andy Mickelson, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronic, boilers, Missoula Montana

And those who are thinking of getting into the trades? “Do it, unless you have a better plan that actually pays,” says Mickelson, but he stresses that we need to kill the stigma that the trades are all about hard work. Concerning to Mickelson, those who discourage others from entertaining the idea of becoming a tradesman based on the work being too tough or man’s work. “Anyone who indulges in this tactic is merely afraid of their own deficiencies and nervous about being replaced by someone who may work smarter or harder.”

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Andy Mickelson, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronic, boilers, Missoula Montana

Sure, there are aspects that are hard, continues Mickelson, but with continued education and exerting oneself, reaching a higher level of employment in the trades is a real possibility. Good work ethics and attitude are noticed—one may not hear about it—but it doesn’t go unnoticed. And, share the knowledge others have shared with you. “I have always found that it is far easier to share knowledge with a willing listener than it is to intentionally with hold it,” says Mickelson.

Mickelson’s career has afforded him a good life with his wife and two kids. “Family time is my favorite. Second would be exercising my 2nd Amendment rights. Both of which usually occur outdoors.”

Mickelson Plumbing & Heating, Andy Mickelson, plumbing, heating, HVAC, hydronic, boilers, Missoula Montana

Yet balancing work/family life is a careful endeavor for Mickelson. “It’s really easy for family to take a back seat and be lost in the hustle. I traditionally try to make sure that work is done during the day and that my ‘Night Shift’ doesn’t start until everyone has begun to wind down for the night. All in all, business has taught me to use my time efficiently, and set priorities, Family, friends, money, seems to be a good flow.

All in all, waking up every day is a blessing for Mickelson. “I’ve told my kids for years that they are the only person who can make their day a bad day, so go into battle and aim for a great day, and worst-case scenario it’ll be OK.”

One of Pennsylvania’s oldest and largest school districts has opted for advanced technology to solve an age-old problem: precise temperature control for domestic hot water, installed for pragmatic reasons and as a valuable “insurance policy.” The Bethlehem Area School District (BASD) has been around since the 1920s. The sixth largest school district in Pennsylvania, BASD Read more

One of Pennsylvania’s oldest and largest school districts has opted for advanced technology to solve an age-old problem: precise temperature control for domestic hot water, installed for pragmatic reasons and as a valuable “insurance policy.”

The Bethlehem Area School District (BASD) has been around since the 1920s. The sixth largest school district in Pennsylvania, BASD covers more than 40 square miles and has 14,000 students enrolled throughout 22 schools, including two high schools, four middle schools, and 16 elementary schools.

Bethlehem Area School District (BASD), IntelliStation Jr., Watts Water Technology, Powers, plumbing, domestic hot water, DHW

Scott Yandrasitz, BASD master plumber, completes the IntelliStation Jr. install.

The school buildings, dating back nearly 100 years, have seen their fair share of mechanical systems. The latest: mechanical mixing valves that have far outlived their lifespan.

According to one of BASD’s full-time master plumbers, Scott Yandrasitz—in 2010, the district managers dove headfirst into an effort to modernize plumbing and mechanical systems throughout the century-old school district, beginning with the building of their first green-certified school.

Supervisors of facilities at Bethlehem Area School District say, “Just because we’re an old school district doesn’t mean we can’t have the latest and most advanced technology.” BASD’s modernizing effort snowballed from there.

In August 2018, the district’s manufacturers’ rep for all things mechanical—Warminster, Pa.-based Vernon Bitzer—came through with an ultra-modern solution for the buildings’ outdated domestic water mixing valves.

Bethlehem Area School District (BASD), IntelliStation Jr., Watts Water Technology, Powers, plumbing, domestic hot water, DHW

“The old systems were leaking and deteriorating,” said Vernon Bitzer’s Dick Filer (recently retired). “They had far outlived their lifespan.”

“At the beginning of each week, when we’d walk into the mechanical room, we’d check the systems and the temperatures had always drifted several degrees,” added Yandrasitz. “We wanted a solution that would be something similar to what we already had, but we needed a solution that would be precise, reliable, and would also eliminate the need for routine maintenance.”

“The old systems had too many moving parts,” said Carlo Angelone, another BASD master plumber. Invariably, there was always something to deal with.  “Each school’s domestic water system had two mixing valves: one for high flow and one for low,” he noted. “By their nature, the many moving parts were prone to challenge, and as they aged, we were faced with the need for constant maintenance and repair.”

Catch 22

According to Filer, facility managers are typically caught in a mechanical systems Catch 22: turning down domestic water storage temps ensures reduced risk of scalding, yet greatly increases the risk of germ proliferation—including the infamous legionella bacteria, the source of Legionnaires’ Disease. Yet, bumping up storage temperatures increases the risk of scalding.

Bethlehem Area School District (BASD), IntelliStation Jr., Watts Water Technology, Powers, plumbing, domestic hot water, DHW

Carlo Angelone, BASD master plumber (l) and Scott Yandrasitz, BASD master plumber, look over the install diagrams.

Filer’s suggestion was the Powers IntelliStation® Jr.—a Watts brand product for smart digital water mixing and recirculation.  The technology would give facility managers the precise temperature control they wanted and also integration with BAS to allow remote monitoring and control.

The IntelliStation Jr.’s sanitization mode addresses waterborne bacteria while a programming schedule for the set-back of temperature improves energy efficiency when the building is unoccupied. It controls water temperature to a +/- 2°F for enhanced safety, prevents overnight creep, and automatically balances the hot water distribution system during low-to-zero demand periods—all ideal features for a school building application.

Yandrasitz and Angelone, along with the district’s master electrician, Chad DePaolis, and Bitzer’s Filer, presented the solution to the supervisor of facilities, who approved their plan enthusiastically.

First digital mixing upgrade

Eager to test out the new technology from Watts, BASD plumbers installed the first IntelliStation Jr. in Freemansburg Elementary School—which, up until that point, had the greatest number of repairs.

With three master plumbers and three master electricians employed by BASD, they were able to avoid outsourcing the work to contracting firms.

Having in-house resources for quality installation and maintenance was a substantial advantage, but they quickly learned that ease of installation and commissioning, and operational reliability were the decisive factors. All the experts agreed:  digital mixing valves would become an answer to many of the challenges they faced, district-wide.

Bethlehem Area School District (BASD), IntelliStation Jr., Watts Water Technology, Powers, plumbing, domestic hot water, DHW

From left to right: Dick Filer, Vernon Bitzer (retired); Scott Yandrasitz, BASD master plumber; Carlo Angelone, BASD master plumber; Chad DePaolis, BASD master electrician; David Steele, Vernon Bitzer. Yandrasitz demos the IntelliStation Jr. to the group.

“I believe that, in five years, digital mixing valves will be predominant,” said Vernon Bitzer’s David Steele, who took over Richard Filer’s role of working with BASD after his retirement. “I think they’ll be predominantly used for their ease of maintenance, accuracy, and flexibility in today’s age of low flow fixtures.

“Digital mixing will most likely migrate from the water heater to other items,” he continued.“ There will be smarter technology for many items throughout the plumbing system. We’re proud to be a Watts rep and are clearly devoted to our future with IOT.”

Plan for the future

According to Yandrasitz and Angelone, BASD managers recently received three more IntelliStation Jr. systems now slated for installation. For the 2018 budget submittal, they stated the need to purchase three more of the systems for 2019.  And in ’99, they requested more for 2020.

“The way I see it,” said Yandrasitz, “we’ll continue budgeting for them at three or more a year. We have at least 20 schools that will need them, and the improvements have won the admiration of senior managers without fail.”

“Less maintenance and greater accuracy of water storage and distribution temperature control—this is just what we need for our schools,” he said. “There are other advantages to digital mixing, including the ease with which we’ve been able to disconnect the old mechanical mixing systems and to install and commission the new digital mixing technology.  When the control is in place, connected and online, we simply set the new temperature parameters, and the computer controls everything, regardless of the level of water use and flow.”

An electrician’s friend, too . . .

DePaolis, says the IntelliStation Jr. meets his exact requirements. “The system is an incredibly easy hook-up to electricity and to building management systems. It’s user-friendly and there’s no maintenance for me once it’s in and operational.”

BASD’s second IntelliStation Jr. was installed in Calypso Elementary School in February 2019.

Lack of complaint calls–no lack of hot water

According to several members of the installation team, if a school doesn’t have hot water, complaint calls and emails come in from everywhere—from administrators, teachers, and parents. That means team members receive urgent calls and texts from administrators, and those can be unpleasant.

“Since installing the new digital mixing valves, we haven’t received a single complaint call for hot water loss,” said Yandrasitz. “That’s a good thing. And it’s one of the measures of success for us, that’s for sure.

“The more important assurances we’ve had with the successful operation of the digital mixing systems have been reliable operation and easy control of the domestic water system storage and delivery temperatures,” he concluded. “We know we made the right decision. We’ll have more orders for the technology soon.”

Let’s just get to this right from the start. What initially was meant to be an insult, Danielle “Twig” Browne (@thelittlestplumber) got the nickname from her high school rugby team. “I was lanky and my muscle hadn’t come in. I was the thinnest on the team but had been playing since I was 10 so Read more

Let’s just get to this right from the start. What initially was meant to be an insult, Danielle “Twig” Browne (@thelittlestplumber) got the nickname from her high school rugby team. “I was lanky and my muscle hadn’t come in. I was the thinnest on the team but had been playing since I was 10 so I was more advanced than the other girls. One girl didn’t take kindly to the new girl being good, and popped the name ‘twiggy’ on me,” says Browne. The nickname has stuck with this Newfoundland, Canada plumber for most of her life. “There are a large majority of people on my island who don’t know my actual name, even my mom calls me Twig.”

But don’t let her physical stature fool you; she’s been kicking ass for years now. For the past nine years, she has been a facilities management plumber—specializing in plumbing service and maintenance—for the Canadian government, stationed at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. “The area where I shine is diagnostics and repairs of plumbing systems new and old,” boasts Browne.

Danielle "Twig" Browne, Twig, Danielle Browne, thelittlestplumber, plumbing, plumbing service, Newfoundland, Canada, plumber, women in the trades

Needing a job right out of high school, and college didn’t feel like the right move, Twig started in the automotive field. “To be honest, I’m not sure I even knew trade schools existed,” says Browne. “So, I applied to work on cars, and the boss took a liking to me and put me in the garage right away.” Twig loved the garage for the first couple of years, but eventually got bored into years three and four. It was then that she had heard about trade schools and she knew she wanted to stay in a mechanical career. “I looked through a college course booklet and thought ‘plumbing sounds cool.’”

When Twig finished her pre-employment “Plumber” classes in college, she was encouraged by her instructor to enter into a trade competition Skills Canada, which has grown exponentially since. Among the three trades schools entered, Twig won 1st place against both schools. “Shortly after, my first boss contacted my instructor because he wanted to meet ‘that girl that won,” and I haven’t been without a job in this trade since.

When asked about her image as a trailblazer for women, Twig was modest in her reply. “As the first female plumber in my province, I’ve been called a trailblazer, but I’ve never really considered myself one; I’ve always just seen myself as a plumber. Even when people refer to me as a female plumber, I never get the need to add the gender. I’m a plumber.”

However, leading by example is something Twig’s always been focused on. “It is so important to prove myself to the world every day. From the naysayers who have a preconceived idea of what I’m capable of, to the young girls out there who think they wouldn’t make it in the trades, I want my work to change stubborn minds and build confidence.”

Of course, Twig has encountered her share baseless stigmas from the first day on the jobsite when some of the guys buried her tools with a backhoe to present day on site, as well as online. “Just recently I spoke with a 4th-year apprentice online and he made an unprovoked remark that he was shocked when he realized I knew more. Or was better than him? I knew he was trying to compliment me, but I still wanted to ask him why he was shocked that a certified plumber who has been in the trade for 12 years longer than him, was better. He admitted he didn’t really think that way about the more senior men in our trade. It’s called subconscious bias, we all have it. He in no way meant his comment to be malicious, and I didn’t take it that way. But somehow, in his mind, he was automatically better with tools than me.

Danielle "Twig" Browne, Twig, Danielle Browne, thelittlestplumber, plumbing, plumbing service, Newfoundland, Canada, plumber, women in the trades

“Gender roles and strengths are instilled in a lot of people in many different careers. This happens all the time, so it never affects me anymore, I just like to get a healthy conversation going about it. I will say this, far more people are welcoming than not. The people that refuse progress are definitely on a sinking ship.”

Nevertheless, in recruiting and recognizing women in the trades, according to Twig, there’s a very strong chance you are going to need to work twice as hard for half of the recognition. “You’ll learn very quickly that pats on the back don’t pay your bills. Show up every day, wear your PPE, work hard, and never stop educating yourself. If there is one aspect of the trade that makes you nervous, that’s the one you should be focusing on.”

Twig can thank her mother for shaping her into the person she is today. Born with several physical disabilities, Twig’s mother has never once made an excuse for herself. “She worked hard and received an education, started her career as a Human Rights investigator, and raised two daughters as a single mother. I know she is in pain 24/7 but she never mentions it. She is a boss in every way.”

As for a professional mentor, Twig has had a few but her old lead hand Charlie stands out. “What a pain in my ass. Charlie didn’t think I could do much when he first met me, and I didn’t take kindly to that when I was younger and more hard headed. We got into many screaming matches, which always ended up in him throwing a job at me that he didn’t think I could handle,” says Browne. It took some time but she eventually proved herself to him, and to this day, when he comes back for seasonal work, he picks me—out of a handful of other plumbers—to be his work partner. “He is still a pain in my ass though, haha.”

Overall, the plumbing trade has been very fulfilling, and “the satisfaction of working with my hands has been incredibly rewarding,” says Browne. Yet, helping people has always been Twig’s satisfaction No. 1. “There is no better feeling for me than seeing the relief on somebody’s face who, moments before, was so stressed out.”

Getting Personal

Unbeknownst to many, Twig used to be quite competitive at rugby, and it has been a huge passion over the years. “I played for 20 years and was once selected to team Canada’s long list, and, of course, I promptly broke my ankle as soon as I made that list. The sport has taken me all over the world as a player and spectator. It’s a phenomenal sport and lifestyle if you’re interested in the world and the people in it.”

But these days, spending quality “spare time” is a work in progress for Twig. “This whole COVID-19 pandemic has really shown me that for the last decade I haven’t really made spare time for myself. It’s been all about work, which I love. But now that work has slowed, I am finding myself lost. I use to love painting and Judo. Seeing how close contact martial arts are probably looked down upon during a pandemic, I’ll probably pick up some watercolors and see what happens.”

And balancing work and family life is something that Twig is working on, as well. “My partner is a nurse and we both have very busy work schedules. We try to make date nights or games nights with friends at least once or twice a month. Hikes with the dog, when we can fit them in, are great as well.

Just last weekend Twig was tearing apart her dilapidated front porch; the weather was gorgeous for a change. After not making a lot of progress on it, her friends from hockey called and asked her to join them on a hike. “I almost said no because I really needed to get at the deck. But I went and it was exactly what the doctor ordered—friends, the East Coast and cliff trails overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Afterward, we had a beer in their backyard and just shared a laugh. The deck will be done by 2022, I promise.”

Speaking of friendships, social media, especially Instagram, has been an incredible outlet for Twig, socially and professionally. “Growing up on an island is amazing in so many ways, but I was missing out on meeting people and friends who could teach me more about my trade, show me the newest technologies and tools. But mostly I was missing out on the amazing community of plumbers Instagram has. I can honestly say I have met some of my favorite people from that app.”

Danielle “Twig” Browne is a girl done good. Hard working, strong minded and proud of who she is and where she came from, “I’m a very proud Canadian. I can confidently say majority of people in this country want the best for each other, and have the same core values. I couldn’t really tell you if it’s in our blood or if it’s just our great beer.”