The Universal Language of Plumbing

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Plumbing Champions from across the world gather at ISH 2023 to prefab some bathroom fixtures, which were then donated to a nearby local sport facility in Frankfurt.

In what was a first of its kind event at an ISH Frankfurt show, 12 young plumbers/apprentices from eight different countries from around the world gathered at ISH Frankfurt earlier this year to work together for one single goal: prefab Geberit bathroom plumbing systems on the show floor, which would be eventually transferred off site to bathrooms at Niddahalle, part of the Eintracht Frankfurt sports club, west of the city.

“We are working together as a team in a collaborative workshop to produce some new bathrooms for the Eintracht Frankfurt sports club,” said Sean Keárny, Managing Director, for the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH). “We built them over the first three days of the trade show, and for the final two days of the trade show, we’ll be taking them to the facility and installing them. This is the first time anything like this has ever been done at ISH, and we are excited about that.”

The skilled plumbers assembled pre-wall frame systems and internal plumbing during the first three days of the ISH show. The systems were then transported to, and installed in, bathrooms at Niddahalle, which is undergoing modernization retrofits.

Plumbing Champions, IAPMO, IWSH, World Plumbing Council, UA, United Association, Prefab, plumbing, prefabrication


IWSH and the World Plumbing Council (WPC), brought the Plumbing Champions to Frankfurt from the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA), the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (Australia), Apprenticeship Training Trust (New Zealand) and the Connect Trade Union (Ireland); all hosted and working together alongside peers from the Frankfurt branch of Innung Sanitär Heizung Klima (SHK), the master craftsperson’s guild for sanitation, heating and air conditioning in the city of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

The Plumbing Champions consist of: Patrick Howorka, Alexander Tödter and Colin Cubr (Germany); Danny Hoekstra (Australia); Sam Madgin (New Zealand); Veronika Schächle (Liechtenstein); Alex Svetz (United States); Elijah Sommers (Canada); and Jamie Bermingham and James Stenson (Ireland).

The bathrooms in Niddahalle are more than 40 years old, built before today’s high-efficiency plumbing solutions that use less water. “Frankfurt is a water-stressed area. Drought conditions threatened significant economic damage last year when water on the Rhine got so low it impeded barge traffic,” said Dave Viola, CEO of IAPMO and IWSH (IAPMO’s philanthropic arm) and deputy chair of the WPC. “The plumbing industry can alleviate water stress through improved water technology and a skilled workforce. We’re here to demonstrate it in real life.”

Plumbing Champions, IAPMO, IWSH, World Plumbing Council, UA, United Association, Prefab, plumbing, prefabrication

The Plumbing Champions initiative showcase retrofit approaches that advance energy efficient goals for the built environment: critical industry requirements set out in modern-day, international agendas such as the European Green Deal. The team will perform tasks including joining and bending hot and cold-water piping systems, installing cisterns and brackets for water closets and basins, and joining HDPE waste pipe. Participants will install plumbing systems designed by Geberit, a European leader in sanitary products working in partnership with the Frankfurt branch of Innung SHK.

“We see value in this program as a recruitment tool, it’s a good humanitarian effort for the community, and we are going to continue to do this at the next ISH two years from now, and we are going to do this in other places in the United States through the World Plumbing Council connections,” says Tom Bigley, Director of Plumbing, UA and chairman, World Plumbing Council.