Building Principles: You've Got a Friend

by Rick Stryker


Web Sites
Painting and Decorating Contractors of America
American Water Works Association
National Rural Water Association
American Concrete Institute – ACI International
Portland Cement Association
American Institute of Steel Construction
National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association
The Plastics Pipe Institute
Ductile Iron Research Association
Uni-Bell Pipe Association
National Corrugated Steel Pipe Association
American Concrete Pipe Association
National Clay Pipe Institute

Every day, camps and conference centers across the country struggle with what should be simple issues. "Surely, someone has already solved this problem," they cry in frustration. Your staff may turn to the national or local ACA offices for answers to program, personnel, or staffing issues. But sometimes the lament is more along the line, "The work we paid a fortune for didn't last like it should have." This is particularly true in camp facilities. Have you ever considered that there are hundreds if not thousands of organizations that exist to get the message out about its members' products and services? We take great pride and satisfaction in our practice, and we are often able to point organizations in directions where help may lie. This month, we'll look at some of the professional and trade organizations that you may not even know exist, but whose purpose is to guide you in the selection of methods, materials, and contractors for some persistent and troublesome issues.

"Color my world . . . . "
"It's just paint. How hard can this be?"

Ten gallons of the local hardware store's "best" should cover everything you could possibly need, right? Probably not. Commercial coatings is a big business where breathtaking amounts of research and development dollars have gone into products that bond tightly, resist mold and mildew growth, and protect the surface beneath. To that end, several trade organizations operate specifically to help the industry and potential clientele get together. One is the SSPC, previously known as the "Steel Structures Painting Council," but which has since reorganized and broadened its scope to protective coatings in general. We regularly rely on their library of documents and technical expertise when writing specifications for painting all sorts of structures and industrial works including water tanks, wastewater treatment plants, and swimming pools. The other organization which you may find helpful is the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA). This group has established standards and certifications for commercial painters. Between these two organizations, it's unlikely that you can present their experts with a coating problem that they haven't seen and solved before.

"Cool, clear, water . . . water . . . water"

In addition to the state regulators whose job it is to assist community water suppliers (camps and conference centers qualify!), there are the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the National Rural Water Association (NRWA). The AWWA publishes standards for each and every aspect of water production, treatment, storage, and distribution. They publish and maintain four, four-inch thick volumes that describe every detail of water works from acceptable interior coatings of pipes, to how systems should be disinfected and pressure tested. Each state has a branch of the NRWA and full-time associates who regularly visit operators of rural water systems, providing insight and guidance on all aspects of water systems.

And while we're on the subject of water, let's talk a little about pipe. All pipes are not suitable for all applications, and knowing what the different materials are will help you get the most from every dollar spent. You probably didn't know that there are not less than six different trade associations with specific knowledge on the installation of buried pipes. The Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) obviously represents manufacturers of ductile iron pipe for both water and sewer applications. The Uni-Bell Pipe Association's market specialty is PVC pipe, also for both water and sewer projects. The Plastics Pipe Institute provides similar information on other plastics including high density polyethylene (HDPE) the black water line often strung over the ground as a "temporary fix," corrugated plastic drain pipe, and cross-linked polyethylene or "PEX" which is used for hot and cold water applications in buildings and is resistant to freezing. Steel and concrete have been widely used as water distribution pipe. Vitrified clay (sometimes called "Orangeberg") has been used for over a century for conveying sewage. Each of these materials has a nonprofit organization that can provide you more insight to the proper applications, maintenance, and installation of their particular line of products. If you have any of these materials on site, it's in your best interest to find their Web site and bookmark it in your browser!

"Like a rock . . . ."

Concrete is a wonderfully adaptable, strong, and long lasting material which, when properly designed, mixed, and installed, can serve you well. It is comprised of three primary components (Portland cement, sand, and gravel) and one foreign material (steel bars). The American Concrete Institute (ACI) is a primary source of technical and administrative information concerning this staple of the construction industry. Their standards are included by reference in building codes across the country and are the yardstick by which responsible suppliers and contractors are judged. Their research and literature cover all of the applications, design criteria, and methods by which concrete is cast. For example, if you need the concrete to be water proof, or to resist freeze-thaw cycles, the ACI publications describe the chemical additives and mechanical processes that will help your finished concrete product meet those goals. Similarly, the Portland Cement Association (PCA) governs and researches this primary active component of concrete: the white dusty powder called Portland cement. The steel which adds tensile strength to the concrete is governed by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC). Even the gravel and sand is regulated by the standards of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.

There are literally thousands of similar groups which represent 95 percent (or more) of the products you use or are installed at camp. Try to use your search engine regularly and exhaustively to find sources of technical expertise and guidance, and book mark those that even remotely look like you may use them again.

As a final thought, some folks would argue that citing standards from these organizations, or requiring that workers are certified by them will push up the costs for the project. In a short-sighted way, this may be true, since any company that belongs to these societies and trade groups has to recover its costs for training and membership. At the same time though, couldn't potential guests at your camps make the same argument? Doesn't membership and certification in ACA carry with it assurance that your campers are receiving a certain level of care and service? Does that mean that they're paying more than they would if your camp was not accredited? Perhaps. But I'd bet that you'd be quick to point out the benefits that your guests can expect by visiting your, ACA-accredited camp. Why not take advantage of being a "customer," and let the experts and specialists of these and many other organizations serve you?

Rick Stryker is a professional engineer with Camp Facilities Consulting, providing study, design, permitting, and construction consultation services to the camp and conference center community. Camp personnel may contact him at 570-296-2765 or by e-mail at

Originally published in the 2005 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.