Aman Kyoto Japan Pavilion bathroom - Plumbing Tips for Architects
© Courtesy of AMAN Kyoto Resort

Incorporating plumbing design into any home is a tricky thing. Although it may seem like a straightforward task, there are always guidelines and regulations to consider. There are also plenty of benefits far beyond the convenience of a well-designed room.

If you’re an architect in drafting work that also includes plumbing, here are 5 useful tips that will help you achieve the best result.

1. Check Regulations with Relevant Building Authorities

Plumbing requires careful consideration and planning. It must match up to relevant local, national, and even international standards, such as those in the International Plumbing Code.

Certain codes will dictate how many units are attached to a specific fixture, for example. Other building codes address issues such as ventilation and drainage, pipe diameter, and stormwater removal.

Therefore, always brush up on your local building code regulations. These will likely differ from state to state, and even the most knowledgeable architect or plumber can be caught out by recent changes and updates to regulations.

Most local building authorities also require pre-approval of draft designs before any plumbing work can begin. A thorough planning process will ensure that nothing is missed or drawn up incorrectly.

2. Go for the Most Efficient Plumbing Design

Any plumbing design must be practical, cost-effective, and efficient. You want to minimize the materials required and keep all pipework and plumbing systems in a reasonably central location.

For example, the water heater should be close to the bathroom and kitchen, areas that use the most hot water. Less copper piping is therefore required, and less heat will be lost as hot water travels throughout the house.

Also, simplify the number of wet walls and plumbing stacks. So, create a design where a bathroom and kitchen, or even laundry, will share one common wet wall. In a multi-story house, design the layout so a second-floor ensuite is located directly above a ground-floor bathroom.

Therefore, each wet area can share the same drain, waste, and vent system, as per local guidelines. It also simplifies future plumbing repairs as the tradesperson can easily access localized pipework.

3. Specify High-quality Drains

Architects should consider several plumbing tips to enhance the functionality and longevity of a building’s systems. When designing bathrooms, addressing the issue of blocked shower drains is crucial for maintaining optimal drainage performance.

Specify the use of high-quality drain covers and grates that prevent hair, soap scum, and debris from entering the pipes. Additionally, encourage the installation of easily accessible drain traps, making it simple for occupants to clean them regularly.

4. Could Plumbing be an Artistic Flair?

Although practicality is far more important, also consider the artistic design possibilities. Is the goal to hide pipework entirely in a minimalist design, or could exposed pipework in an industrial-style apartment work perfectly?

There are countless styles where exposed pipes and fixtures suit perfectly. It could be exposed faucet pipes in a farmhouse-style kitchen or bathroom or creative pipework as a feature piece in a modern loft.

These choices will inevitably influence associated fixtures. A copper sink can be tied together with exposed copper piping, for example.

Alternatively, any recessed cabinets, hot water boilers, or shelves will need to be designed around plumbing within the walls. As will the design elements of installing a new toilet with a concealed cistern.

Rustic Barn Bathrooms Kindesign - Plumbing Tips for Architects
© Petter Lehto

5. Consider the Pipework size

Good quality, long-lasting plumbing relies on correctly sized materials. A sewage system that’s too narrow will frequently block, while large hot water pipes will lower heat transfer efficiency.

Local jurisdictions will have their set plumbing code for you to follow, so in reality, you should know precisely what you’re working with. These codes will clarify things like the need for a 1 ½ inch pipe for a washing machine or the drain size for a system with multiple toilets.

Early consultation will assist in small-scale planning for drain pipes that have to fit around cabinets and storage or the number of plumbing stacks required in a home.

6. Incorporate Water Saving Possibilities

There are plenty of possibilities when it comes to reducing water wastage through irrigation and recycled water. One simple solution, for example, is reusing rainwater and stormwater for flushing toilets.

Commonly referred to as greywater, water that comes out of a washing machine, bathroom sink, or shower can be reused in the home if appropriately treated. Greywater treatment systems can be installed in a home for as little as $1,000 or close to $20,000 for a more advanced unit.

Treatment systems like a whole house filter take out harmful bacteria, heavy metals, and chemicals so that your recycled water is perfect for gardening or flushing a toilet. If treated thoroughly, greywater is also safe for drinking. This, however, depends on the water’s chemistry (there are higher and lower-quality water sources).

Blackwater, which is water from the toilet or even the kitchen sink, should never be reused. It has come into contact with more severe contaminants, and a home-based greywater system does not have the necessary capabilities to make black water potable.

Additionally, look at the best way to incorporate a rainwater system into your home’s design. Key elements include the placement of a rainwater tank and a well-designed stormwater system.