Paul Winstead vividly recalls being told that the University of Kentucky (UK) had been here for 150 years and would be here another 150, and would never see a piece of plastic pipe on its campus. let alone CPVC fire sprinklers.
UK had dorms that dated back to the 50s. The architect that had designed them also designed prisons, and the similarity showed. After a string of fire tragedies, including the Murray State fire in 1998 in western Kentucky, the University of Kentucky decided to add fire sprinklers as part of major renovations from 2001-03. Winstead oversaw the project, which had to be completed over summer break, and had to cut the budget.
He found a way. Using plastic piping instead of steel, he could cut $30,000-40,000 from the project. That was when university officials told him that plastic piping would never be put into those walls.
Fast forward to 2011, when the entire residence hall system was retrofitted with BlazeMaster® CPVC piping. UK transferred control of residence hall management to Education Realty Trust, which owns and manages the properties, and has paid for all the renovations. Needing to get work done more quickly and effectively, they utilized CPVC, which Winstead had suggested a decade earlier.
Starting from the bottom
The realization that BlazeMaster Pipe & Fittings were more affordable, easier to install and corrosion-resistant piqued Winstead’s interest in Lubrizol. Winstead, a Demand Creation Specialist, has now been working at Lubrizol for three years. He acts as a regional consultant for commercial projects in the Atlanta area.
Winstead started in the fire sprinkler industry in 1987, when he began work in an engineering department for a fire prevention contractor. He was the first person at the company to use AutoCAD as a fire sprinkler contractor in Kentucky. The owner of the company singled out Winstead, because he earned $4.25 an hour, and tasked him with figuring out how to use the system – and then teaching everyone else in the company how to do it.
He became a design contractor, and then was hired as a branch manager for Grinnell. In 1996, he opened his own business as a fire protection contractor and then merged that business with Viking, working with them for three years.
All of his experience makes it easy for Winstead to hold the training sessions that are part of his role at Lubrizol. In these classes, designed to educate those handling pipe, he goes over what CPVC is, how to install it and how to cut, bevel and ream the pipe. The training includes a video presentation, a written test and hands-on training. Winstead requires the attendees to make at least three cuts and two solvent welds, and they must keep doing it until he approves.
In these classes, he talks about codes, such as head spacing and location. He also covers issues of compatibility – what can come in contact with the pipe and what can’t. For example, electric tape should not go on CPVC pipe as, over time, it could cause the product to fail because the plasticizers will leach onto the pipe and cause it to become weak.
Depending on his class size, Winstead’s training sessions can take up to three hours. But after successful completion, the trainees receive a certificate of completion, along with a laminated card showing they have been through the course.
A safer emergency trailer
His most recent training sessions have been for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has contracted companies across the U.S. to create more emergency housing trailers, or manufactured housing units. FEMA has designed new, safer trailers, built to U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development standards, that are equipped with BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems and smoke detectors (click here for a video of the fire sprinkler systems in FEMA trailers).
The companies building the trailers wanted their workers to be trained to ensure safe, successful and competent craftsmanship.
“We don’t require this training,” said Winstead. “It is just something we do to make sure that the people understand what they are getting into because we don’t want any failures. That’s why we do this training. We go back and educate men and women who have been doing this for 20 years and sometimes we can find things that have been done incorrectly for the entire time they’ve been working. Ninety-nine percent of failures come from installation errors, which is why training is so important.”
There were three training sessions in Memphis where the sprinkler contractor’s insurance company requested the training, a first for Winstead.
Winstead also helps with the refresher course, which is offered every two years. He said that those are typically question-and-answer sessions. “I want to know what they are seeing out in the field and what problems they may be running into so that we can find a way to correct those moving forward,” he said.