The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical

Episode 8: Travis Loop (waterloop), Dr. Christine Curtis (Pacific Institute), and Spencer Brown (American Plumber Stories)

March 14, 2023 IAPMO Season 2 Episode 8
Episode 8: Travis Loop (waterloop), Dr. Christine Curtis (Pacific Institute), and Spencer Brown (American Plumber Stories)
The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical
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The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical
Episode 8: Travis Loop (waterloop), Dr. Christine Curtis (Pacific Institute), and Spencer Brown (American Plumber Stories)
Mar 14, 2023 Season 2 Episode 8

On this episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical, we speak with Travis Loop, founder and host of the nonprofit media outlet waterloop; Dr. Christine Curtis (formerly DeMyers), research associate at the Pacific Institute; and Spencer Brown, director of Sales for Pfister Faucets, and also the executive producer of American Plumber Stories.

To learn more about waterloop, visit and follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

To learn more about Pacific Institute, visit and follow them on Twitter. To get in touch with Dr. Christine Curtis (formerly DeMyers), email her at or find her on LinkedIn.

To learn more about American Plumber Stories, visit  and follow them on YouTube,  LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. To watch the American Plumber Stories episode featured in this episode, visit

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical, we speak with Travis Loop, founder and host of the nonprofit media outlet waterloop; Dr. Christine Curtis (formerly DeMyers), research associate at the Pacific Institute; and Spencer Brown, director of Sales for Pfister Faucets, and also the executive producer of American Plumber Stories.

To learn more about waterloop, visit and follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

To learn more about Pacific Institute, visit and follow them on Twitter. To get in touch with Dr. Christine Curtis (formerly DeMyers), email her at or find her on LinkedIn.

To learn more about American Plumber Stories, visit  and follow them on YouTube,  LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. To watch the American Plumber Stories episode featured in this episode, visit

Christoph Lohr: Welcome to The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. When talking about the built environment, we would do well to remember: We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us. Therefore, on each episode we'll discuss the latest trends for my IAPMO in plumbing and mechanical safety, sustainability and resiliency.

Join me, your host, Christoph Lohr, and together we’ll explore the ways we can make our buildings shape us.

Hey folks, it’s been a while since we released an episode. So while we're gearing up for season three, here's a special episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. On this episode, we’ll be speaking with Travis Loop, founder and host of the nonprofit media outlet waterloop. We’ll also be speaking with Dr. Christine DeMyers, research associate at the Pacific Institute. And finally we’ll close out speaking with Spencer Brown, director of Sales for Pfister Faucets, and also the executive producer of American Plumber Stories. Let's get at it. Here’s my conversation with Travis Loop, where we discuss public awareness and interest in water and helping water leaders discover solutions and drive change.

Travis, thanks for joining us on this podcast episode. 

Travis Loop: I am excited to be here. Thanks for the opportunity and it’s fun to be on the other side of the mic for once. 

Christoph Lohr: You know, I’ve been on several podcasts, and it is fun going back and forth between the two as well. Maybe that's an opportunity for me to join on your guys’ podcast at some point here in the future too.

Travis Loop: Yeah.

Christoph Lohr: Well, speaking of your podcast, do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your organization and podcast, waterloop? 

Travis Loop: Yeah, absolutely. I'm a water person professionally and personally. I’ve worked in media and communications for over 20 years, including at the Environmental Protection Agency and on Chesapeake Bay restoration and everything, but I started out my career as a journalist, as a newspaper reporter and editor, and it’s really kind of my roots and my passion. So, just a couple years ago, I started waterloop. It’s a nonprofit media outlet that features podcast videos, social media content, with a heavy emphasis on exploring the solutions out there and really have so many great conversations; there’s amazing people all throughout the water sector. Lots of exciting things happening. So no shortage of content and and topics to explore. 

Christoph Lohr: That’s really amazing to hear, and I assume you’ve seen a lot of growth over the last several years. It feels like, from somebody like myself that has come from the engineering consulting side, specifically designing plumbing systems in the built environment, I feel like the topics of water and sustainability and waterborne pathogens, and in just everything, water in general, has really been a driving factor for this renaissance in plumbing systems. Have you seen a growth on your end in terms of audience numbers and more people talking about it as well? 

Travis Loop: Yeah, I think this is a really great point, Christoph. I think public awareness and interest in water has skyrocketed, maybe you use that exact word and. And unfortunately, it’s been maybe spurred by some of the crises that have happened out there. Flint was a big thing that kind of reverberated through the news.

You've had the crazy aridification of the American West and the water scarcity issues out there. You’ve had monster hurricanes fueled by climate change that have struck, and now PFAS is out there. And so I think that because these things have been happening, because they’re really important, because they’re getting coverage, people seem to be more tuned in to water than they ever have before. Then you have Congress pass this landmark legislation to provide funding for the water sector and the big infrastructure push, so I think that’s where a lot of this attention comes from.

Unfortunately, sometimes, they say, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” Well, I think maybe they have not when it comes to water attention, awareness, coverage and everything. 

Christoph Lohr: How do you see the solutions that you’re discovering as part of waterloop and the work that you’re doing? How is that helping? Because I’ve learned a lot from your podcast. I think I’ve been listening to it for several years now. You’ve had some amazing guests on, but what’s the impact that you think you’re seeing and the solutions that you’re seeing? 

Travis Loop: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for listening. I appreciate that. Every single listen matters. You use the word solutions; I did before. There’s plenty of news out there, like I just said, about the doom and gloom. There’s plenty of coverage of the problems, of the challenges, of the issues, but there’s been a real lack of attention paid to, well, what are the solutions?

What are the ways that we can address these problems? What are the good projects out there? Who’s making change? And so that’s what I’ve tried to do with waterloop is talk to the people that are finding the path to progress. And there are certainly, there’s so much happening out there on that front, kind of like you’re alluding to, there are more and more people everywhere that are trying to tackle these water problems and coming up with really innovative solutions, whether it’s technology through outreach and through policy changes or managing water, whatever it might be. There’s a lot of really exciting stuff happening. I can’t cover it all. So it’s great there’s lots of podcasts out there like yours. There’s so many positive stories and so much good stuff happening. 

Christoph Lohr: That’s exciting. Well, I guess, of the solutions that you’ve been able to bring to light maybe even recently, what are maybe some of your, maybe the top two or three that were impactful or are sticking in your mind?

Travis Loop: Hmm. I would go to some big buckets here as to what is impacting me and where I think a lot of the energy and resources and attention are being put, and I think rightfully so. Climate resilience is an area that there seems to be a lot of focus on when it comes to water. Like I said, whether that’s on the East Coast where I am and dealing with sea level rise or stronger hurricanes or all these crazy intense rain events that we’re seeing, there’s a lot of attention being paid on, OK, how are we going to build resilience to this? How are we going to adapt to these situations? And then of course, out west where you are, you guys have kind of the opposite problem, no water and there’s massive efforts to try to adapt to that. I’ll say I think things need to be much more bold out there in the West.

Like, I don’t know why every city is not aggressively pursuing water reuse projects, and especially even potable water reuse, taking that wastewater, treating it so it’s clean as drinking water and putting it back in the system. So I think that climate resilience is one huge area. The other one is, the past couple years there’s been a real big emphasis on like water equity, environmental justice, affordability, kind of those areas, and realizing that life is expensive and there’s a lot of people that are struggling to make ends meet or have been put in a disadvantaged situation and that there’s a lot of wrongs to be righted and that people really need to have access to water. People talk, is this a human right? Somehow that’s controversial, but there’s a lot of people working in that space of water equity, environmental justice. There’s just a lot of energy going there and a lot of good things happening in that area.

Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Excellent. Well, what do you think we’ll be talking about the next time we have you on the podcast? We’d absolutely love to have you come back and chat with us more about what you're seeing in some of these big trends.

Travis Loop: Yeah. Well that’s a good question. I guess I’m optimistic that we will be talking further about progress in these areas. These are big, big problems right now, and I’m optimistic that we will have more solutions, more impactful solutions to be talking about. How are these communities adapting to climate? How are they either dealing with too much or not enough water? How are they making sure that everybody in a community has equal access to safe, clean, reliable water? I’m optimistic that these stories of solutions will keep emerging because there’s so many smart, talented, dedicated people out there working on them. 

Christoph Lohr: That’s exciting to hear. Before we sign off, if any of our listeners want to get in touch with you or your organization and the podcast, what's the best way for them to do that?

Travis Loop: Yeah, I mean two ways. Go to; that’s the website. You can find all the content there. You can sign up to get emails, you can connect on social media. And then social media is the other place that I’m really active. You can look for waterloop on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok.

Love to have people drop me a line: Visit the website, follow on social media. 

Christoph Lohr: Well, on behalf of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical, thank you so much, Travis for joining me on this segment here for the podcast. 

Travis Loop: Massively grateful for the opportunity. Tons of fun, Christoph. Thank you.

Christoph Lohr: In our next segment, I talk with Dr. Christine DeMyers, research associate at the Pacific Institute, where we discuss a recent project by the institute aimed at advancing water conservation and efficiency in low-income, multifamily housing. Christine, welcome to the show. 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Thank you. Thank you for having me. 

Christoph Lohr: I’m personally very excited to have you on here. I ran into you at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and you just gave a great speech. For our listeners’ benefit, Christine researches people’s perspectives about environmental problems to inform on a range of project partners who implement on-the-ground solutions. She works primarily in the U.S. on policies and programs that are in support of resilience to climate change, water sustainability, and environmental justice. So from my end, when I saw this, when you sent me your bio, Christine, I just immediately thought of the plumbing resiliency topic that I've talked about, so I was super excited on that end. And also you have a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Arizona State University, right in my backyard here in Phoenix. So it’s great to have you. 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Thank you. Thank you for having me on. It was great to meet you at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and I’m so glad you reached out. That was a really great conference with a bunch of different stakeholders from different sectors providing feedback on our projects. So I was excited to see the excitement about our project then, and I’m happy to share, briefly, our project with you today. 

Christoph Lohr: Well, we’re excited to have you talk about it. So for our listeners’ benefit, because I had the benefit and the joy of watching you and your colleague present on it, can you give just a real quick sort of snapshot and then we can kind of dive into the details after that? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Yes, absolutely. We at Pacific Institute are working collaboratively with other NGOs, with business leaders and water utilities to advance water conservation and efficiency in low-income, multifamily housing.

The business leaders and water utilities have co-funded the installation of sensors that identify toilet leaks, which are a huge source of water waste in multifamily buildings. We at Pacific Institute are studying the associated water savings, water (???) savings, energy savings, in addition to the stakeholder perspectives about the technology.

And this pilot research is taking place at three apartment buildings in Southern California, and it’s getting scaled to other places throughout the U.S. 

Christoph Lohr: That’s amazing. Now, for our listeners that love to know the numbers, from these three buildings that you had in terms of amount of water saved, what should be their takeaway from like an overall sort of executive summary? How much water were you guys able to save by doing leak detection prevention? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Right. So there were 1,200 leak sensors installed at these three properties and we estimate that this is reducing building water use by 15 to 20%. And over the 10-year lifetime of the sensors, this is going to save about 64 million gallons of water or 196 acre-feet of water. And just to give you like a smaller overview of the water savings is, when you have a toilet leak that goes undetected, it’s wasting hundreds of gallons of water, extra water, every day, which is way more water than you would otherwise use inside your house or your apartment on any given day. 

Christoph Lohr: That’s absolutely amazing. So you said it was 197 acre-feet of water, correct?

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Mm-hmm, over the 10-year lifespan of the sensors. 

Christoph Lohr: Gotcha. OK, so for our listeners, 197 acre-feet is, what, one acre-foot is  326,000 gallons, so that gets us to a pretty big number and divided by 10, it looks like if my math is right here, it's like 6.4 million gallons. I think the average residential swimming pool holds about 6,000 gallons, so we're talking over a thousand swimming pools, just from leaks.

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Yes, just from leaks. And it doesn't require any behavior changes or anything like that; this is just identifying water that's just being wasted. 

Christoph Lohr: That’s really incredible. And that’s just in three buildings. So you imagine just the number of buildings out there and the amount of leaks. We could be talking a pretty astronomical number here. IAPMO, we have a testing standard for leak detection devices. For our listeners’ purposes, it’s the ANSI/IAPMO Z1349 I believe is the standard number. And so from our end at IAPMO, I think we’re very interested in this project you guys have, because we see the value in leak detection. And so for you guys to do this in a pilot study and then to expand it, we see the benefit right away. But enough of sort of the technical side of things. Really I think what’s unique about, and really admirable about your project is the way that you were able to make it work. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about how this project was made possible by some of the partnerships that you had? You mentioned partnerships between multiple stakeholders. Can you give our listeners a little bit of detail there? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Yes. So that’s a really important part of this project. The partnership helped us not only pull multiple sources of funding to install the sensors at the three low-income housing sites, it also helped us at Pacific Institute develop case studies for these three sites to basically demonstrate the multiple benefits and allow for other folks to, the decision to uptake this technology for other folks, making that decision a bit easier.

And so there were three major groups of partners involved in this project: those who incubated the project, those who funded the project, and those who are implementing the project. And on the project incubation side is the California Water Action Collaborative or CWAC, which is a platform for NGOs and the business sector to develop interesting projects that support water sustainability and provide multiple benefits together.

And so Pacific Institute, as a member of CWAC, along with Bonneville Environmental Foundation as a member of CWAC, helped get this project off the ground. And then there were a handful of business leaders who were also members of CWAC who helped pitch in in terms of funding for this project. And then there were water utilities, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who helped with providing their water conservation and rebate programs. And then finally, on the project implementation side, Sensor Industries is the business who developed and provided the leak detection technology. And then there were the nonprofit housing organizations, two nonprofit housing organizations and one university housing organization. And so those are all the key players involved in this project.

Christoph Lohr: That’s amazing. And for our listeners’ benefit, CWAC, what was the acronym standing for again?

Dr. Christine DeMyers: California Water Action Collaborative. 

Christoph Lohr: I love that acronym; it's certainly a memorable one. And that’s always important. 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Yes. 

Christoph Lohr: So the business leaders that were involved in this, it seems like they were committed to action on numerous water-related challenges. Can you tell us just a little bit more on that commitment? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Yes. So to give some background about Pacific Institute, we at Pacific Institute house a United Nations platform. It’s called the CEO Water Mandate, and it’s designed for business leaders to commit to action on water-related challenges and also to report on their progress on an annual basis. And the businesses that are affected by water scarcity, we know from this work at Pacific Institute, we know that businesses who are affected by water scarcity, they are increasingly having to commit to action if they want to help secure sustainable supplies of water for their operations. And this is definitely the case in Southern California and this is the case in the Colorado River Basin as well. And so to take action about water scarcity, businesses are changing their water use internally in their own operations and to some extent their supply chains as well. And then also externally, which is where this project fits in. And so on the external side, corporations can provide philanthropic support for projects, and in the context of this project, it’s highly collaborative, which is allowing the businesses to work with a number of other groups of people, and everyone’s working together on a common goal that benefits everyone in different ways, and there's a certain level of transparency and trust building that comes along with doing that kind of work.

Christoph Lohr: Yeah, I like your point about building trust. IAPMO, we have a philanthropic arm, IWSH, that really kind of tries to develop longer-term relationships and build that trust too, so I think that point you made, both in your presentation and on the podcast here today, really was impactful to me.

One of the other things that was kind of unique about this was the pilot testing of toilet leak sensor technology in multifamily housing. What were some of the lessons learned you had from that experience? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Well, to give a bit of a background on the problem that takes place in multifamily housing, many apartment buildings do not have individual water meters for each residential unit in the building, and as a result, water use ends up being tracked and billed at the building level rather than the level of a residential unit. And so if a water leak occurs, it can easily go undetected. Property managers may suspect that leaks are occurring if they see increases in building water use and increases in water bills, but it ends up being really challenging to identify where exactly those leaks are occurring, especially when residents don’t see them or report them. And so Sensor Industries has a technology that they have installed in many buildings throughout the U.S., and for this project we are looking at three buildings, as I mentioned. One of the sites, which is housing for low-income seniors; another site, which is housing for low-income residents; and a third site, which is providing housing for university students.

And so what we know about the sensors is that they’re connected to a wireless network so when a leak occurs, they send alerts to property managers through an online dashboard. And the sensors communicate with the dashboard using a frequency that doesn’t interfere with WiFi or Bluetooth devices.

Like I mentioned, we at Pacific Institute are monitoring the impact of these sensors on the building and so we’re looking at that dashboard information and we’re seeing that the dashboard helps with both managing work orders to fix leaks, and it's also providing a visual of change over time, which is really helpful to us at Pacific Institute as we’re researching the multiple benefits of this over time. 

Christoph Lohr: Were the benefits, I think we talked on that a little bit at the beginning, but just a lot of water saved? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Yes. There’s a lot of water saved. There’s water bill savings, there’s energy savings, and there’s also improvements to maintenance workflow, as I mentioned earlier. With an undetected toilet leak you’re wasting hundreds of gallons of water, extra water a day, typically somewhere around the range of 300 extra gallons of water each day, which, every day that goes by, it’s a huge amount of waste. And so, as I mentioned earlier, over the lifetime of these sensors, that’s about 196 acre-feet of water that can be saved just from detecting leaks at three apartment buildings.

I don’t think I mentioned this yet, but there’s also water bill savings, and so because of the reduction in water use, after about 16 to 24 months, the cost it takes to pay for the sensors ends up paying for itself in terms of water bill savings. And then after that, you start getting a return on your investment.

And then in terms of energy savings, the energy benefits really have to do with the energy that’s used by water utilities. The water utilities in this region use an extensive amount of energy to capture, treat and deliver water, and to safely manage wastewater. And as a result, water use and wastewater-generated reductions in water use and the wastewater generated helps reduce the amount of energy that’s used by water and wastewater utilities. And then, finally, the final benefit has to do with what we learned from surveying the property managers at the three sites. And so we surveyed the property managers and there was unanimous agreement that the technology helps reduce the time spent identifying and fixing leaks.

The reduction in time spent is due to the fact that property managers now know exactly when the leaks are occurring and where they are occurring, which would otherwise be challenging for the reasons that I mentioned with the way that these buildings are typically metered. And then we also found that the sensors and dashboard addressed problems that maintenance workers were having with relying on residents to report their leaks. One of the property managers at the low-income senior housing stated that there was issues with getting leaks reported because the folks in their building do not speak English as their first language. The property manager essentially shared with us that there is an issue in the past with getting work orders sent in because of language barriers and memory issues, and the automated process helped address that issue that they were having. And so in addition to the water and energy savings and the bill savings, there’s also benefits to the folks who are managing and maintaining the property.

Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Excellent. Well, last but at least, I mean it was three buildings. What's the plan for the future? Are you guys looking at scaling up? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Yes, we are definitely looking at scaling up in different ways. In different regions there are going to be different reasons why the utilities and other stakeholders involved would want to install this technology, but all multifamily buildings would have a desire to save money and improve operational efficiency. And many are also interested in improving sustainability as well. And so we are currently implementing more projects in Los Angeles and scaling this work to San Francisco, Texas and New York. And we’re also exploring different avenues to do this work in the future, such as partnering with other affordable housing organizations, expanding the portfolio of water efficiency solutions to go beyond just leaks, and then also finding ways to figure out how we can engage residents so that they can realize benefits from this project as well. 

Christoph Lohr: So to wrap things up, if there was one thing our listeners should take away from our conversation today, what would it be? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: One thing. If there’s one key takeaway, there is a lot of water waste that goes undetected in multifamily buildings, and fixing leaks can provide multiple benefits for the building and the community at large. 

Christoph Lohr: I love it. I love it. If our listeners want to get in touch with you or the Pacific Institute, what is the best way for them to do so? 

Dr. Christine DeMyers: If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me. I'm at I’m also on LinkedIn. If you are as well, you’re more than welcome to connect with me there.

Pacific Institute. You can follow Pacific Institute on Twitter. There are regular updates on the work that we’re doing, and so Twitter would be a great place to stay updated on Pacific Institute. 

Christoph Lohr: Fantastic. Well, Christine, on behalf of The Authority Podcast, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to be with us today to share your insights, your expertise, and the really amazing work you guys did on this project.

Dr. Christine DeMyers: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, and I’m always more than happy to share this project and others. 

Christoph Lohr: In our last segment, I talk with Spencer Brown, director of Sales for Pfister Faucets and executive producer of “American Plumber Stories,” where we discuss telling the story of the American plumber, inspiring a new generation of workers and fixing the plumber’s perception problem.

Before we begin, here's a short clip from one of my favorite episodes.

[Clip from American Plumber Stories Signing Day Special]

Brandon Patterson, Workforce Development for Iowa Skilled Trades: Signing day is, you know … you picture — for everybody who watches ESPN — when your four- and five-star recruits for college football go and sign at these top schools, you know, and they've got hats laid out …  

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:We have to make it as important as we make sports, and how we really talk about other things, going on to a four year degree. This is as important, if not more, because they can still do that down the road if they want to. It's up to them. But to really raise the level of opportunity and to make a big deal about it, it's so important.

[End clip]

Christoph Lohr: Spencer, welcome to the show. 

Spencer Brown: And I appreciate it, Christoph. Thanks for having me. 

Christoph Lohr: We’re excited to have you. You want to tell our audience a little bit about yourself? 

Spencer Brown: Yeah, so like you said, I’m with Pfister Faucets. I’m the director of Sales, and I think this month is my 24th anniversary, so we’re getting close to 25. So I’ve been with Pfister Faucets pretty much my whole career, so that’s what I’ve been doing. At the same time, now apparently I’m an executive producer of “American Plumber Stories.” 

Christoph Lohr: Well, tell our audience a little bit about “American Plumber Stories.” How did it come to be? 

Spencer Brown: Well, like a lot of things when COVID hit, I had traveled for 20 straight years. When COVID hit, traveling stopped.

So it gave me time to think outside of the box because I wasn’t just running and gunning and thought a lot about Pfister Faucets could do differently once we got out of COVID; how could we brand ourselves a little bit differently? And then I started thinking about all the plumbers that we’re associated with across the country, we do business with, and started to think about their No. 1 issue they’ve had, what we could do to help them. And by far, from almost every plumber we do business with, it was manpower. The shortage of labor, couldn’t find the next plumber, next generation. And so I would always tell them, “If you just told your story and how great the plumbing profession is, we’d probably have more people in this industry.” But there is a perception problem in the plumbing trade. It’s perceived as, you know, the fat guy in the white truck with a plunger. And it’s not that way anymore, but it’s still a perception problem on top of our society telling everyone you’ve got to go to college to be successful. So anyway, that’s where the name “American Plumber Stories” came from because we just had to tell the stories.

Also, it kind of aligned Pfister Faucets on the marketing aspect as well, that we could show that we are part of this plumbing community and that’s what we do. And we wanted to kind of brand ourselves that way, and “American Plumber Stories” was the way to go, and what was just an idea and a thought has now turned into a giant movement. 

Christoph Lohr: That is really inspiring and really amazing to hear. And the timing is just really interesting to me because just recently I released an article on LinkedIn in my newsletter called Plumbing Science, and I spoke about the curse of Mario, Mario Brothers, the video game, and how there’s this perception problem of plumbing and it even extends from the realm that I came from, engineering, where those mechanical engineers such as myself, that focused on plumbing in lieu of HVAC, there’s always this kind of like looking down your nose at. And it’s a real problem, especially with the challenges we have today in terms of access to water, safety of water in terms of waterborne pathogens, just the complexity of plumbing systems has increased drastically. So your mission, it sounds like, is to really change that perspective of plumbers. Can you maybe expand on that a little bit on how you’re going about doing that and how successful you’ve been in that?

Spencer Brown: Yeah, absolutely. Just like your article, it is, by far the issue we’ve had is the perception situation.

You know, our tagline, “American Plumber Stories,” or our goal, was to inspire, educate and entertain. We knew that we’d have to show inspiring stories so that the youth could look up to someone and see that they want to be like that person and see the success. On the education part, there’s a lot that needs to be done in our country on the education.

Trade has been taken out of schools, and not necessarily just schools, but just to educate the youth and this is a viable option, a great job. And then the entertainment part, we knew that with the youth, that we did have to show some entertainment to keep them interested. So when you combine all three, we felt like that could get the attention and so far it definitely has. The amount of progress I think the show has made and the comments we get back and the things we’re changing across the country with the show, it’s been pretty awesome. 

Christoph Lohr: So at the intro of our show, we had a splice of one of these student events where — I think in Iowa it was — students were getting hyped up about going into plumbing. And the story that you captured was how it was a big deal and how when you made it into a big deal, it really encouraged that focus of a very viable career path. You want to tell our listeners a little bit more about that? 

Spencer Brown: Yeah, absolutely. So while we do have the episodes and the stories of a plumber, we have some special stories that we show, and one of them was the Iowa skilled trade that we visited this past April. When I found out about this and what they’re doing in Iowa, I was like, “We gotta go film this. We gotta go show this country what Iowa’s doing and what they do.” They bring in over 5,000 high school students across the state so they can, hands on, every type of trade that you can think of. I mean, they had everything there, but they also have this event called the Signing Day. The Skilled Signing Day, very similar to your four- or five-star recruit that you see in the gym in high school and ESPN, signing them to college. Gets all the media attention. The whole school comes in and watches this signing. We’ve got to make the trade almost just as important as that. And I know it doesn’t get the fanfare like that, but they had a signing day where we laid out the table and we sponsored this on “American Plumber Stories,” and they even had the hats of the brands that they were going to go work for.

The governor of Iowa was there. She spoke, she signed their letter of intent to go into the trade. The media was there, the people were there. It made national news, and that’s the kind of excitement that we should be doing. And because of that episode, we know other governors across the country have seen this episode, and now they’re putting in plans to possibly do the same thing. Maybe not the same scale as Iowa, but just to get it started. And that’s pretty cool that we’re able to do that.

Christoph Lohr: That is absolutely amazing, Spencer, and I would definitely encourage our listeners to go and to view that episode. And all your other episodes too, but I think the storytelling you’ve been able to do in plumbing is, it is so vital and that language, and changing that perception, it really does start with the language, and that is something that I’ve been very passionate about. It’s why I'm trying to make a plumbing exam for the professional engineering licensure. Right now there’s only an HVAC refrigeration one, but having a plumbing exam, we’re very close.

We’re nearing closer and closer to that for this next cycle for testing. So we’re making inroads and changing that perception, and it’s needed now more than ever.

With that, in summary here, I would love to have you on again, Spencer, sometime in here in the near future. But when we have you on the next time, what do you think we're going to be talking about then?

Spencer Brown: I think there’s going to be some success stories that will come out of this, would love to share. Maybe even bring a guest of someone that got inspired, whether it was a high school student or someone, or an educator or a politician, of things we’re doing differently to change perception, whether it’s newer ways we educate in high schools or continuing the movement of the signing day, but I definitely think there’s going to be some successes that we’ll be able to share, which I look forward to.

Christoph Lohr: I look forward to that, too. Well, if our listeners want to get in touch with you, Spencer, what’s the best way for them to do so? 

Spencer Brown: Well, we’re pretty much all the socials, but we have a YouTube channel, American Plumber Stories; our website, Definitely on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. You even got TikTok now, so just Google “American Plumber Stories” and you should be able to find us. 

Christoph Lohr: Excellent. Well, Spencer, on behalf of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical, thank you so much for your time today. I’m really excited to keep diving in and watching more of these stories, and thank you for the great work that you do.

Spencer Brown: Thanks for the opportunity and thanks for the time. 

Christoph Lohr: Thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. Love this episode of the podcast. Head over to iTunes to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. Please follow us on Twitter @AuthorityPM; on Instagram at theauthoritypodcast; or email us

Join us next time for another episode of The Authority Podcast: Plumbing and Mechanical. In the meantime, let’s work together to make our buildings more resilient and shape us for the better.