Plumbing is one of those things we take for granted yet without it, we might as well be back in the Stone Age. With dozens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people living in individual co-op and condo complexes, the importance of well-maintained indoor plumbing grows exponentially.
The more each resident, manager and board members knows and understands about your building’s plumbing, the better the system will work. From the mechanics of plumbing in a high-rise building to the tips and hints on making the system flow—there’s a lot to learn about what keeps water working on our side.
How It All Began
Climb into the Wayback Machine, won’t you, as we travel through time to glimpse the origins of indoor plumbing. According to a series of articles published in Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine, the ancient Minoans hold the honor of being the first civilization with a flush toilet, located within the walls of the Palace of Knossos. While we do not know if the royal family ever stashed copies of the Minoan National Enquirer behind the seat, we do know that the world would not be flushing again for another 4,000 years.
With the introduction of lead pipes and increased engineering skill, the Romans took plumbing up a few notches with fresh water (thanks to an awe-inspiring system of aqueducts), heated floors, grand bath houses, dams, drains and sewer systems. Blame the marauding Visigoths for regressing us back to the Stone Age, however: by the 1600s, we were back to emptying our chamber pots in the streets, a trick that didn’t do much for sanitation and public health.
Across the Atlantic, New Yorkers were not faring much better. Chamber pots, outhouses and frequent trips to the town pump for water made up most of the plumbing options until the 1700s. A wooden pipe system was in place in New York by the early 18th century with underground sewers for storm water arriving on the scene a few years later. The early 1800s saw construction of a public waterworks system and the city unveiled the Croton Aqueduct System in 1842. By 1857, engineer Julius W. Adams designed the framework for the modern sewer system, which he put into practice in Brooklyn.