Piping, Systems, and Project Design: Codes, Standards, and Specifications!

One third of global electricity consumption is by industrial electric motors. I just heard this statistic on a recent Pumps & Systems podcast and went in search of verification for it. Holy moly. It turns out that’s true! It’s one of these points that an up until recently outsider like myself may well have never known. How are they and other process instrumentation regulated and why does it matter? It’s important to keep asking the relevant questions and looking for answers, so let’s do it.

Piping, pumps, motors and other equipment have a critical role in global safety, security, and standards of living. This equipment is designed in adherence to rules established by standards organizations, government agencies, and trade association standards. Engineers can also employ their own project-specific specifications. This matters because when a project calls for instrumentation, it’s mandatory to know what the applicable standards are that apply to an informed project design. And there are caveats to be mindful of in this process.

In the interest of saving time, engineers will sometimes recycle codes, standards and specifications from past projects onto a new project. Brian Silowash, author of Piping Systems Manual, has seen this firsthand. It can be problematic if any regulations specified are out of date. Apart from recycled codes, projects tend to have multiple revisions. The danger in printing projects on paper is that various parties may not have the same revisions in hand. A Building Information Modeling (BIM) program can solve that problem by storing project revisions to the internet cloud, allowing all parties associated with projects access to the same revisions.

Though some effort has been made through the years to unify codes and standards, there are still many to sort through by relevant issuing associations. The first photo below shows standards issuing trade associations. My reference text shows eighteen of these associations, though there may be more nationally and internationally. 


This next photo shows one page of individual standards, their issuing organizations, ID numbers and titles pertaining to valves and fittings. We should be mindful that every project is subject to a number of codes, specifications, and standards. 

Codes, standards, and specifications are typically identified like this:


ACRO is the organization that developed the code, standard or specification

SPEC is an alphanumeric identifier

YR is the year of the latest revision 


I recently came out of a piping and instrumentation diagram seminar session where a wastewater department standard drawing references legends, symbols and abbreviations. The photo below depicts engineer specified project specific instrument letter identification, symbol configuration, and instrument or function symbols.


While instrumentation and projects are subject to codes, standards, and specifications from many sources and there are pitfalls to avoid, the good news is that these are categorized for searches. Take care to ensure that any recycled codes are current. And save time for all parties affiliated with the project by use of a BIM cloud storage application.

Best regards and thank you for reading.

Jennifer Zadka


Sources: Piping Systems Manual by Brian Silowash

On the Job Site: Construction course by Jim Rogers