Few things illustrate the fragility of modern civilization more clearly than plumbing problems. A broken pipe, a backed-up toilet, a flooded bathroom—any one of these can quickly go from annoyance to emergency, and the longer a plumbing problem lingers, the more unsavory the situation gets. Without efficient, functional plumbing, a densely populated urban or suburban area can go from metropolitan to Medieval in very short order.
But how exactly does your building’s plumbing system work? That answer has been several hundred years in the making—and the more your manager, board, and residents know about how it all ties together to bring the good in and flush the bad out, the better prepared your building association will be if your own plumbing system develops problems.
Plumbing the Depths
According to Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine, the ancient Minoans hold the honor of being the first civilization with a flush toilet, located within the Palace of Knossos.
With increased engineering skill and the introduction of lead pipes, the Romans took plumbing up a few notches with fresh water (thanks to their awe-inspiring system of aqueducts), heated floors, grand bath houses, dams, drains and sewer systems.
Roman innovation didn’t last, however—from the Dark Ages to as late as the 1600s, folks were back to using chamber pots. Even more charming, they generally emptied those pots in the street—a habit that did little for public health and sanitation.