"Very nearly a builder, very happy to be a Master Plumber."

Master Plumber Lewis Chapman, of Chapman Plumbing, always wanted to be a carpenter or builder like his father. But his dad had other ideas: “He told me that builders are on the job for the most amount of time, and receive the least return ... and I was better
o being a plumber.”

Although he discovered that his father’s theory was a little exaggerated, Lewis is very happy his dad talked him out of building and into plumbing.

“Actually, I’m more than happy ... I’m grateful. There are so many opportunities in the plumbing world, so many directions you can take.”

Lewis started out in an apprenticeship with RC Urquhart: a medium-sized plumbing business, which Robert Campbell Urquhart started running out of his home in 1935 and is still flourishing. (The business has been a member of Master Plumbers since 1951.)

“That was a great apprenticeship,” says Lewis. “I received so much good experience and training in job management, as well as all aspects of plumbing.”

It wasn’t long before Lewis started his own business, Chapman Plumbing.

“I wanted to create my own profile ... My family was very business-oriented and it’s always been around me. It just takes a few leads to give you the confidence that you can take it on.”

What also gave Lewis confidence was following in RC Urquhart’s footsteps and becoming a Master Plumber.

“In a new business it’s great to have the extra support and knowledge – and someone to answer questions when you don’t know who to ask, particularly with legal and OHS issues. It’s good to be part of an association that’s looking after the industry.”

The challenges, the investigations, the research

Now, Chapman Plumbing specialises in corporate maintenance, light commercial, construction, and domestic development.

It’s the variety Lewis loves – when a whole new area of expertise is there to discover. Corporate maintenance is fascinating in that way, says Lewis.

Like his recent work with Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE (NMIT) in the veterinary science and vet nursing school. Lewis and his team installed laboratory sinks, drainage for cleaning tables and settling tanks.

“It’s really interesting working out what the requirements are,” says Lewis. “What do vets actually need to do their job? What will the fixtures actually be used for? Is it for grooming? Examinations? Surgery? What are the washdown requirements? What are the legal requirements for drainage?”

“This kind of work requires constant investigation, as opposed to being handed a fixture and installing it.”

Plumbing to help save endangered species

You’ll also nd Lewis Chapman often working as a plumbing contractor at Melbourne Zoo. As well as doing important prevention and maintenance at the zoo, Lewis’ plumbing expertise is often called-upon for one-off projects.

The Baw Baw frog project was very special, says Lewis. These little-known frogs live deep in the mud and vegetation and only occur on a restricted section of the Baw Baw plateau in Victoria.

The Baw Baw Frog, like many amphibians, has suffered massive population declines in the last 20 years and is rapidly headed toward extinction. Now Melbourne Zoo is attempting to raise, maintain and breed the species – the only institution in the world to do so.

These sensitive frogs need extra-special care and extra-special water treatment.

Lewis and the zoo team established a special water treatment cycle for the already drinkable (potable) water for this little frog. The water is settled in a holding tank then goes through four stages of water treatment: sandfilters, canister filters with a pleated cartridge filter,

UV treatment and reverse osmosis. It is then held in a chemical-grade water tank before use in the ponds and breeding areas.

“This is a critically endangered species, which made it a hit-the-ground-running process. They needed everything to be perfect straight away,” says Lewis.

The good news is that the first batch of Baw Baw frog eggs have just hatched, and the tadpoles are growing well.

Someone is watching you ...

Lewis Chapman and his team also recently upgraded the plumbing infrastructure and developed a vacuum system for the hippopotamus pool.
The pool cleaner is similar to regular swimming pool systems, says Lewis, but it has an added straining system to cope with the daily mess. “Luckily, the hippos don’t sleep in the exhibit, so there was room to move for installation,” he says.

“I’ve learned a lot about animals, particularly which ones we can and can’t go in the enclosures with,” laughs Lewis. “Working in the tigers’ back-of-house area was a bit daunting. Where we were working, the tiger’s shadow was cast over us as he strutted back and forth.
You get the definite feeling that someone is watching you.”

His favourite? The orangutans.

“Working in the different primates exhibits is always interesting. We have had to learn about the particular species in the exhibit so that we can allow for the right level of primate vandal-proofing required when installing things like drinkers, taps and piping.”

“I was always an animal person but the zoo has definitely increased not only mine, but my team’s love for animals.”

Daily challenges

Plumbing has taken Lewis to many interesting places and, he says, he’s grateful for the opportunities. What has got him there? His approach is to do the best job – the job that meets and often exceeds the regulations; which is not necessarily the cheapest job, says Lewis.

Staying up-to-date with the latest products and technology is also vital.

“Every day there are updates about new technology: new appliances, new products, advances in materials. As well as having a ‘gut feeling’ about it, you need to read a lot and look into how the fittings are constructed, what kind of engineering is behind it, what kind of warranties... Every day we have decisions to make: will this really improve our work quality?”

“It’s the daily challenges and new innovative technologies keeps this industry fascinating for me.”

To nd out more about Chapman Plumbing call 0428 766 050 or email [email protected]