4 FM quick reads on plumbing systems
1. Airports' Savings Take Off After Plumbing Retrofit
When historic drought conditions seriously threaten living conditions in a significant part of the country, institutional and commercial facilities of all kinds feel the heat.
Such was the case in Georgia in 2007, when record dry conditions made for difficult living conditions in the Atlanta area. For one of the first times in U.S. history, a major city was forced to take drastic steps to keep from running out of water.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was no exception to a state mandate that required public water system providers to reduce their use by 10 percent. In response to the conditions and the mandate, the airport began a major water-conservation initiative in early 2008 that included a significant retrofit of the airport's restrooms, which serve more than 90 million passengers a year.
As the drought eased and conditions returned to normal in 2009, the airport's water-conservation efforts continue to expand, with additional initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and low-water use landscaping, aimed at reducing energy savings 20 percent by the year 2020.
"We've always been good stewards of our resources," says Sharon Douglas, the airport's sustainability manager. "We were looking for (projects) to save us water and money, even before the drought. We try to implement the latest and greatest technology that has the lowest impact on our resources."
The drought conditions were so severe in the southeast in 2007 that the state's governor asked residents to take part in vigils to pray for rain, and the general public was concerned that Lake Lanier, the main source of water for the Atlanta area, would dry up.
The airport is one of the state's top facilities in terms of water use, so officials were ready to do their part. In the process, they realized the time was right for the airport to make a long-term commitment to a sustainable water savings plan.
Merely because of the size of the facility and the constant traffic, a restroom retrofit is a massive effort. It sits on 4,700 acres of land, including buildings and runways. The concourses and international and domestic terminals occupy 130 acres, or 6.8 million square feet — an expanse larger than the Pentagon. The restrooms must endure the constant traffic flow of more than 250,000 daily airline passengers, in addition to 58,000 people employed at the airport.
2. Minimizing Water Waste, Maximizing Savings
New plumbing products and systems have come a long way in performance and water conservation in recent years. Unfortunately, restrooms in many institutional and commercial facilities continue to use outdated and inefficient plumbing fixtures, valves, toilets and faucets that contribute to water waste and drive up utility costs.
By identifying top water wasters in restrooms and fine-tuning inspection, maintenance, and monitoring procedures, maintenance and engineering managers can eliminate or minimize water waste. They also can use benchmarks to determine whether a plumbing retrofit is the most appropriate course of action.
Outdated technology, piping leaks, and seal leaks are three of the top water-wasters in restroom plumbing systems. Old fixtures — those made before 1992, when regulations on low-flow showerheads, toilets, urinals, and sink faucets went into effect — used twice as much water as newer fixtures. This combination can make it difficult for managers to hold the line on utility budgets, especially when added to continued water and sewer rate increases.
Allowing water to run when fixtures are not in use is another water-waster. This situation can result from leaking valve gaskets and fittings, as well as corroded piping. It also can result from leaking toilet seals that go unnoticed because they are hidden under floors or in walls. Only when the water shows up in another area as puddles on floors or soggy wallboard can technicians trace the leak back to the source.
Clogs in toilets, tubs, and showers that result in overflows also are culprits. Often, but not always, building occupants spot and report them right away, due to the water on floors.
Vigilance is the best defense against wasted water in restroom plumbing systems. The sooner technicians can identify the source, the quicker they can prevent water waste. Regular, preventive inspections are the surest way to spot and correct problems.
The first and least costly method to eliminate waste is to look for leaks and high flow rates and, where detected, to replace leaking fixtures, faucet aerators, shower heads, and toilet valves with the newer products that use less water. Replacing high-flow restrictors with low-flow restrictors can reduce water consumption at each faucet by 50 percent.
3. Plumbing Retrofits
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is plumbing retrofits.
Nothing makes an organization focus on water conservation like a 100-year drought. Just ask Mark Duclos, director of maintenance and operations with the University of Georgia. The university is the largest water user in Athens-Clarke County in Georgia, and Duclos and his department were responsible for monitoring water use on campus and identifying ways to conserve amidst a 100-year drought that peaked in fall 2007. The first step in their efforts was putting together a task force.
"The task force was in direct response to the drought we were going through at the time," Duclos says. "The task force was put together not only to meet the governor's 10 percent mandate, but also to look at the university, as a whole to see what we could do to be better stewards."
The task force determined a significant percentage of campus water use stems from plumbing fixtures - sinks, urinals, toilets, and showers. Duclos and his department already had begun analyzing water use on campus a few years before the drought hit, but the arid conditions created by the drought expedited fixture retrofits designed to save water and reduce the frequency of inspection and maintenance.
As maintenance and engineering managers inside and outside water-stricken regions of the country focus on water conservation and undertake large-scale retrofits to comply with sustainability plans, programs to monitor water use, along with advances in plumbing-fixture technology, are playing central roles in many organizations' efforts to curtail water waste.
4. Plumbing-system specification
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is plumbing-system specification.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new WaterSense final specification for flushing urinals. Flushing urinals that meet this final specification will use no more than 0.5 gallons per flush (gpf), which is one-half of the 1-gpf federal standard for urinals set by the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
Of the 12 million urinals in use in the United States, up to 65 percent are inefficient units with flush volumes exceeding the 1.0 gpf federal standard, some by as much as 3.0 gpf, according to the EPA. On average, users flush a urinal about 20 times a day, so an organization will save 4,000 gallons or more annually for every WaterSense-labeled urinal it installs. Eligible models include the urinal fixture, which can be made of ceramic — vitreous china — plastic, or stainless steel, along with the pressurized — flushometer valve — or gravity tank-type flushing device.
The scope of this specification does not include non-water urinals, composting urinals, and retrofit devices or other aftermarket-retrofit systems, so they cannot earn the WaterSense label at this time.
Manufacturers that produce urinal fixtures and flushing devices meeting EPA's efficiency and performance criteria can apply to have their products earn the WaterSense label. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/.
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