Critical Facilities Summit

4  FM quick reads on plumbing

1. Plumbing: The Rise of Water Metering


I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, plumbing systems and the rise of water metering.

As concerns over water conservation grow, more institutional and commercial facilities are investing in — and benefitting from — water-metering technology.

For example, to support large-scale plumbing retrofit for the University of Georgia, the university's maintenance department remains focused on additional water-conservation initiatives. The university is using advanced water-metering capabilities to better analyze water use.

Says Mark Duclos, the university's director of maintenance and operations, "Prior to the drought, we had numerous metering points on campus, but not individual buildings. During the drought, we elected to install meters everywhere. We wanted to be able to look at each building and try to isolate which ones are our higher usage and look from week to week or day to day and see if we see spikes so we know if we may have some issues."

Each building has a dedicated Web site that shows technicians a facility's water use over the last year. This comprehensive information also can help technicians more easily troubleshoot potential fixture issues.

"We're trying to get that information out there so as managers we can better determine what's going on, Duclos says. "Also, it's troubleshooting. If we saw a spike in water usage, it may alert us to a problem that we can catch earlier by use of the meters."


2.  Restroom Renovations: Quantifying Benefits

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, restroom renovations.

Restroom renovations in institutional and commercial facilities are among the most complex projects maintenance and engineering managers can undertake. At the same time, such projects can create cost-saving opportunities.

For example, installing products such as waterless urinals, low-flush commodes, automatic flush valves, faucets, soap and paper-towel dispensers, and automatic cleaning-chemical dispensers for commodes and urinals can produce tangible cost savings.

Many of these products require electrical power to function, either in the form of batteries or direct wiring. But direct wiring can pose concerns, as many older restrooms only have power for lights and exhaust fans. Adding equipment might require bringing in more power.

Renovations also allow for the installation of ceiling-mounted partitions and wall-mounted stools, which removes these obstacles from floors and can result in easier, faster, and better floor cleaning. But managers must remember that in older facilities, such products also might require additional structural reinforcement and plumbing, which means higher costs.

Installing a grouted, ceramic tile floor is another popular renovation option. Grouted tile provides better slip resistance, lower cleaning costs, and greater life-cycle benefits.

Epoxy grout is nonporous and provides better hygienic benefits and color stability. But managers must make sure to measure hydrostatic pressure on slab installations. Epoxy grout does not breathe, and if the pressure readings exceed 3 pounds per square inch, installers should use cementitious grout or prepare the floor to seal the slab. Cementitious grout will breathe, allowing slab moisture to evaporate and preventing pressure damage to the floor installation.

3.  Efficient, Cost-Effective Plumbing Upgrades

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, efficient and cost-effective plumbing upgrades.

The push for water conservation in restrooms within institutional and commercial facilities is creating pressure on managers to address problems related to plumbing components and systems. One key decision is whether to repair existing plumbing fixtures in an attempt to address water-conservation demands or to replace plumbing systems to achieve this goal.

Replacing water closets and urinals is an expensive renovation project. Some older facilities that present problems related to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, must renovate toilet rooms and update all piping rough-ins and plumbing fixtures. In these cases, renovation also presents an excellent opportunity to install low-flow fixtures that use 1.28 gallons per flush, or gpf, as well as one-eighth gpf urinals.

Facilities that have old fixtures but that are not required to conduct accessibility upgrades still might qualify for a fixture-exchange program from a local utility. These programs help facilities offset the cost of retrofitting old fixtures with new, low-flow fixtures.

Prior to such a renovation would be an opportune time to install several waterless urinals as a way to test if they are suitable with the maintenance staff. If they are suitable, managers can choose to specify them in the fixture upgrade. One inexpensive approach is to change standard flush-meter-type valves or tank-type valves to dual-flush fixtures. When installed, workers will have to adjust them to make sure there is enough water flowing through the fixtures during low-flush situations, which works best with manually operated fixtures.

4.  Water Conservation: Plumbing Fixtures Offer a Choice

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, water conservation and dual-flush technology.

Water conservation has become the standard in new restroom design — whether it is required to comply with local codes, obtain LEED points, curtail operating costs or appeal to environmentally conscious customers. Manufacturers have introduced new products to meet the demand, but maintenance and engineering managers who fail to perform due diligence on systems interaction and product applicability might find some surprises once those products are installed.

In some cases, the problem is one of perception, not a failure of the fixture to perform as intended. Managers, as well as occupants, are accustomed to toilets, sinks, and showers operating a certain way. When these products do not function as expected, managers find themselves on the hot seat. But it also is true that some water-saving products work better than others.

For new buildings, perhaps the most common water-saving restroom strategy is to specify dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets use either 1.1 gallons per flush (gpf) or 1.6 gpf, have been around for several years, and have been a successful option for water-conscious managers. They are also a good option because they can be retrofitted into existing buildings and used on smaller projects where occupants are determined to save water.

One issue with dual-flush toilets is users must pull up on the handle on the flush-valve fixture to deliver the flush that uses less water. The reflex for most people is to push down. This situation introduces a possible user error. How does a user know which way to push the handle for the desired flush? This problem makes actual water savings more difficult to predict.

Another type of dual-flush system is the dual-flush-tank water closet. These fixtures typically have push buttons on top, rather than a lever flush handle on the side, to make them ADA compliant.


RELATED CONTENT:


plumbing , water conservation , water metering

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