4  FM quick reads on plumbing

1. Restroom Retrofits Generate Savings for Atlanta Airport


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 — reported as the worst in more than 100 years — 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.

Because the water reduction request was a state mandate, the project's scope, schedule and budget were set by a state agency. A contractor hired by airlines servicing the airport to operate and maintain the passenger terminal complex handled the installation, says Tommy Davis, the project manager. The restroom retrofit had a budget of $5 million and consisted of:

  • removing 1,391 toilets with a rate of 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) and replacing them with 1.28 gpf models
  • replacing 651 1-gallon gpf urinals with 0.5 gpf units
  • retrofitting 1,181 water faucets with flow rates between 1 gallon per minute (gpm) and 2.2 gpm with high-efficiency faucets with flow rates of 0.5 gpm.


2.  Housekeeping Practices Important to Improved Hygiene

Managers can pay closer attention to housekeeping practices in their efforts to improve a facility's restroom hygiene. Trained custodians should use the standard methods to clean all restroom fixtures and surfaces. Three factors determine cleaning success: the cleaner used, the amount, and the application method. Manual cleaning methods leave germ-laden mops and brushes, while using a low-pressure power-spray washer and vacuum tends to leave surfaces cleaner and drier.

By testing restroom air and surfaces for contamination, managers can be proactive in their efforts to monitor and improve restroom hygiene, and they can use the results to fine-tune cleaning methods. Testing consists of collecting samples from the air, fixtures and surfaces with swabs and having the samples tested by a laboratory or using a hygiene meter for in-house testing.

A swab hygiene tester is a ready-to-use dilution-and-delivery device. The swab is contained in a tube with a reagent in the handle. After swabbing a surface, the tester places the swab in the tube and injects a reagent from the handle into the tube and mixes for five seconds. The mixture then is ready for testing.

Managers also can consider using a luminometer — an electronic hygiene monitor — to measure adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a universal energy molecule found in all animal, plant, bacterial, yeast, and mold cells. The luminometer is a 3- by 7- by 1-1/2-inch, handheld, battery-operated device that can track 100 programmable locations and store 500 tests. One set of batteries is good for 3,000 or more tests. When the instrument's reagent contacts a sample, the sample emits light. The amount of light emitted is directly proportional to the amount of ATP present in the sample.

3.  Restroom Image: The Maintenance Connection

Restrooms are one area of facilities that most people never notice — until they do. When managers notice a restroom, it is usually because someone has complained about it. Even though restrooms frequently go unnoticed by managers, they are one of the most visible and memorable areas within any facility for both building occupants and visitors. Paying close attention to maintenance can pay major dividends when it comes to improving the image of restrooms.

While cleaning is the most significant maintenance cost, there are other issues that should be addressed during the design phase that will have a major impact on maintenance costs. One of the biggest complaints of maintenance crews is the lack of isolation valves on restroom fixtures. Without isolation valves, a problem with one fixture takes the entire restroom out of service. Each fixture must be installed with its own isolation valve.

During the selection process, particularly for fixtures and their controls, attention must be paid to the maintenance requirements of different options. While the rated service life of the fixtures may be very similar, the actual service life of individual components, such as seals, may differ widely. And the time and ease of getting to components that must be periodically replaced also varies widely from unit to unit. Components should be evaluated in part on how difficult it will be to maintain them.

Selecting dispensers for consumable supplies that are adequately sized for the level of use in a particular restroom will reduce the number of times that dispensers must be re-supplied, reducing maintenance costs. Touchless controls on these devices will limit the quantity of product dispensed, which also reduces the frequency with which they must be refilled.

Even something as simple as selecting the right lighting fixture can impact maintenance costs. A well-designed lighting fixture will require no special tools or disassembly of the fixture in order to replace the fixture's light sources. Similarly, the fixtures should be selected in part based on the cost of the lamps that they require.

4.  Tips for Managing Water Systems in Existing Buildings

Problems in drain lines are no justification for wasteful consumption. Instead, consider these tips for managing waste systems in existing buildings:

  • When replacing fixtures with lower-flow models, inspect drain lines for corrosion and other conditions that obstruct the flow.
  • Clean waste lines when replacing fixtures.
  • Consider using toilet paper with lower tensile strength for lines prone to clogging.
  • Carefully consider reduced fixture flow rates for toilet fixtures located at the beginning of long horizontal runs.
  • During product specification, consider the placement of high-efficiency toilets and other nearby fixtures within the system.
  • Discourage building occupants from flushing paper towels and other items not meant for the sanitary system.
  • Consider the suitability of the waste-pipe material and maintenance procedures before connecting waterless fixtures.
From a sustainability perspective, we need to think more broadly about conserving the water facilities use daily, as well as about maintaining existing buildings so they provide long-term value for the resources they require during construction and operation. For plumbing systems, this means considering water-conservation measures, as well as the way decisions are inherently tied to waste systems and their ability to operate efficiently.


RELATED CONTENT:


plumbing , restrooms , retrofits , water conservation

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