Drain Cleaning Consumes University's Plumbing Department
For Victor Welbourne, the task of ensuring his facilities' drains, pipes, and plumbing systems remain clear and operational is an in-house activity.
"I've been a plumber for 22 years, and I don't like to call in somebody else if it's something I should be able to do myself," says Welbourne, facility manager with the Facilities Maintenance Department with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
The challenge for Welbourne in keeping these tasks in-house is to provide the department's 11-person plumbing staff — six plumbers and five helpers — with the right selection of drain-cleaning and inspection equipment so they can address the many challenges created by UNLV's students, staff, and faculty.
Complicating the challenge for Welbourne and his staff is the rapid expansion of the university's campus, which consists of 110 buildings on 360 acres. During his 16 years on campus, UNLV's square footage has increased by about 40 percent, and though land for continued growth is in ever-shorter supply, the university recently opened a new science building, which added 130,000 square feet to his department's work load.
Welbourne estimates the department's plumbing staff spends about 20 percent of its time performing drain cleaning and inspection duties. Not surprisingly, that percentage varies based on whether or not students are present. The presence of more students generally leads to an increased number of clogged drains and other plumbing problems.
More importantly, the amount of these activities also varies based on the age of the building and of its piping and plumbing systems and components. For example, the department recently replaced the piping system in one of the university's buildings, and the impact on the amount of plumbing problems was dramatic.
"When we repiped that eight-story building, the problem calls went away," he says. "And as we go through buildings and retrofit plumbing systems, the calls drop."