Making Plumbing Retrofits Work

  January 7, 2011

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

Institutional and commercial facilities tend to reprioritize their activities regularly, but occasionally, organizations retain one priority for the long term. One such organization is the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, where the top priority for years has been to save water and energy.

A key step in the district's conservation efforts came four years ago, when it completed large-scale plumbing retrofits, which have generated significant savings in utility costs and water use.

The school district has 119 facilities encompassing 12.8 million square feet. New schools feature water-efficient plumbing fixtures, but when the district began performing large-scale plumbing retrofits, the focus remained on the district's older facilities, says Bernie Morin, the district’s director of maintenance and operations.

In addition to working with utility companies and taking advantage of rebates, managers taking on such retrofit projects also need to think about scheduling and maintenance. In Northside’s case, many retrofits took place after hours or on weekends, and because extracurricular activities occur during non-school days, strong communication with each campus to schedule the retrofits was important.

Making sure technicians are equipped to maintain the new technology also is crucial when bringing new technology online. Morin has a handful of experienced plumbers on his staff, and they worked closely with the contractors because the plumbers have the inherent knowledge of the buildings a contractor does not possess.

"(The plumbers are) very experienced; they're very knowledgeable," Morin says. "They attend workshops. There are training seminars. Anything that we see is going to be sponsored by somebody, we try to send (employees) to continue the education process. That's really paid off a lot."


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