Plumbing Retrofits: Testing for Success

  January 30, 2014

When historic drought conditions threaten living conditions in a significant part of the country, institutional and commercial facilities feel the heat. Such was the case in Georgia in 2007, when dry record conditions made for difficult living conditions in the Atlanta area, and a major city was forced to take drastic steps to keep conserve water.

In response to the conditions and a state mandate, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International 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 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 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 plan by the projects' contractor was to only replace flush valves on existing urinals and toilets, but the contractor scrapped those plans after complaints from customers during test installations.

Maintenance and engineering managers planning a plumbing retrofit project should consider using components from only one manufacturer to ensure smoother operations, says Tommy Davis, the project manager, adding they should be sure to consider different options before making a decision on which manufacturer to go with.

"We received a number of complaints from our customers about water overspray from the urinals, and we decided that it was necessary to replace the flush valves and urinals and toilets using the same manufacturer for each," Davis says.

"We suggest that prototypes are installed before selecting the preferred manufacturer. By installing prototypes from three different manufacturers, we were able to obtain feedback from the public and our maintenance department on the performance of the fixtures. Thus, we made our final equipment selection based on the performance, maintenance, availability of parts, and budget."


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