Education projects…scientifically speaking: Using a classic method to look at the education market

Science, technology, engineering and math. STEM. The future of education. As cliché, as using a STEM reference to discuss education project design may be, it somehow feels right. This issue of Plumbing Engineer project roundup takes the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation and conclusion and uses it to flesh out how technology is being used to engineer education-related projects.

Take a look at how and why products are being used in the education market, and what experts are listing as must-knows for manufacturers, engineers, and contractors working together on such projects.

Bradley Corporation
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Observation: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is a public research university. With more than 29,000 students, it is the second largest in the state. Lapham Hall, named for Wisconsin’s first eminent scientist, was built in 1961 to house the Botany, Chemistry and Zoology departments. 

Lapham Hall is a research facility for the university’s Department of Biosciences, with laboratories, classrooms, lecture halls and faculty offices. The building went virtually unremodeled since construction, and needed updates. Safety was a concern with only about 10 drench showers and eyewash units serving the north wing of Lapham, many of which were no longer working properly.

“Our emergency equipment was vintage 1960s,” said Jon Krezoski, director of safety and assurances for UWM. “The old fixtures in Lapham were corroded and routine testing was impossible. There were no floor drains near the showers, so we had to catch the water in a bucket to avoid flooding classrooms.”

Hypothesis: Craig Dretzka, a Bradley representative with Stickler & Associates, Milwaukee, and Greg Sniatynski, a project manager for Lee Plumbing Mechanical Contractors, Inc., Kenosha, Wis., worked with project engineers to identify safety solutions that would be cost effective, easy to install, and more efficient for conducting ANSI-required testing.

Prediction: Recessed wall-mounted combination drench shower and eyewash units were chosen as solutions to be used in the renovation.

Experimentation: In all, 27 fixtures were installed in the north tower, doubling the number of safety fixtures. 

“There were no problems installing the Bradley emergency equipment and the units fit into the wall cavity very nicely,” Sniatynski said. “We specify Bradley products about 90 percent of the time because they’re good and know we’ll avoid some headaches.”

The Barrier-Free Recessed Mounted Drench Shower and Eyewash units (Model S19-315BF) installed at UWM were flush mounted to the wall, making them fully accessible to individuals with physical disabilities and ideal for areas where space was a concern. 

The S19-315BF unit complied with American National Standard Z358.1-2004, and was completely flush with the wall – even the pull-down shower handle did not protrude. No tight pinching or grasping was required to operate it. 

The concealed eyewash activated immediately when the front cabinet door was pulled down. Water collected in the door assembly and was directed back into the wall.

Conclusion: “Everyone was afraid to open the valves on the old units, which was a huge problem,” said Rick Koehler in physical plant services at UWM. “We’re pleased with how the Bradley emergency fixtures capture all of the flushing fluid.” 

Another benefit was the concealed eyewash. The design prevented the eyewash nozzles from becoming contaminated with dust and debris.

As with many facilities, finding the time and resources to test all of the emergency drench equipment on campus each week continues to be a challenge for UWM. But, the updated emergency equipment makes the job easier and helps create a safer learning environment.

Moen Commercial
Illinois Community Consolidated School District (CCSD) 15

Observation: Craig Phillips oversees the operation and care of all of the facilities at the Illinois Community Consolidated School District (CCSD) 15. Phillips is also a registered architect with his own practice since 1987. CCSD 15 encompasses 21 buildings on 1.7 million square feet of land.

Hypothesis: When the time came to replace aged fixtures and equipment at the third largest pre-K-8 school district in Illinois, Phillips knew he needed to select plumbing products that would be durable, reliable and hold up for years to come. 

Prediction: “The reality is we need responsible, practical, economical choices that make sense for the long term,” Phillips said. “If we’re investing in new equipment, we need to know it has a long life cycle, with minimal maintenance requirements.” 

Experimentation: The first installation included approximately 480 Moen products throughout four buildings, with additional installations planned for the remaining buildings in the future.

Phillips chose Moen Commercial’s M•Power sensor-operated flush valves and faucets to replacing existing faucet and flush valve fixtures with in four CCSD 15 buildings. Phillips said that Moen is known for its quality, the durability of its flush valves, and its self-cleaning piston technology. 

“Unlike other products in the market, M•Power doesn’t have a rubber diaphragm or other components that will wear out and need to be replaced, which can save the district money over the life of the flush valve,” Phillips said.

The sanitary protection and environmental benefits of M•Power were also a deciding factor for installation in CCSD 15. Since the flush valves and faucets utilize advanced sensor technology, students don’t have to touch the fixtures to activate them, helping to keep restrooms cleaner. According to Phillips, with more laws requiring water conservation, facilities are placing greater emphasis on installing water-efficient products.

Conclusion: “Since the M•Power flush valves function at a variety of water pressures, I never have to worry about costly sewer backup problems,” Phillips added. “Because the flush valves can accommodate such variances, we know we’ll be able to push everything out of the system and keep our lines clear.”

M•Power has provided significant savings on CSSD 15’s sewer and water bills – reducing their monthly costs by nearly 50 percent, compared to the previous fixtures. Moen’s direct sales force has been able to provide service and attention, answering questions and resolving any issues that have arisen.

Belmont University

Observation: Belmont University, located two miles south of downtown Nashville, Tenn., has a proud history dating back to the 1890s. But with changing times, additional space had become a dire need. The school announced the construction of a new 188,000-square-foot, five-story building to house the College of Arts and Science and the School of Religion. 

In addition to academic offerings, the center housed a 280-seat chapel, dining venue, 30 classrooms, state-of-the-art laboratories, and conference room spaces. A five-level underground parking garage spanning 160,000 square feet provided almost 500 new parking spaces, and the facility connected on three floors to adjacent academic buildings. 

Hypothesis: The school enlisted the services of Nashville-based general contracting firm R.C. Mathews Contractor, engineering firm Earl Swenson Associates and architectural firm IC Thomasson Associates. R.C. Mathews Contractor has completed several Belmont University buildings over the past several years, so its management was excited to pursue the project with a LEED Platinum certification. 

Lee Company, in Franklin, Tenn., was the installing contractor chosen for the plumbing and HVAC installation. With a long history in construction, Lee Company follows dozens of energy-saving practices that are focused on reducing environmental impact, including water conservation, energy-saving practices on construction sites, and meeting strict requirements for measuring and tracking energy performance in commercial buildings.

Prediction: The $65 million project would include a chilled water beam HVAC system. The engineering firm, which originally specified copper for the project, changed the design to allow for Uponor AquaPEX crosslinked polyethylene (PEX-a) pipe after Lee Company’s design/build department explained the cost benefits of PEX-a over other products. 

Wayne Garrett, of Pulley and Associates, Uponor’s sales agent in the Nashville area, spent time on-site during the construction. Garrett found that Lee Company installers, which had long-standing experience with Uponor, did not need much guidance or support during the installation. 

“They have learned the time- and money-saving features of using PEX-a over CPVC or copper in commercial installations,” Garrett said. “And as budgets are always a concern in these types of projects, it only makes sense to take advantage of the savings provided with faster, easier and quicker installation times.” 

Experimentation: There were 30 workers on site during the peak scope of the project. In addition to the installation of Uponor’s plumbing system, Lee Company also installed a chilled beam system designed to heat and cool the large building. Two-inch Uponor AquaPEX piping was used to transport water through the heat exchanger, causing a constant flow of heating and cooling.

“Chilled beam lets you run higher temps on your water which decreases the size of your equipment and services,” said Richard Brewer, project manager of Lee Company for the university expansion. 

This served as one of several components for a green build, and was partly the reason for the LEED Platinum certification. There was 14,500 feet of piping used for the domestic water and 24,000 feet of piping for the chilled beam.

Conclusion: “We would not have been able to meet the installation schedule if we had not used PEX,” Brewer said.

Brewer also noted that the PEX helped the team to stay within budget and minimize the number of on-site crew.

The University of Washington

Observation: With energy and water costs at an all-time high, it has been the goal of many businesses, universities, schools, and other high profile buildings to go green. Business and property owners are looking for ways to cut operating costs and contractors and engineers are hard at work developing and implementing new means of conserving water and energy for their construction projects.

The University of Washington wanted to undergo a retrofit plumbing project geared toward water conservation.

Hypothesis: The university first decided to change to a 0.5 gallon urinal system. But, this system did not fit the existing footprint and required a change in the piping. The university learned that such installations involve additional, unsightly piping and labor. 

Next, the university was introduced to the Zurn EcoVantage Nano Pint System.

Prediction: The university felt that the Zurn EcoVantage Nano Pint System could provide an opportunity to conserve water and significantly reduce annual operating costs.

Experimentation: One of the first things noted was that the Zurn Nano Pint urinal had an overall appearance that was more aesthetically appealing. The urinal also fit the existing footprint, and did not require additional piping, so it was installed using less labor. 

The Nano also provided the university with additional water savings compared to the 0.5 GPF urinal. The Nano used 1/8 gallon of water each flush, and saved up to 88 percent of water used annually compared to a standard 1.0 gallon urinal.

Conclusion: Zurn is currently in production of cutting-edge green products including urinals, water closets, flush valves, and faucets. There are 10 different models of Zurn Nano Pint urinal to accommodate different types of retrofit dimensions.

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