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Imagine A Day Without Water

What would a day be like without water? Thursday, October 21st was the seventh annual Imagine a Day Without Water, a national education campaign that highlights how essential water is. SSR celebrated the week by highlighting the lesser known impact of water on projects across our many markets and service lines.



A sports and entertainment venue requires an abundance of resources to maintain and operate – especially one that hosts a top NBA team. Fortunately, the Chase Center in San Francisco, home of the Golden State Warriors, has several systems in place that efficiently and creatively minimize its environmental impact. SSR’s design consulting services within mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and sustainable energy modeling earned the venue a LEED Gold® certification for sustainable building solutions. Matt Clark, PE, and Kevin Graham, PE, LEED AP were key team members on the project. As Principals on SSR’s sports design team, they said the Chase Center was designed to mitigate the excessive footprint of such a facility. For example, the irrigation system at Chase Center reduces water consumption by 63% compared to traditional processes. This method, combined with other efficient potable and non-potable water fixtures, reduced water consumption by over 84%. In addition to saving resources, the on-site stormwater management plan also reduces pollution of natural water flow to minimize environmental impact.

Other major sports venues reduce water consumption through the creative maintenance of resources. Facilities such as Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN and Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI are known for the NHL teams they host, but also serve as multi-purpose arenas for off-ice events. Instead of melting the ice before events that will not utilize it, these venues use advanced insulation and flooring systems that store the ice all season long. By saving and reducing water, sports and entertainment venues maximize the resources used to provide memorable fan experiences.



While all buildings require water for consumption, heating, cooling, and plumbing, access to clean water is arguably most critical in healthcare settings. Facilities such as the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX have unique needs to be met in order to safely provide for patients and hospital staff. Lee Nordholm, PE, LEED AP, a mechanical engineer at SSR’s Dallas office, was a key team member in the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital Tower III expansion. His team ensured systems were in place to continually supply the campus with clean water. Furthermore, the state of Texas holds a 12-gallon per patient bed water storage requirement. To meet this requirement, and to ensure the campus can continue to operate in an emergency, the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at UTSW hosts a 5,000-gallon cistern that stores cold water prior to hospital distribution.

As an acute-care hospital with research and educational components, water plays a crucial role in the sterilization process across the facility’s multiple departments. This process typically relies on steam at temperatures greater than 250 degrees to thoroughly disinfect equipment. Cold water is then used to rinse and cool down the materials to prepare them for re-use. To minimize the amount of water contaminated in this process, the expansion at UTSW was fitted with a closed-loop cooler connected to the building chilled water system. This method reduces water usage for the sterilization process from approximately 50 gallons per minute to less than two. As a world-class facility, UTSW is dependent on water to continue its service offerings, and its reliable water supply and sustainable consumption practices ensure patients continue to receive much-needed quality care.



In addition to the obvious usage of water in the food manufacturing industry — as an ingredient, cleanser, etc. — water serves as a fundamental tool to transport and protect products throughout the manufacturing process. SSR has a longstanding relationship with a global food processing client which includes the recent design of a new processing line for an existing facility in California. David Cooper, PMP, project manager of the design, said one creative way the facility uses water is in its tomato processing lines for products such as tomato sauce, paste, or Rotel®. As soft, vulnerable produce, tomatoes are easily damaged and punctured when handled by traditional mechanical equipment. Once transported to the plant the trailers of tomatoes are filled with water and deposited into troughs where the current moves the produce along like a conveyor belt, diverting the tomatoes into the correct line to be processed. The water is drained before the tomatoes are manufactured, allowing for smooth production with undamaged ingredients.

Instead of discarding the water in these troughs, it is captured and reused in the plant for other needs. Some of this water may be diluted and used for cleaning the manufacturing equipment. Due to the high acidity of tomatoes, the cleaning water cannot be sent to the water treatment plant as is. Adding the transport water dilutes it enough to be reprocessed and reused. In an industrial setting where advanced machinery is potentially dangerous to fragile products, the creative use of water ensures a smooth manufacturing process and a fresher final product.



While modern plumbing systems are comparatively advanced in design, the pipes and equipment that make up water infrastructure were not meant to last forever. Richard Chappell, PE, BCEE is an environmental and civil engineer in SSR’s Infrastructure Program. He says many of the pipes that carry water and wastewater have been in the ground for decades and begun to decay, leak, or become obstructed due to newer construction. Consequently, there can be leaks in the pipes that lead to the loss of valuable treated water. Many utilities cannot afford to lose this valuable asset into the ground and many are working to improve the aging infrastructure. Other problem areas include the valves and hydrants connected to the system — equipment that does not receive the required maintenance to remain fully functional.

Fortunately, there are methods to protect the deteriorating infrastructure. With SSR, Chappell has worked extensively at the North Clarksville Water Treatment Plant in Clarksville, TN. Such projects include the modernization of the plant through the use of microfiltration, a method that uses membranes with very small pores to remove contaminants in the drinking water before disinfection. Microfiltration is more efficient than traditional granular media filtration which can lose 10 to 15% of water to backwash, as compared to a five to 10% loss in microfiltration. Additionally, the Clarksville plant has the capacity to deal with material waste — disposing of the dewatered solids to a landfill while the recovered water is recycled and retreated into drinking water. SSR is also contributing to upgrades at the water treatment plant in Bowling Green, KY. To extend the lifespan of newly installed piping the equipment was galvanized, covered in a protective zinc coating to minimize exterior corrosion. While a complete upgrade of any water infrastructure will require a significant reallocation of resources and manpower, there are smaller steps that can be taken to prolong the lifespan of these important facilities.



As engineers, architects, and designers consider how to manage water usage for building development, there are several industry-wide rating systems in place that encourage water conservation. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is one rating system that places a high priority on water use reduction and conservation. Hannah Walter, PE, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP, building performance engineer at SSR, says the LEED system emphasizes water quantity; that is, the amount consumed and how the water is treated after use. Facilities that prioritize high-efficiency indoor water fixtures, irrigation systems, and low-impact design strategies for rainwater that overall contribute to reductions in water usage will receive more points towards their whole-building certification. These systems can include low flush and flow rate fixtures as well as rainwater or HVAC condensate collection and reuse on-site or in the project building, such as to flush toilets or landscape irrigation.

Another Green Building Rating System leading the way is Living Building Challenge, a certification for projects that are net-positive or regenerative for water usage. This means utilizing every drop of water that falls on-site, as well as treating the water after it is used so that it can be reused within the project. Future-focused and community-centered, the Living Building Challenge looks at the entire water life cycle and explores ways to treat wastewater and collect rainfall in a way that captures and retains resources.