UAB Facilities innovations are saving millions of gallons of water
The Department of Energy Management is using condensate from air handlers as well as groundwater, both formerly considered wastewater, to reduce the amount of water that must be purchased for the chilled water supply on UAB’s campus.
Condensate from air handlers is produced in large quantities during the summer months, and was previously being discarded down the storm drain. Since the water is cold and clean, it is perfect for placement in the return lines that send water back to the cooling towers. This decreases the amount of makeup water that must be purchased.
In addition, many UAB buildings have groundwater sources in the lowest floors that must be consistently pumped out to prevent flooding. This water was also previously sent to the storm drain but now may be utilized in the cooling towers.
The inception of these projects required teamwork and support among several departments within UAB Facilities, which Matt Winslett, Manager of the Department of Energy Management, finds easy to achieve in the collaborative work environment of the Facilities Division at UAB. “We are doing some of the neatest things anyway in water recovery,” said.
So far, seven buildings have been outfitted for condensate collection and 2 have groundwater collection. The ultimate goal is to recapture 25-30% of the water being purchased.
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Facilities Grows a New UAB Community
UAB Facilities, in partnership with the UAB Committee on Sustainability, proposed the establishment of what has become a tremendously popular program for faculty, staff, and students to grow their own vegetables, flowers, and small fruits on campus.
At the inception, Julie Price, Coordinator of Sustainability for UAB Facilities, was charged with coordinating the effort to find a location and develop the program. Facilities identified the former CNIR building property as suitable for such an opportunity since the large yard was already secured with a fence and there was ample space for program participants to park. Campus Services and Grounds spearheaded the development effort by tilling the ground with new topsoil, extending water lines for irrigation access all over the enclosed property, improving gate access, and acquiring hoses and tools for the participants to use.
A public orientation was held for those interested, which included presentations from Julie regarding the program details and a visit from a regional agricultural extension agent. The program was designed to be self-sustaining so that participants have individual plots, and are responsible for selecting and obtaining their own seeds or seedlings as well as weeding and watering their plots. Participants were allowed access to their plots in May, and currently the program includes about 70 people working 65 plots. There are more than 75 people on the waiting list. Participants represent almost every facet of campus, including students, researchers, faculty, staff, medical specialists, and administration. The program has been praised by participants for creating an additional sense of community among such a diverse group of the UAB family.
Julie will continue to coordinate the program through the winter growing season and reopen the plots for new participants in the spring. This program is an excellent demonstration of the collaborative nature of UAB Facilities and its ongoing commitment to sustainability.