by Tim Patricio |
Residents won’t soon forget the massive plumbing project completed this past summer. In the small crawlspace above the lobby, we replaced several main plumbing loops running the entire expanse of the triangular perimeter of the building.
Each of these loops serves a specific purpose. One drains waste water and two provide hot and cold running water to the lower half of the building. With the exception of some isolated sections of pipe replaced or repaired over the years, the plumbing replaced was all original to the construction of Park Tower back in the early 1970’s.
But shiny new pipes and a new ceiling are not the only benefits of this work. Where we could, we upgraded valves, improved the position of the piping and, in general, improved the technology. New valves and other mechanisms associated with the project are expected to save water, time, disruption and money in the future.
New shut-off valves were installed for all tiers. Those are the valves that control the flow of water from the main lines to every kitchen and bathroom riser. Many of the existing valves were too old to completely shut the water off. So each was replaced with a new valve, purported not to suffer from this type of problem as it ages.
But perhaps more importantly, the new valves will save many hundreds if not thousands of gallons of water that would otherwise be lost during the shutdown process – plus the many hours of labor it takes to deal with water the old valves could not hold.
Day-in, day-out there will be the additional capability of better isolating individual units that need shut-offs for repairs, installs and upgrades.
Two new main shut-off valves were installed as well, in new and more commonsensical locations than before. These valves isolate the lower half of the building and will mean we can better target most shut-offs which would otherwise require the whole building to be drained. This, too, will save thousands of gallons of water.
New “drain downs” were installed. These are interfaces where staff can hook up a hose to the water line and drain it so maintenance and repairs can be done on that tier. Also, old drain downs were replaced and repositioned in locations closer to access panels and areas within the crawl space where access is easier.
Because of this improvement and the new drain downs, we will be better able to target only the tiers we need to work on. They will result in thousands of gallons water saved and much less time needed to prepare and carry out water shut downs.
In repositioning those drain down lines, we deliberately bypassed a main holding tank. This holding tank acts as a reservoir which is pressurized and keeps hot water flowing.
In the past, water being drained would pass through this tank, stirring up years’ worth of sediment. As our staff described it, it was sort of like a carton of high pulp orange juice. What happens when you shake and pour it? That pulp winds up in your glass! Then, to further complicate matters, the sediment got sucked back into the main line when the water was turned back on.
As we saw during our project this summer, this meant lots of units with loss-of-pressure problems. With the main holding tank being bypassed, we should experience far fewer pressure problems following shut downs.
Those are the highlights, but there are other benefits. More access panels were installed, all of them more logically positioned to reduce the need to cut into the ceiling when plumbing work is needed.
In our new and improved ceiling, all light fixtures were replaced with their equivalent or better in LED lighting. In general, this results in more light while using less electricity. Also, while the ceiling was open, we replaced the insulation on AC lines and vents. This will produce more efficient heating and cooling, with associated savings in energy costs.
Riser replacements will now recommence. These are more straightforward with fewer time and money-saving enhancements. However other projects – including non-plumbing projects – are on deck where such opportunities do exit.
Such projects and improvements are normal for a building such as Park Tower. As we consider future work, our focus will be on integrating new ideas and technology for better performance and efficiency.
The goal is to do better while aging gracefully, to get smarter and impact our environment less.