Clean and Green: Plumbers Local 130 Training Center

By Karl J. Paloucek

The green roof is one of many forward-thinking innovations at the Plumbers Local 130 Training Center.

Whatever your building these days, when it comes time to do a full building renovation, employing green solutions makes a lot of sense. When that building is the training facility for a new generation of journeyman plumbers and technical engineers, it doesn’t just make sense — it creates an opportunity.

The Chicago Plumbers Local 130 UA training center recently underwent a massive transformation. We talked to Training Director James Majerowicz, CPD/GPD, and Plumbers Local 130 UA Instructor John Yock about the newly renovated facility and toured the structure to see its transformation to not just an incredibly efficient green property, but how its form as a green building serves to reinforce its function as a training facility by adjusting the mindset for new generations of plumbers who will be working toward green solutions for the properties they maintain.

We started atop the roof, where the telltale signs of sustainable building efforts are in immediate evidence. Half of the rooftop surfaces are green, covered with a thick, attractive lawn, and a solar thermal panel angles upward to meet the rays that will heat the building’s domestic hot water supply. “We capture all of the rainwater from these roofs, for re-use,” Majerowicz said.

Descending into the boiler room, we first meet a set of condensating, high-efficiency Bradford White boilers installed by Edwards Engineering that handle the heat. Among the array of freshly installed PVC, tanks and logic systems, Majerowicz described the green technology that apprentices would soon begin appreciating with the facility’s re-opening in September. “We have the vacuated tubes on the roof, and there’s a manifold that goes across the top,” he said. “Through that manifold, we’re pumping up water, getting it heated, and back down into this, basically, 120-gallon polytank that’s got three inches of insulation on it. It’s an atmospheric tank,” he explained. Pointing to the brass coupling atop the tank, he continued, “If you feel right there, there’s quite a bit of heat coming off the roof right now.

“This is technology that was developed in Australia,” he said. “We’re in Chicago, where there are freezing conditions. What happens is, when there’s heat on the roof, the solar pump kicks on, pumps that water up through the roof, and then back down as it heats. Now if it’s zero degrees out, you’ll be getting 190-degree water coming back. When there’s no heat available and the tank needs heat, it goes and pumps up through the tankless water heater boiler — there’s no logic between the tank and the boiler, because this works on flow — so when that pump kicks on, that turns the boiler on.”

The tankless heater also serves as auxiliary heat on days when the sun just isn’t up to the task. “This tankless heater is just a make-up,” Yock explained, pointing to the heater mounted on the wall just underneath the PVC where the recovered roof water descends. “So if we have a cloudy day and we’re not getting the desired amount of hot water we’re going to need for downstairs, for potable water systems, this will do that make-up.”

Roughly 120 feet of corrugated stainless steel make up the heat transfer, with domestic water serving as the heat transfer fluid. “It’s a drain-back system,” Majerowicz said. “Then we’ve got the intra for the neutralizing, or the condensation from the 90-plus boiler,” he continued, pointing out the thermostatic mixing valve, recirculating pumps and an expansion tank for the domestic water.

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Posted by on Oct 1st, 2017 and filed under Feature Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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