Corporate park retrofits for water savings

The Merritt 7 Corporate Park expects to annually save thousands of dollars and as much as two million gallons of water in just one of its buildings that has been retrofitted with water-efficient plumbing systems.

NORWALK, CONN. — The Merritt 7 Corporate Park expects to annually save thousands of dollars and as much as two million gallons of water in just one of its buildings that has been retrofitted with water-efficient plumbing systems.

The park consists of six Class-A office buildings situated on 22 acres just across from the Norwalk River, providing more than 1.4 million square feet of corporate office space. For the past few years, the building management at Merritt Corporate Park has been interested in improving building efficiency. Past initiatives have included pumping systems, garage and common area lighting, demand-response building automation and more.

“We were interested in going for LEED,” said Keith Crosby, vice president of ADP Service Corp. and general contractor and managing agent for the park's upgrade.

“One thing we noticed we didn't comply with,” said Crosby, “were the minimum water-efficiency requirements. Five of the buildings were built before 1993, so they were not built in accordance with the Energy Act.” The first building in the complex was finished in 1980, and many still had 3.5-gpf toilets.

ADP worked with its local Sloan Valve representative, Yost Associates, to identify plumbing systems that would enable the Merritt 7 buildings to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Existing Buildings rating system. Sloan recommended a number of low-consumption flushometers, low-flow faucets, waterless urinals and other plumbing systems. The work of retrofitting the buildings was awarded to Dominick Lucca, Lucca Plumbing, a local contractor.

In November 2008, Building 401 became the first to be retrofitted with the high-efficiency plumbing. The 23 waterless urinals alone have cut the building's water usage by 858,000-gal., which equates to an annual savings of $7,800 with a two-and-a-half year return on investment.

In all, ADP anticipates savings of as much as two million gallons of water a year in the building from all its water efficient systems. Similar savings are expected in the remaining buildings, for which retrofit plans are being developed. While the complex has not achieved LEED status, the six buildings have received an Energy Star award from the EPA.

Building tenants have been receptive to upgrades, although Crosby admits that the waterless urinals did prompt changes to the maintenance plan.

“Our porters didn't come through until lunchtime,” Crosby explained. “Since we did the replacement work at night we were getting complaints at around 10, 11 a.m. that there was odor. We found that they need to be sprayed first thing in the morning. As soon as we rescheduled the cleaning, the complaints went away.”

Listening to this type of tenant feedback is an important part of integrating the new systems. Crosby has found most people become more receptive to the changes brought about by the retrofit once they understand the water and energy savings involved.

“We put up plaques showing how much water was being save,” Crosby said, “and that's been very well received by the users.”