Above-floor plumbing a champ for Razorbacks

Sept. 1, 2008
University of Arkansas solves problematic building configuration in luxury suites with above-floor macerating pump plumbing technology

Fayetteville, Ark. — When the University of Arkansas decided to upgrade its 19,000-seat Bud Walton Arena with 12 new luxury suites, a problematic building configuration made it impractical to install conventional plumbing. That left the athletic department in a quandary.

Quality and dependability were paramount, since the high-end suites were designed to accommodate the school's major donors. Each one had to be built to exacting standards, complete with wet bar and private restroom. The problem was solved when above-floor macerating pump plumbing technology was chosen for the complex job.

Six of the suites were to be built on each end of the Razorbacks' basketball court.

“The challenge is that the north side of the arena is built on grade, and the south side is built with a floor below it,” explained Senior Associate Athletic Director Jerry Pufall. “For the south side, we could have done a traditional, core-drilled plumbing line through the floor and tied it into the existing sewer and water system.”

But that wasn't an option on the arena's north side, which would have required tearing out concrete.

“We would have had to trench in the concourse, and there were concerns about structural integrity if we got into grade beams,” said Pufall, explaining that cutting into the beams could be risky and would have been cost-prohibitive.

“The contractor was telling us we would need a structural engineer,” he added. “There were just red flags. This is our highest-level premium suite in our arena, so you don't want to have a negative experience there.”

Enter GA Engineers Inc. of Fayetteville, which researched the problem and recommended Saniflo macerating technology to resolve it. Unlike traditional plumbing, macerating systems work above ground, with no need for digging to install sewer lines. The above-floor technology presented the perfect answer, explained John Rodney (J. Rod) Barcenilla, P.E., plumbing department manager for the firm.

“There was no way to route the sanitary sewer,” Barcenilla said. “You'd have to tunnel all the way through the building, or hundreds of feet. That would be difficult, if not impossible.”

Pufall and his staff were unfamiliar with the alternative plumbing technology, so GA Engineers conducted a demonstration.

“They did their homework, researched it and were very confident that it could be used in our application,” he said. “We really were impressed with what we saw. They put all kinds of things in the toilet to show us the capacity. One of the demonstrations was to toss in a bunch of paper towels to see if the system could handle them. The technology was amazing.”

After seeing the demonstration, Pufall was convinced that above-floor plumbing was the way to go for the new suites on the north side. But the demonstration was so impressive, the decision was made to install the units in the six south side suites as well.

“We could have done six boxes with traditional plumbing, but we ended up doing all 12 [with the macerating technology],” he said. “It turned out to be a champ and worked great for us.”

The systems were installed by True Flow Plumbing Inc. of Fayetteville, Ark., in each of the 12 luxury suites to service both the wet bars and the restrooms. Each macerating pump discharges waste up and over the suites into the sewer line, and then into the sewer main.

“That's something I thought was quite remarkable,” Pufall notes. “The system has the ability to pump the waste and sewage water up, as opposed to the traditional downward route, where gravity takes it.”

Pufall had the macerating pump boxes recessed behind the walls in each restroom.

“You wouldn't know the difference if you walked in there,” he noted. “That's what amazed me. I was anticipating it would be something more boxy, in order to do what it is supposed to do. But then I saw that the grinder and pump are housed in a separate unit behind the water closet, but completely out of view within the chase wall. Because of that, you're looking at what appears to be a conventional toilet.

“After putting it in, everyone was kind of apprehensive, because you're bringing new technology into a premium suite for your major donors,” Pufall admitted. “You want to make sure it is flawless technology. We felt that [the system] was an extremely positive experience for the university and this application. We went through the entire 2007-2008 basketball season and never had one problem.”

SFA Saniflo America offers a line of macerating toilet systems and graywater pumping systems. Additional information is available at www.saniflo.com.

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