Letters – 2008-08-01

Flushing out the details I take exception to a recent comment from Rob Zimmerman, senior staff engineer—water conservation, Kohler, who said “We also don't know whether dual-flush flushometers really save water.” (“Not a drop to waste,” June 2008).

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff August 1, 2008

Flushing out the details

I take exception to a recent comment from Rob Zimmerman, senior staff engineer—water conservation, Kohler, who said “We also don’t know whether dual-flush flushometers really save water.” (“Not a drop to waste,” June 2008). Sloan Valve Co. has had great success helping customers reduce their water consumption with its manual and electronic dual-flush Flushometers. For example, Purdue University’s senior mechanical engineer reported that Purdue’s water usage dropped between 30% and 50% in month-to-month comparisons based on water meter readings before and after installing dual-flush handles in university restrooms (our website at www.sloanvalve.com has this and other case studies). Sloan welcomes discussion of water efficiency because it’s an important issue. But discounting a viable technology with no firsthand knowledge or usage is a disservice to the industry.

John Watson Director of Technical ServicesSloan Valve Co., Franklin Park, Ill.

Author response: First and foremost, I agree that dual-flush toilets and flushometers should save water. However, to fully quantify the water-saving potential of this technology, more third-party, peer-reviewed studies of actual water savings need to be conducted. In addition, increased efforts on behalf of manufacturers to educate customers on how best to use dual-flush technology will help engineers make smarter decisions about specifying plumbing products.

There are several high-efficiency flushing platforms available, and it’s imperative that the right kind of technology is used in the right application. Furthermore, we need to ensure these technologies provide the water savings consumers expect. While there’s no doubt that some consumers save water with dual-flush toilets, it’s not clear that everyone will. Consumers ultimately benefit by having the widest variety of water-efficient plumbing products from which to choose.

Rob Zimmerman Senior Staff Engineer — water conservation Kohler Co., kohler, Wis.

When the green fad fades

I want to thank you for expressing what many of us have been feeling. In 2002 I started writing a book tentatively titled “A Sustainable Guide for the Tail.” The purpose of the book was to help HVAC engineers to “wag the dog” when it came to energy-efficient design. At the time, it seemed like conscientious energy engineers were tilting at windmills trying to get architects to care about sustainability. Since then, of course, green has become all the rage, and now we are the whipping boys being told to squeeze out as many U.S. Green Building Council LEED Energy and Atmosphere credits as possible.

I have grown sick of sustainability discussions and the ubiquitous green washing that has inundated society, our industry in particular. In my early career I had the honor of working with Dave Sellers, PE, who is a member of Consulting-Specifying Engineer ‘s editorial advisory board. We were both mentored by Bill Coad, PE, a past president of ASHRAE, and taught an energy ethic that went beyond hype. Green design was not the goal—it was simply the result of good design.

When the sun sets on the fad—and it can’t happen too quickly for me—I hope that all of us in the buildings industry will maintain the proper heading and continue to advocate for responsible designs. I just hope the “dogs” are still listening.

Kevin Dickens , PE, LEED APDeputy Director, Mechanical Engineering JACOBS, St. Louis

LEED and construction safety

Regarding your June 2008 Viewpoint, “LEEDing construction safety a Natural Step,” I have been in the construction industry for almost 50 years, most of which have been with a heavy-highway contractor in the Buffalo, N.Y. area (and have to disagree that LEED should incorporate construction safety). We always stressed worker safety as a priority and achieved a high level of safety among our workforce.

How will it be possible to require the green construction company to not only revisit its safety rules to include all aspects of construction, whatever the type (building, tunneling, etc.), but to get all contractors to willfully embody them and also to get enough knowledgeable inspectors to enforce them? It would be great for this to happen, but I don’t believe the willingness, other than verbal, exists to ever make it a reality.

Robert C. Tulett Construction Consultant McMahon & Mann Consulting Engineers, Buffalo, N.Y.

While I am a firm believer in job-site safety, I have to disagree about where it should be made part of a project (for U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified buildings). It certainly should be a part of any contract, but LEED is about energy and efficiency. It should not be watered down by including a bunch of specifications about other aspects of the work. Typically job-site safety issues, whether trench shoring, high-steel harnesses and walkways, or whatever type of safety measure is necessary, should stand as their own specification section as part of the contract. If you want to put safety in the LEED portion, then why not add product quality, workmanship, or methods of payment? There could be a never-ending list of important items to include.

LEED certification is not the entire project—it is a concept for design, construction, and use of the project, but it is only a part.

Dan Chase Senior Engineer Penfield & Smith, Camarillo, Calif.

Author response: I thank Tulett and Chase for their excellent points, which carry a lot of weight in terms of practicality. However, I believe that’s part of the problem with LEED and other green building rating systems that are not tied to over-arching sustainability principles, such as The Natural Step, as my Viewpoint discussed. Philosophically, I cannot abide that a building constructed with near-slave labor is green, nor one that experienced preventable deaths because the construction company disregarded safety measures and did not respond to workers’ concerns. Otherwise, the “triple bottom line” is that buildings are good for the environment, the economy, and for people (construction workers are excepted).

I agree with what Chase said in a follow-up letter: “As sustainability concepts and environmental protection in general evolves to where it has to be, if we are to continue, these aspects, and some we haven’t even thought about yet, will be worked through.”

Michael Ivanovich Editor-In-Chief

In memory of Thomas Laskowski, PE

With great sadness I would like to inform the engineering community that Thomas F. Laskowski, PE, passed away unexpectedly. My dad was the author of the article “Remaking History,” published in the June 2003 issue of Consulting-Specifying Engineer . The article highlighted his award-winning work at Peabody Mansion in Oak Brook, Ill.

Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, my dad began his career in 1958 as a draftsman. More than 30 years of his 50-year career were served as director of engineering, including nine years as owner and CEO of his own consulting, contracting, and design company. His work spanned civic, commercial, industrial, food, and pharmaceutical industries, and it was also frequently recognized by his peers for excellence. My dad also managed, trained, and mentored countless engineers; he loved nothing more than to share his vast knowledge and experience when asked for input regarding any aspect of a job.

Of my dad’s various hobbies, airplanes were often found at the top of the list. From building models when he was a boy, to everything related to the P-51 Mustang, aviation appealed to his technical and analytical nature.

My dad passed shortly after my mom picked him up from the train station after he had just completed his work week. He was fortunate enough to spend his life doing what he was meant to be: a family man and a professional engineer. His final moments were a nexus of the great passions of his life: He was with the woman he loved, at the southeast corner of Midway Airport, and still working full-time as a professional engineer at the top of his game. If it had to be, the conclusion of a strong, true, and beautiful life couldn’t have been more fitting.

Michael Laskowski Palos Heights, Ill.

40 Under 40 corrections

In the 40 Under 40 profiles appearing in the July 2008 issue, we regret that a few errors were made in the profiles of the honorees:

The correct company name for Mike Westemeier, PE, is LKPB Engineers Inc.

For Jeffrey Tubbs, PE, we would like to restate two lines: Tubbs is the lead author (with former Arupian Brian Meacham) of the text “Egress Design Solutions: A Guide to Evacuation and Crowd Management Planning.” He led Arup’s work supporting the National Construction Safety Team’s investigation of the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island.

Alfred N. Kovalik is a PE and LEP, not LEED AP.


Send your letters to Michael Ivanovich, editor-in-chief, Consulting-Specifying Engineer , 2000 Clearwater Drive, Oak Brook, IL 60523, or via e-mail tomichael.ivanovich@reedbusiness.com.

Letters should be no longer than 200 words, and may be edited for space, style, spelling, and grammar.