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crumb trail: Home >> Whistle Online >> Archives >> Sept. 10, 2007

Using captured water to serve campus landscape

Michael Hagearty
Institute Communications and Public Affairs

When the city of Atlanta announced tighter water restrictions for its residents in May, Georgia Tech began looking for alternative ways to take care of its plants. Although watering one day a week is sufficient for some of Georgia Tech’s landscape, other areas were jeopardized by the drought.

  Isadore Snead irrigates campus lawn
  Despite record-setting heat, Facilities workers such as Isadore Snead (above) help keep the campus looking green and lush. How do they do it? A primary method is redistributing the captured condensate from the massive air conditioning units servicing campus buildings. That water is transferred to 1,500-gallon containers (below) and moved around campus for use on lawns, flower beds and other landscaping.
  one of the condensate tanks

As with any other city resident, Tech is allowed to draw from the city water supply one day per week. The remainder has to come from other sources.

Buildings such as the Klaus Advanced Computing Building and the Molecular Science Building were designed with in-ground cisterns to capture both air conditioning condensate and stormwater, which in turn provides for the surrounding area. Georgia Tech Facilities decided to tap this condensate water elsewhere, collecting it from two other buildings to irrigate the remainder of campus.

Those collection tanks, located at the Campus Recreation Center and the Environmental Science and Technology Building, harvest about 10,000 gallons of water per day. It is then redistributed in mobile tanks based on priorities established by Georgia Tech Landscape Services.

Howard Wertheimer, director of Capital Planning and Space Management, credited Facilities’ administration for managing a difficult situation.

“I think Chuck Rhode, Warren Page and Hyacinth Ide have done a good job coming up with a successful strategy for capturing water that would otherwise go down the storm sewer and using it to take care of some of our needs on campus,” he said.

New landscaping is an exception. The city lifts the ban for 30 days in those instances. But as Capital Planning and Space Management Master Planner Anne Boykin-Smith pointed out, the drought is also having an effect on project planning. Sod for the new green space adjacent to the Van Leer Building and the College of Architecture, for example, was delayed in part to minimize the effects of the drought.

“Any new landscaping that we’ve installed — such as Tech Green North — are within the city’s watering restrictions,” she said. “We’re postponing planting the shrubs and trees in that area until at least October or November.”

Other steps taken include placing large bags filled with water at the base of immature trees, which slowly soak the root systems. In keeping with the directives of the Campus Master Plan, Landscaping Services plant native, drought-tolerant vegetation that is more capable of surviving the tough summer months.



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Last Modified: September 11, 2007