For years, MEP engineers have debated the untapped potential lying within the walls and ceilings of virtually every modern commercial building: fire protection piping. Building owners sink a hefty sum into fire sprinkler infrastructure. Why not tap into this water distribution network for other uses, like toilet flushing?
Until recently, code officials have told Building Teams “hands off,” for fear of jeopardizing the integrity of these critical systems. But they are slowly coming around.
Two recent innovations are indicative of the trend. The first, the Fluid-Driven Sprinkler Light, utilizes a water turbine micro-generator with high-illumination LED light engines to provide emergency lighting without the need for batteries or other power sources (pictured above). Developed by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, the technology can provide for safer access and egress during fires, when buildings are engulfed by smoke.
High temperatures activate the sprinklers, and the flow of the water generates electricity to power the LEDs, which project a laser-based holography pattern light. The lights can be positioned to illuminate evacuation routes.
For the $29 million, four-level addition to the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research Expansion, in Ann Arbor, the engineering team, led by MEP engineer Peter Basso Associates, utilized the building’s fire protection piping system to distribute chilled water to the chilled beams (pictured, below). The dual-function design eliminated approximately 70% of the piping normally associated with a chilled beam system, and reduced first cost by an estimated $500,000.
It is the first installation of its kind in the U.S., and it required that all components of the combined fire protection/chilled beam system be rated for a minimum 175 PSIG (pounds per square inch gage) operating pressure, according to Brian Runde, PE, LEED AP, VP with Peter Basso Associates. He says using chilled beams helped the project reduce overall building energy use by 37.2% versus an ASHRAE 90.1-compliant building.
Photo: Peter Basso Associates