#136 - 500 Million Gallons at Hickam AFB, Hawaii
The Sprinkler Nerd ShowSeptember 15, 202321:468.72 MB

#136 - 500 Million Gallons at Hickam AFB, Hawaii

500 Million Gallons at Hickam AFB

In this episode, Andy has a discussion with Paul Bassett, in the car, driving to the Hickam AFB in Honolulu Hawaii. 

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Andy: Welcome back to a very special edition of the Sprinkler Nerd Show. I'm your host, Andy Humphrey, joined by the one and only the magnificent Paul Bassett live, well not live, as close to live as we can get from the island of Oahu, Honolulu, on the way to, where are we going today, Paul? 

Paul: We're going to the Hickam Air Force Base, where we're saving a bunch of water by retrofitting out some old, antiquated irrigation systems.

Andy: And I think we should, you should give a little background on the Hickam project and why. Why you're here and then we can see if we have enough time to discuss why why I'm here with you But give us some background on the Hickam 

Paul: project Well, we were lucky to be fortunate to be selected to help the Air Force Base and our client Amoresco save energy and water They're using based on our analysis initially in this particular project over half a billion gallons of water

If you are an irrigation professional, old or new, who designs, installs, or maintains high end residential, commercial, or municipal properties, and you want to use technology to improve your business, to get a leg up on your competition, even if you're an old school irrigator from the days of hydraulic 

Andy: systems, this show is for you.

Paul: Um, specifically on the irrigation system, we analyzed them consuming about 300, 350 million gallons annually to virtually apply water to the grass around the common areas and the housing 

Andy: units. Is that just outdoor water use or is that indoor and 

Paul: outdoor? Well, the half a billion would have been total.

So 350 million approximately annually on the landscape and 150 million. Uh, on the interior homes and 

Andy: businesses and facilities. Wow. So Envacore though is headquarters in Maryland. How does a company headquarters in Maryland end up securing a project here in Honolulu? 

Paul: Well, fortunately for us, we do work all over the country, uh, with regards to the Department of Defense.

And we've been working with this particular client as long as we've been in business, 15, 20 years. So they trust, we're a trusted partner with them. So we're able to secure projects virtually all over the world with this client. And the client's Amoresco? Client on this one is Amoresco, yes, and they're, they're an energy service company.

So what we do is we help them, when they secure projects, develop and build energy and water conservation projects for them that, that pay for themselves and the reduction of the utility bills. 

Andy: So people oftentimes hear about these projects and hear about opportunities to conserve water and do performance contracting and generate an ROI that has a payback return on the savings, but I don't think a lot of, let's say, industry, Companies and professionals have an opportunity to get involved with them.

So maybe you could tell us a little bit more about, you know, about this side of the, of the industry that only a few get to participate in right now. 

Paul: Well, I think luckily for us, we've found a way. to really parlay irrigation savings into performance contracting. So it's really water savings as a service.

And the key to the success that we've had over the years is we deploy and integrate the newest and latest technology to be able to almost in real time watch the water consumption move through the water meters and then report on that information directly to our client. So one of the benefits that we have is that You know, we, we calculate savings based on evapotranspiration and the amount of water being applied to the landscape.

But in the real world, you really need the data to prove out the savings that you promised. So in order for our company and my company to be successful, we have to prove year after year that what we calculated in the water savings is real and tangible. 

Andy: Awesome. So let's go back to, in order to... potential is.

Let's, let's go back to when this project first started. When was that? What year were you first involved and how do you actually start looking at a project like this for the first time? 

Paul: Well, this project has been going on since 2015. Initially there's been a lot of back and forth and up and down and contract negotiations and challenges.

But what we typically do is we'll get the water bill and the utility bill and we'll analyze, you know, how much either energy or water. Water is being consumed and we determine from there what either gallons per square foot or gallons per person is being consumed and we'll do a weather analysis and we'll calculate how much water should be consumed by this particular plant in this particular climate and then we look at the utility bill and we say, huh, we think this site should be using 20 gallons per square foot annually and we see it's using 30 gallons per square foot annually.

And then right away at that point, we know that we have an opportunity for savings. 

Andy: Okay. So you do the analysis and then at what point do you actually come on site to do some verification and to look and see if that's actually poor performance with controls, if there's leaks, if it's distribution, when do you come in and do your first analysis?

Paul: Well, when we do the utility analysis initially, and then we determine the viability of the opportunity, meaning we deem that there is potential for savings by looking at all of it. Okay. data. And if the data says yes, we think there's an opportunity. Then at that point, we all agree that we're going to engage into a contract and then we're going to deploy folks to be able to come out and actually physically do the audits, run through the irrigation systems, count all the sprinklers, try to determine the flow rates, extract the schedules and controls, and then establish from that point what the actual irrigation system or plumbing system or lighting system is consuming energy and value.

I'm going to the 

Andy: utility bills. Okay. So your team put eyes on every sprinkler on this project several times. Yes. Wow. Okay. So let's talk about the scale of this project so that the listeners can visualize what, what this is. So maybe let's talk about, let's go top down. If you can recall some of the data in terms of how many water sources, how many controllers, how many zones and potentially how many sprinklers.

Paul: Well, as I mentioned prior to the, um, Initial conversation, Andy, we initially analyzed that they were using, consuming about half a billion gallons of water through all of the piping network and infrastructure. We then got all the housing unit counts and the peoples and bodies per potties. And we had meter data for all the irrigation.

And then once we deemed that, then it was time to get really boots on the ground. And then from that point, we, we really go in and identify all the controllers, all the water supplies, all the valves. We put it all on a map, um, inventory, everything at that point. And, and then we know exactly what we're going to be getting involved with at that point.


Andy: So how many is that? You know, it's one thing to hear a half a billion gallons, but let's flip that over and turn and turn that into number of controllers, number of water sources, sprinkler count. What are those numbers look like? 

Paul: We were just over 200 controllers on the site that were not battery operated controllers, just standard plugin controllers.

We have 135, 140, I believe water connections where the feeding those 200 and some controllers. And then it was over 30, 000 sprinklers that were within the scope 

Andy: of services. Okay. And those sprinklers include pop up spray heads, three quarter inch rotors, and one inch rotors. And 

Paul: some drip. Some drip. You know, not much, but some drip.

We're phasing the drip out of the scopes. Okay. Well, 

Andy: there's not a lot of projects opportunity. Well, maybe there are, but they 200 controller retrofit opportunity and 135 water sources. That's a massive scale. And, what I didn't realize about this base before visiting is that it's like a village. People live here.

You come through the gate, we're about to, right now, show them our DBID cards. To get access to the base, but this is like kind of Entering a private HOA community that's run by the government you live here you work here Everything happens on the base and maybe because I didn't grow up in the military.

This is all new to me There's probably a lot of listeners that are like, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, we know this but to me I guess I thought at first that the base was just military operations I didn't realize that people lived on the base and that all of this housing and infrastructure is managed 

Paul: Yeah, I mean, again, I think for us on this particular military base, I mean, there's a bunch of soldiers that live and work on the base and they consume water.

They have consume energy. They want their grass to look good. I'm just like the rest of us who live in the regular population. Sorry Andy,

we were going through the gates. So 

Andy: I got distracted. Yeah, we going through real time, getting our security checked out right now.

Awesome. Thank you. Thank you too. And, uh, I also I should have done my homework, but I didn't realize this is a. a joint base or what a joint base even Really meant and so this is and you can tell me paul. This is the air force and the navy. Is that correct? 

Paul: Yeah, the official name of the site is joint base pearl harbor hickam okay, and we're we're working on the hickam side, which is the Air Force side of the military privatized housing 

Andy: because this is a very strategic location for the United States and it's security for the world here in the Pacific.

So they have air and sea operations, not really land operations because there's no land here. This is all this is in the middle of the. Pacific Ocean. So we have the air, right? And the sea joint on this base. 

Paul: Yeah. And ideally if, if you think about how we're working here, it's primarily to reduce the amount of energy and water that the federal government spends on this utility.

So we are helping the taxpayers reduce our debt or demand on the utility spent on this base. 

Andy: And at this point, uh, let's start back. What, when did you start the actual renovations? 

Paul: Well, once we got the approval to move forward with the construction, we started October of 2022. So we're just about a year and 11 months in into construction, um, which we're about halfway through the project.

Um, it was a two year. Construction period. So we're about halfway in and, and we're right on, right on schedule with, with the construction timeframe. 

Andy: Okay. And I think, you know, let's, let's talk a little bit about, I would love to hear from you. Where, where are you, where do you start? So you did the analysis, you know what you need to change.

You've got your, you know, marching orders. Where do you start 

Paul: first? Well, we were dictated here by the military and the housing folks on where we wanted to start. And there's some specifics that they wanted us to focus on certain areas of the base. And as you know now, Andy, there's multiple... neighborhoods that we work in.

There's five distinct neighborhoods that we worked in, so we're, we're focusing on a neighborhood at a time. We're going in and completing that specific neighborhood, getting that fully functioning, getting that up a hundred percent, and then we can start managing the water and the data. And then once we complete a given neighborhood, then we move on to the next 

Andy: neighborhood.

Okay, and do you start with controls and get control of the system and work down to the sprinkler, or do you start with the sprinkler and work back 

Paul: up to the controls? Well, we have a couple of different crews that we have, uh, deployed on the base. We have one crew that is focused on controls, number one, then we have another crew that we have come in as going to do the flow sensor master valves install.

And then the, the final crew, which is the largest of the crews are the ones that are replacing all the sprinkler heads. So ideally we, we just, depending on how the. Workflow is the first crew goes in and starts retrofitting all the controls. That way we reduce or remove all of the standard control systems and then get control with the web based remote opportunity.

And that way it's easier for the managers to control the control system remotely while the guys and gals on the ground are really doing the, doing the dirty work. And 

Andy: what type of controls do you have here? Did you go? 

Paul: We, we, um, went with weather track, which is, you know, the. System that's been proven beneficial for our company and our clients long term.

We've been deploying WeatherTrack for over 20 years. 

Andy: And, uh, which model 

Paul: weather track? The ET Pro 3. Okay. Um, and then because there's some complexity of the water supplies, we have multiple controllers on a single supply. We have multiple supplies on multiple controllers. So using their OptiFlow system really helps integrate and manage the water on some of these 

Andy: complex systems.

Okay. At this point, as of today, September 15th. How many controllers have you retrofitted and installed? 

Paul: Last I looked, we're about 125. So just over halfway, the halfway point of the controls. 

Andy: Okay, and are of all those 125, do they all have flow sensors and master valves? 

Paul: Today they don't because we're With the complexity of the digging permits and some of the other things.

I think we have about 30 to 35 of the flow sensors installed at this point. Um, and then now we just got approval recently to go ahead and start excavating and some of the other areas to start putting in the flow sensors and master valves. It's just a little more complex with digging and excavating here on a military base.

There's a complexity with regards to the, the permits that are required to dig on the site. Okay, so 

Andy: you've got, uh, I think you said maybe 35 flow sensors. How, who watches those or looks at those and do you have to report on those or what do you do with that 

Paul: data? Yeah, we have team members that their responsibility is to go ahead and analyze the data every day, take a look at all the reporting, take a look at all of the flow.

Um, and then if there's a, there's an anomaly or an alert condition and then we dispatch the folks on the ground to go ahead and analyze and determine what the problem is. Okay. 

Andy: And as of today, 11 months in, what, what's been the most difficult part of the project so far? 

Paul: What we've seen is the transition between our services and the existing maintenance services.

Like who's responsible for what? A lot of times they just wanted to go ahead and. Push everything on to us and the communication between our team and the existing facilities maintenance team Has been the biggest challenge trying to let them understand that they're still responsible For the neighborhoods that they have been working in and we're responsible for the neighborhoods We're working in so trying to get all of the parties together to make sure we're all working as one has been the biggest challenge Okay, 

Andy: so let's uh I think let's maybe not bring this to a total close, but let's move to, you know, what we've been working on this week without, you know, exact details.

Uh, you know, but maybe we should just talk a little bit about the concept of these very difficult, hard to manage areas that were part of this project that fall outside the standard scope of replacing a controller. And, you know, requiring some, some different type of technology that, you know, we look forward to sharing with the listeners at some point here in the future.

And this is not a, a testing ground, but this is a unique application that we're able to deploy some very innovative technology to solve particular problems that traditional industry isn't able to solve. 

Paul: Yeah. Well, good, good insight, Andy. One of the things that we found on this particular facility is that there's a lot of.

Medians that are going through the neighborhoods. Um, and they're running and operating on a battery timer controller. So there's no remote activation or remote monitoring. So what we're doing is we're, we're in the midst of deploying some smart valves. What is a smart valve? A smart valve has more than just one activation.

So it has flow sensing and master control and pressure and soil moisture. So what we're able to do is take away that old school just running whatever that time battery controller was and being able to provide remote access into that insight and be able to actuate that valve and monitor that flow remotely.


Andy: valve to the cloud where there is no infrastructure. There's no wires. There's no control. We just have one valve in a median We can now take that information put it right to the cloud manage it remotely and have all 

Paul: of the data And that's really what has been extremely fun and rewarding to be able to deploy Some of this new technology into a place where they're just been using traditional controls.


Andy: and when it is just a single battery operated controller that is not connected to anything it runs a schedule, right? It does that schedule every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at a particular time and that's part of the water waste issue is there was no Smarter automation just ran like a 

Paul: Like a clock and that the problem with that is is because of the site so big and it's hard to manage That these things that batteries die and now that area is brown and nobody understands Why or the they never adjust the clock from the summer rotation?

So it was running seven days a week and then in the winter time It's still running seven days a week because nobody really sees it So there was really a lack of insight and management of those particular devices Yeah, 

Andy: and there is outside of this project, there is a really big market opportunity for this technology.

And I cannot wait to, uh, share this with the world when we're ready, perhaps at the IA show. For those of you listening, if you would like to join us at the IA show, we may be ready to share a little bit more about what we've been, what we've been working on and what Paul's deployed here at Hickam. Super exciting.

Paul: Well, Andy, I know we are going to wrap this up because we got another. Half a day here to finish up this project. 

Andy: So, and you're going to get dirty, right? I'm going to sit here in the car and edit up this podcast, right? You're going to, you're going to get, get dirty today. 

Paul: I suppose not much editing luckily for this one today, Andy.

Andy: Yeah. This might be one of the podcasts that is totally in the raw, not much editing. So I hope our mics work. Paul's got a mic on, I've got a mic on again, technology, dual wireless mics, just piped into my iPhone right here. So we got to the site. We're ready to finish up our last day. Thank you guys for listening.

Keep your eyes open. There are projects like this that are out there. And large or small, there's plenty of projects like this. If you keep your eyes open, you will find them. Any, uh, last words of advice, Paul, for someone looking to maybe, you know, not get out of just installing sprinklers, but expand their business into more of this conservation performance contracting?

I mean, 

Paul: my... Thoughts to that is just keep your eyes wide open, be willing and open to change and test and fail and then succeed after you fail. That's what I've learned. And there's a lot of times with when you're dealing with technology that it doesn't work right out of the box. It's new. It's innovative.

It's testing. It's trying. So that's really what we're doing. And what I've done over my career is, um, you test and you fail and you proceed on. And eventually. You're going to get to a point where you're going to find success because 

Andy: if it were easy, anyone would do it. This is the truth. Awesome.

Appreciate your time. Paul. Good week with you. I thank you so much and appreciate everybody listening. Mahalo. Mahalo.