All Posts By

Tim Zacharias

Green Stormwater Infrastructure article

By | Flood Protection

Last August, the City of Houston’s Chief Recovery Office commissioned a one-year study to identify and recom­mend incentives to encourage the use of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in private land develop­ment, leading to economic, social, and environmental benefits as well as resilience.

In the a report, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said “While we continue to pursue large-scale projects to reduce flood risk, Hurricane Harvey and other floods have highlighted the necessity to employ a holistic stormwater management approach which integrates green infrastructure into our existing drainage systems.”

GSI is a stormwater management tool that can increase a property’s operating income, provide green amenities for resi­dents and improve storm drainage, creating a win-win situation for owners, residents and the community. The report defines GSI and outlines the potential four incentives with implementa­tion timelines.

GSI designs use multiple techniques to manage stormwater on a property the way it would behave on a greenfield lot, rather than diverting directly to storm drains, reducing the impact of the development on the downstream municipal stormwater infrastructure, especially during heavy rainfall events like Houston has seen over the years. Techniques that capture and reuse stormwater reduce potable water demands from municipal water systems, which can reduce the property’s water costs. Large amounts of energy are required to purify and distribute water at the municipal level, so reductions in water demands can reduce energy consumption as well. Many of these techniques detailed below will be limited to new developments, but some can be applied to existing properties.

GSI Techniques to Manage Stormwater

Bioretention systems, or rain gardens, can slow the rate of stormwater runoff on a property using native vegetation planted on an engineered substructure of mulch, gravel, fabric and an underdrain. The water is captured and filtered through the layers and eventually drains to the municipal stormwater system. Rain gardens provide additional wildlife habitats and improve the visual appeal of the property.

Green roofs take advantage of unused space to create a green space that can capture and use rainwater, as well as add an amenity for residents. The additional structural and drainage design requirements may limit converting existing roofs, but these can be addressed in a new development project.

Permeable pavement allows stormwater to flow through to an underdrain system or below-grade cistern; again, this slows the runoff rather than diverting the runoff directly to municipal stormwater drains like impervious materials. Permeable pay­ments combined with a rainwater harvesting system can increase the volume of water collected and available for reuse.

Rainwater harvesting systems collect water from roofs, park­ing lots, etc. for reuse on the property for irrigation, cooling tower makeup or greywater systems such as flushing toilets. Above ground storage tanks or underground cisterns can be used for the water collection. Filtration, treatment and pump systems will also be required to reuse the water, but the long-term savings in water costs can be significant. Rainwater harvesting systems can be added to existing facilities, but limited available space for large storage tanks may limit their effectiveness.

Soil amendments, urban forestry, and vegetated filter strips are all techniques to slow the stormwater runoff on a property using native vegetation and trees. These techniques can be applied to existing properties and new developments.

The initial cost to design and install GSI systems may be higher than traditional alternatives, however, the operating costs can be lower and provide a positive ROI over time for the owner and reduced expenses for the residents. In addition, four incentive programs have been proposed to offset these costs and encour­age GSI projects. Those are:

  • Integrated GSI Development Rules
  • Property Tax Abatements
  • Award and Recognition Program
  • Increased Permitting Process Certainty and Speed

Based on feedback from developers, current development rules do not promote the use of GSI techniques in new developments. New integrated GSI development rules would incentivize devel­opers to use GSI techniques by allowing an alternative set of rules for permitting that could reduce overall project costs by 2% and site costs by 34%.

Along similar lines, an alternative permitting program could speed up the permitting time and reduce costs. The recommen­dation is for a team review process where stakeholders meet for two to four hours, review the designs, make any required changes and then issue permits immediately after the meeting.

Property tax abatements are the second incentive recommend­ed in the study. By reducing future property taxes, developers can cover some or all of the additional costs related to GSI projects.

A reward and recognition program is another way to incen­tivize GSI projects in Houston, however, without the financial benefits of the other incentives proposed, a recognition program alone is unlikely to motivate developers to use GSI projects.

The report outlines the related stakeholders and a plan for implementation with timelines for all of the incentives proposed. Additionally, it is recommended that multiple incentives are used together to incentivize developers more to use GSI projects. Visit the City of Houston website to see the full report.

Although it’s not covered in the report, another incentive that could potentially be used for GSI on existing properties is Property Accessed Clean Energy funding. PACE is a financial tool that property owners can use to fund projects that reduce water and energy consumption on their property with a long-term assessment against the property with no or little initial capital expense. For more information on PACE, visit the Texas PACE Authority website.

Many of the GSI projects could also earn points toward a LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council. For devel­opers already pursuing a LEED certification, GSI related incen­tives may be even more desirable. For more information on LEED, visit the USGBC website.

GSI projects will have a very positive impact on the City of Houston as they increase property value and operating income, improve amenities for residents and improve stormwater drainage for the greater community. As demand for sustainable buildings increases from residents and the incentive programs offset additional costs, we will, hopefully, see it become the stan­dard practice in the not so distant future.

This article was originally published in HAA’s ABODE magazine. Click here to see the original article.

Disaster Preparedness Planning for Hurricane Season

By | Flood Protection

June 1st marks the beginning of Hurricane Season, and the NOAA predicts 2020 will be busier than average.  While many property & facility managers are still working through the building operations changes required due to COVID-19, there are some additional measures to consider in preparation for potential heavy rains and flooding.  The National Weather Service and FEMA have guidelines for the overall planning, so we will highlight a few items specific to water systems in commercial buildings.

Before the Storm

It is critical to regularly perform Preventive Maintenance (PM) on Storm Sump Pump Stations to ensure their performance.  A PM should include a visual inspection of the sump basin, verifying the operation of each pump, and the control panel.  Cougar USA now offers Preventive Maintenance programs on Sump Stations, as well as other water control systems.

During the Storm

If you have an issue during a storm, Cougar USA Technical Support and Service can be reached 24/7 at 832-678-3930.  We help troubleshoot issues over the phone and with our Remote Guidance App that allows us to see what you see in real-time. 

remote guidance

After the Storm

Cougar USA is available 24/7 to assist you.  We have service techs available for site visits and troubleshooting, as well as a fleet of rental Booster Pumps and Sump Pumps ready for install.  We also have a large inventory of replacement sump pumps, control panels, and parts to get you back up and running.

rental pumps

Please contact Cougar USA if you are interested in our Preventive Maintenance programs or other services. 

Maintaining Water Quality in Under Occupied or Unoccupied Buildings

By | Water Contamination

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about our lives in the last sixty days.  With the “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders and school closures, many commercial buildings are now under-occupied or completely unoccupied and may continue to be for months.  Without regular use from tenants, guests or students, it can be a challenge to maintain a building’s water systems.  Reduced consumption at the municipal supply and within the building can lead to reduced levels of chlorine and allow for bacteria growth, most notably Legionella, in the piping. 

To maintain water quality, a building’s water systems need to be flushed and tested.  Opening faucets, showers (hot & cold), flushing toilets, draining dead legs, running drinking fountains & bottle fillers, ice machines, coffee makers, and other appliances on a regular schedule will prevent the water from becoming stagnant and potentially allowing bacteria growth.  If any of these fixtures drain to a sanitary sump station, it needs to be pumped down on a similar schedule to prevent water sitting in the basin for long periods.  The schedule for flushing building’s water systems will vary depending on occupancy, size, age, and design.

Regular water testing will provide feedback on the building’s water quality.  Cougar USA can provide on-site Legionella testing Spartan Bio Cube and deliver results in 45 minutes.  If Legionella is detected in the water, we can provide recommendations for short-term remediation and long-term mitigation. 

Please contact Cougar USA for more information on flushing and testing.

832.912.7500

Cougar USA Customer Service during COVID-19 Outbreak

By | General Info

At this point, you have received multiple emails regarding companies’ response to COVID-19, so this will be a brief update on how Cougar USA can be of service moving forward. Our first priority is the safety of our employees, partners, and customers, and we will adapt to the changing situation to serve our customers the best we can.

Our office, warehouse, and panel shop are open with normal hours, but we will be limiting activities such as in-person training (more on that below). We will have a portion of our team working remotely; however, this will be seamless for you as we are using cloud-based communication systems.

Our service techs and sales team are available for site visits and will take all necessary precautions while on site.

We also have multiple ways to support you remotely!

Virtual Meetings.

We can host video calls and screen share one on one or with large teams.

virtual meetings

Remote Guidance Support

With our Remote Guidance tool, we can initiate an interactive video call with you and guide you through a service call or site visit as if we are on site.

Remote guidance

Live Webinar Training Classes. 

Our in-person training schedule has been replaced with live, interactive online webinars. You will still be able to participate in the Kahoot for prizes at the end of the class!  We can also provide Lunch & Learns using this format as well.

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Night’s Watch 24/7

Our support team remains on call to help with anything you may need.

832.912.7500

Guide to Reopening Buildings After COVID-19

By | General Info, Water Contamination

Buildings that have been unoccupied or under-occupied for the last 30-60 days may have some water quality issues to address before opening back up. Here are some resources to help this transition as smooth as possible:

Webinar

We recently hosted a webinar with Patrick Verwys from Triple Clear where he explains the potential water quality issues and how the Force Field filter technology can help in multiple applications.  Watch the webinar here.

Guides

Mike Fehr (owner of Fehr Solutions, an independent water consultant), created two checklists that outline a detailed plan to identify systems, how to flush and/or change filters, and how to test the results to ensure the system is clean. Click below for the guides on Potable and Non-Potable water systems.

On-Site Legionella Testing

We can provide On-Site, accurate testing for live Legionella bacteria with results in 45 minutes using the Spartan Cube.  For more information click below.

Point of Use Filters

We have Triple Clear Force Field filters in stock for multiple applications.

  • Point of Use Filter Kit – installed before any sink, ice machine, coffee maker, etc. 
  • Elkay & Halsey Taylor Drinking Fountains and Bottle Filling Stations – direct replacement filters with Force Field.

ASHRAE

The ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has developed a guide with recommendations for building reopening.As well as, guidelines on operations of HVAC systems to prepare for the reopening of schools and universities.

Digital Thermometer

This device can monitor people’s temperature in building’s entrances 

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions/ concerns. You can contact us here or call

832.912.7500

5 Ways to Protect Your Building From City Water Disruptions

By | Water Contamination

Water is the Life Blood of commercial buildings, used for consumption, comfort heating & cooling, and patient care & sterilization in Hospitals. Disruptions in the city water supply can cause major issues from building closures to damaged equipment. Here are some ways to protect your building before, during and after losing the city water supply.

Monitor City Pressure

The City of Houston has a unique amendment to the UPC that requires an atmospheric storage tank of water before adding pressure boosting pumps. During an outage, the tank water level will be drawn down by consumption in the building, mainly the cooling tower make-up, and eventually, the tank and your piping will go dry because the tank level is not restored by city water. Getting a low city water pressure alarm from your tank level control panel allows you to take action and reduce water consumption before the tank and piping run dry.

Monitor Storage Tank Levels

Many storage tanks in Houston use Float Style valves to make up the water in the tank. These are mechanical valves that do not require a control panel to operate them, however, a simple Tank Level Alarm Panel can monitor the tank level and provide feedback to the Building Automation system in the event of a High or Low-Level Alarm. The Level Alarm Panel also can be used to protect your Booster Pump System from running dry through a Pump Low-Level Cutoff output. Without monitoring city pressure and/or tank water levels, there is no way to know there is an issue until it’s too late.

Protect Pumps from Running Dry 

If pumps run dry (not fully primed with water) it will quickly damage the seals and bearings leading to pump failure. Booster Systems are usually designed to have pressurized suction so a low suction pressure alarm is used to protect the pumps from running dry. When pulling from an atmospheric storage tank this will not work because the pressure from the tank is too low. There are two ways to protect the pumps from running dry.

  • Connect the pump control panel to the tank level controls and use the Pump Low-Level Cutoff Alarm output to shut down the pumps on Tank Low Level. This is very effective because it will shut off the pumps before any air is introduced into the suction line.
  • Install a sensor on the suction side of the pump system to monitor for the presence of air. This can also be effective, but it does require manually restarting your pump system because air has to be bled from the pumps and the suction piping.

Slowly Fill & Pressurize the Building

If the building riser and piping completely loses water, the system pressure has to be slowly restored to avoid damaging pipes and fixtures with water hammer. The CU352 Controller on the Grundfos BoosterpaQ has an automatic Soft Pressure Build up feature that can be enabled and programmed to safely refill and pressurize your building. If your system does not have this feature enabled, or if you don’t have a Grundfos BoosterpaQ, then the process can be done manually by first slowly filling the building riser and then slowly pressuring the system, as shown in this video.

Firewall Filtration

When city water pressure is restored, there may be boil notices to address any contamination that may have occurred during the outage. There are two ways to protect your building from waterborne bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals using Triple Clear Force Field Filtration that will create a Firewall for your building’s water supply.

  • Point of Entry Filtration– A filtration system installed at the point of entry into the building, or just after the booster pump system, that filters all water used in the building. These typically have multiple stages of pre-filtration to extend the life of the Force Field Filter.
  • Point of Use Filtration – A smaller Force Field Filter can be added to any point of use in the building, such as a faucet, coffee machine, ice machine, water fountains, and bottle fillers.

If your building has lost water and you would like help getting your building back up and running, please call our Service and Tech Support line at 832-678-3930.

If you would like a free assessment of your building’s water system, please contact us here, or call 832-912-7500.

Low-Flow Shutdown Sequence for Pressure-Boosting Systems

By | Energy Savings, Pressure

According to ASHRAE 90.1, Domestic Water Booster Systems must shut down during periods of no flow demand. Operating pump systems when there is little or no demand wastes energy and increases wear and tear on the pump and piping system. While this sounds simple, it is one of the most challenging control sequences for a Booster System.

Domestic Water Booster Systems are used to supply water to commercial buildings to be used in restrooms, kitchens, and to make up water to Hydronic Systems like Cooling Towers. The demand for water will change throughout the day and the pump system must be able to respond to these changes. In commercial office buildings, for example, there can be long periods of little or no water demand overnight when the building is empty or even in the middle of the afternoon when the building is occupied.

Domestic Water Booster Systems are used to supply water to commercial buildings to be used in restrooms, kitchens, and to make up water to Hydronic Systems like Cooling Towers. The demand for water will change throughout the day and the pump system must be able to respond to these changes. In commercial office buildings, for example, there can be long periods of little or no water demand overnight when the building is empty or even in the middle of the afternoon when the building is occupied.

For a pump system to perform a low-flow shutdown, it must first be able to measure the flow demands in the system. Flow Switches and Flow Meters are mechanical means of measuring flow, which can work, but both require proper installation in the system piping for proper readings. Space and piping constraints can limit the installation of switches or flow meters.

System Controllers like the Grundfos CU352 on the BoosterpaQ can calculate system flow using feedback from the pump Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and pressure readings from the system headers, eliminating the need for additional flow sensors. Once the CU352 detects low flow, it will start the Low Flow Shutdown Sequence by ramping the pressure up above the set point for a preset period. This ensures the entire piping and bladder tank are pressurized before the pump package shuts down.

Hydro-pneumatic or bladder tanks are used in the piping system either at the pump discharge or off the main riser on the upper floors of a building. With a proper air charge (typically 5 to 7 PSI below system pressure at the tank), the bladder tank will maintain the system water pressure while the pumps are off during low flow. Water from the bladder tank can handle a small water demand such as a toilet flushing or a sink being used. Once the water from the bladder tank is used and the system pressure drops, the pump system will turn on briefly to re-pressurize the system and the bladder tank, then shut down again. This process will repeat until normal flow demands resume in the building and the CU352 Controller will operate the pumps normally.

A bad or improperly charged bladder tank and poor controls cause pumps to short cycle during low-flow demands. Pumps will turn off, only to have the system pressure drop immediately, causing the pumps to turn back on. Short cycling pumps in this manner will increase wear and tear on the pumps, motors and piping components, leading to early mechanical failures.

A pump system with a good low-flow shutdown sequence and properly sized bladder tank will provide constant water pressure with reduced energy savings and system wear. As part of a Building Assessment, Cougar USA reviews existing pump systems for low-flow shutdown controls and properly installed bladder tanks.

Design Considerations for Water Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) Stations in Commercial Buildings

By | Pressure

Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) Stations are an important component of a water-distribution system in a commercial building. The 2015 Uniform Plumbing Code Section 608.2 states that PRVs are required at any point where the system static pressure exceeds 80 PSI. Typically, this applies to mid- and high-rise buildings when the pressure boost required at the ground floor to serve the upper floors in the building is over 80 PSI. When designing a PRV Station, you must consider the station pressure drop, water flow, and safety devices.

To calculate the Pressure Drop across the PRV Station, we have to determine the inlet and outlet pressures. The inlet pressure is determined by the PRV location in the building. The lower the PRV is in the building, the higher the static inlet pressure will be. Typically, the PRVs are fed by a Pressure Boosting System that feeds the entire building, so the inlet pressure may also fluctuate a little, depending on the demand in the rest of the building.

The outlet pressure is determined by two factors. First is the number of floors the PRV Station is serving, and the second factor is whether the station is feeding the floors above or below the station. A good rule of thumb is that each floor will result in a pressure change of 5 PSI. If the floors fed by the PRV Station are the floors above, then you would need a higher outlet pressure at the PRV Station (around 65 to 75 PSI) because the pressure will drop about 5 PSI each floor higher in the piping. If the PRV Station is feeding the floors below, the outlet pressure would need to be lower (around 40 to 50 PSI) because the pressure will increase 5 PSI for each floor lower in the piping.

We recommend keeping the pressure drop across any single PRV to below 100 PSI to avoid poor performance, cavitation, noise and valve damage.

The water-flow demands of a PRV Station depend on the number of fixtures being served by the station andbcan be calculated using Hunter’s Curve, which unfortunately doesn’t account for diversity in the system demand. If the building’s water flow is overestimated, PRVs tend to be oversized and do not perform well at partial load conditions. Combining two valves in parallel with High and Low Flow Valves helps to keep both valves operating within their design conditions across all load demands. 

When a Pressure Reducing Valve fails, high-pressure water will be allowed to pass through the station to the fixtures downstream. By code, an expansion tank or relief valve is required downstream of the PRV. We recommend the use of a direct-acting relief valve, along with a control system to shut down water
flow. A pressure switch senses the high pressure downstream of the PRV and signals the control panel to close the block valve. The control panel also sends the alarm signal to the building manaement system to alert the building engineers. As with Level Control Systems, we always recommend monitoring these alarm outputs.  


Cla-Val has a Factory Sizing Program that provides Pressure Reducing Valve selections that handle the pressure drop across the entire flow range of the station without excessive velocity or noise. At Cougar, we take the valve selections from Cla-Val and combine them with our control system to provide a complete solution for Water PRV Stations.

For more information, or to request PRV sizing, please contact us here.

Avoiding Cavitation in Water Pressure Reducing Valves

By | Pressure

High-rise buildings present multiple challenges for water distribution due to the high pressures required to reach the top of the building. The high pressures in the lower levels of the building cause high-pressure drops across Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs), over 100 PSI or more, creating the potential for cavitation within the valves.

Cla-Val explains cavitation in this white paper, saying “Cavitation occurs when the velocity of the fluid at the valve seating area becomes excessive, creating a sudden, severe reduction in pressure that transforms the fluid into a vapor state, resulting in the formation of literally thousands of minute bubbles. The subsequent decrease in velocity and pressure rise that occurs after the valve seating area, when the pressurized condition resumes, causes these vapor bubbles to collapse at the rate of many times per second. Should this occur in close proximity to any metal surface, damage can take place. Over time, this can lead to valve failure.”

The damaging effects of cavitation include excessive noise, erosion of the valve and eventual valve failure. When designing a system with pressure drops greater than 100 PSI, there are two ways to avoid cavitation.

Cla-Val Cougar

The first is to use the Cla-Val Anti-Cavitation Trim option on the 90-01 Pilot Operated PRVs. The Anti-Cavitation trim controls the water flow through the disc and seat of the valve in a way that dissipates cavitation and its effect and allows the pressure drop to be taken across a single valve.

Cla-Reg Cougar

The second option is to use multiple valves in series to reduce the pressure in stages so that the pressure drop across each individual valve is less than 100 PSI. In the example above, the station pressure drop is 150 PSI (200 PSI to 50 PSI) with the first PRV reducing the pressure from 200 to 110 PSI, and the second from 110 to 50 PSI. Both the High Flow (Blue 90-01 Valves pictured) and the Low Flow (Bronze CRD-L’s) are configured in series for the staged pressure drop.   

The choice to use the Anti-Cavitation Trim or Valves in Series will depend on each application. Cla-Val has a Factory Sizing Program that provides PRV selections that handle the pressure drop across the entire flow range of the station without excessive velocity or noise. At Cougar, we take the valve selections from Cla-Val and combine them with our control system to provide a complete solution for Water PRV Stations.

For more information, or to request PRV sizing, please contact us.

A personal story of living Cougar’s mission

By | Uncategorized

Cougar USA’s mission is to make buildings work, so the people inside can do theirs. Over the last few months, this has become a personal mission of mine as well.

In November, my son Joey was born at Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women, and earlier this month had surgery in Legacy Tower to remove a benign cyst from his abdomen. Thanks to the amazing doctors and staff at TCH, Joey made a quick recovery – he definitely handled the surgery better than my wife Ashley and I did! After spending a few days recovering in West Tower, Joey was back smiling and being his happy self. Ashley and I feel very blessed that Joey’s case was minor compared to many families at Texas Children’s.

I have worked at Cougar for almost 12 years and I have always appreciated what our systems are used for in buildings, but it wasn’t until it was my son who needed them that I truly felt the impact of our work. It was a great feeling to know that Cougar helped provide the systems and services for the building’s operations.

Pictured on the left are the Texas Children’s Hospital Buildings we were in for delivery, surgery and recovery. Pictured on the right is the view from our recovery room in West Tower looking north down Fannin. Cougar has systems in almost all of these buildings, even the ones off in the distance on the right.

This experience with my son has made me proud to be a part of the Cougar team. I believe the best way I can serve our customers is through the Cougar USA Training Center, helping Consulting Engineers, Installing Contractors, and Building Engineers design, install and maintain water control systems in commercial buildings.

Like my son’s surgery, I know Cougar is a small part of the big picture in the daily activities of the Texas Medical Center; but for those few days in the hospital, there was nothing more important to me and my family. Not only do I feel lucky to have a happy, healthy baby boy, but I also feel honored that I can serve these hospitals every day and pay it forward to other families. The doctors, nurses, and staff at TCH (and throughout the Medical Center) perform miracles every day and Cougar works with our partners to make sure they have a place in which to do it.