Mechanical and Plumbing Design is Central to Sustainable Building

The theme, "Invest in Our Planet," for Earth Day 2022 invites the world of business to observe April 22 as a reminder to both raise awareness and take positive action to safeguard our planet’s limited resources.

For those of us in the mechanical design and construction industry, Earth Day presents opportunities for all of us to share innovations and solutions to environmental challenges.

Well-known to our customers and colleagues is the compelling business case for green building. According to the Dodge Construction Network’s "World Green Building Trends 2021" report:

  • New green buildings save an average of 10.5 percent in operating costs in their first 12 months, with 16.9 percent savings over five years.
  • Green renovations or retrofits of existing buildings report even stronger performance globally at 11.5 percent and 17 percent respectively.
  • Owners report that green buildings (either new or renovated) have an increased asset value of more than 9 percent.

The U.S. Green Building Council adds that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-rated buildings help owners and investors implement management practices to prioritize building efficiency, decrease operational costs, increase asset value and ensure productivity, comfort, health and well-being for occupants.


Design-Build Green Benefits

How can mechanical and plumbing design, modular construction and maintenance make building systems more sustainable and efficient through their lifetimes? TDIndustries is committed to finding the best solutions for building owners looking for the optimal green features for their construction projects in balance with their overall goals for the life of the building.

Design-build, a project delivery method where the team works under a single contract with the owner to provide design and construction services, offers multiple ways to ensure optimal efficiency.

  • At TD, engineers offer A3 reports in the pre-planning phase that detail equipment and system options to allow owners to consider all performance possibilities upfront.
  • Construction technology, including digital 3D modeling, creates additional opportunities for design and operational efficiencies.
  • Since modular construction takes place in a centralized location, it uses less energy, reduces emissions created by transportation of materials and labor and reduces on-site materials waste.

"Sustainability is at the heart of our business every day, not just Earth Day," says Ron Mann, Vice President, Modular at TDIndustries. "We help our clients ensure their projects are sustainable, optimized for energy and cost efficient through industry audits and modeling solutions. Our modular construction takes place in a controlled factory setting, resulting in shorter construction times, less on-site materials waste and reduced vehicle emissions."

Efficient Energy Consumption – HVAC Systems

Brandon Hoke, Dallas Engineering Project Manager, points to the International Energy Agency (IEA) report "The Future of Cooling" that states that efficient HVAC systems, combined with building design modifications, can cut investment, fuel and operating costs almost in half while also reducing emissions. An important point with global demand from air conditioners expected to triple by 2050.

Space cooling alone accounts for 15 percent of the electricity used in commercial buildings on average, with up to 30 percent of the energy and cost to power HVAC lost to waste from poor design or lack of maintenance, according to an article by utility PG&E. Data centers use between 30 and 55 percent of their energy consumption for powering cooling and ventilation systems.

In construction, energy efficiency is often seen as a premium service, Hoke says.

"For many people, paying extra for an energy efficient system is the first thing to go in order to get the project in budget," Hoke says. "The good news for the planet is that the groups that develop the codes and standards realize this fact and consistently have increased the minimum efficiency of all systems each year the code gets updated."

Once the building is in use, planned, regular service or facilities maintenance with qualified HVAC service technicians can help improve building sustainability while lowering operating and utility costs by 40 percent or more. Consider these tips to reduce wasted energy:

  • Regularly change HVAC filters
  • Strategically use building automation and programmable thermostats
  • Improve efficiency by properly sealing heating and cooling ducts
  • Upgrade or replace inefficient HVAC equipment systems to more efficient models

Creative Solutions for Water Conservation

The U.S. Green Building Council notes that LEED certified buildings decrease water consumption by 11 percent. As TDIndustries operates throughout Arizona and Texas, offering sustainable systems in stressed environments is a daily requirement.

LJ Black, Mechanical Engineer in TD’s Phoenix office, explains best practices or benefits of two water conservation methods.

Low-flow plumbing fixtures:

Low-flow fixtures are a great way to reduce water consumption in a building, Black says.

"Pint flush is the lowest flow I recommend for urinals as the waterless urinals require a fair amount of maintenance. Water closets can be selected with dual flush capabilities and have the capability to limit the amount of water flushed based on the user’s needs.


"Lavatories and sinks can be fitted with metered flow to only allow a low flow rate for a set amount of time."

Grey water usage for chillers, cooling towers, VFD pumps:

Grey water reuse is popular when trying to save water, however it is typically used for flushing fixtures (i.e., urinals and water closets) or landscaping. It could be utilized for chilled water, closed cell fluid coolers and heating water loops, but it is not recommended for open cell cooling towers as it will be aerosolized and spread throughout the air (causing health concerns).


If grey water is going to be harvested, it needs to have a dedicated drainage system from its source so it can be stored, filtered, chemically treated and pumped to its end use point. All piping carrying grey water should be purple (industry standard indicating grey water) and marked with signage at required intervals and at hose bibbs that it is nonpotable water that is not for human consumption.

Black says that while a certain level of water use reduction is required for LEED projects, more points can be achieved depending on the amount of water reduction met and the type of facility served.

"Further water reduction can be realized (other than the methods above) when you implement practices such as rainwater harvesting, air conditioning condensate harvesting, low water requirement landscaping, etc. It should be noted that while the practices noted will reduce water consumption, they also have increased first costs and maintenance costs and should be figured into a construction budget early to ensure that water conserving goals can be realized."

Learn more about TD’s engineering expertise, and join us in celebrating Earth Day 2022!