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Capturing Rainwater - Roof System Proves Its Merit

With many portions of the United States experiencing various degrees of drought, capturing and storing any rain Mother Nature provides makes sense and saves money – especially for a laundry. Eggleston Services, a private non-profit organization in Norfolk, Virginia, dedicated to providing work opportunities for people with severe disabilities, found a unique way to beat the water shortage challenge…a rainwater-capture system. For Eggleston Services the opportunity to integrate a rainwater capture system with its laundry facility came in the summer of 2001 when the business moved from its original 7,500-square-foot space to its current 34,000-square-foot facility. An expanding military and private sector client list, including the Naval Medial Center Portsmouth, Naval Air Station Oceana, and Navy Amphibious Base Little Creek, necessitated the move.

"Since a new roof was required anyway, we figured the time was ideal to look into capturing the rainwater off the roof," said Charlie Anderson, assistant director.

The mechanics of the rainwater collection system designed and installed by Rain Water System ( of Salem, Virginia, are simple: an all rubber roof sends rain through a network of drainpipes in the ceiling into two 10,000-gallon polyethylene tanks located at the back of the facility. One inch of rain will completely fill the tanks and provides up to 15 percent of the laundry facility's water needs. An optional roof washing system, to meet standards required for providing rainwater to kitchens and bathrooms, was not installed.

From the storage tanks, the soft water is pumped through three separate filtration systems into the laundry side of the building, where it provides wash water for the seven and eight-pocket Milnor continuous batch washers. An automated conveyor system shuttles goods either to one of four Milnor 220-pound gas-fired dryers or to the flatwork ironer section. The two steam-heated Chicago Imperial 232 ironers and a Chicago Century 2-roll steam-heated chest ironer are partially fueled from rainwater-fed boilers.

Today, Eggleston Services' laundry facility processes five million pounds of linen per year in five 12-hour production days using a workforce of 60 employees, approximately 85 percent who have severe disabilities.

"We use the automated systems to take some of the heavy labor out, but the finish work is intensive and where most of our disabled workers work," explained Anderson. These workers shake out the sheets for the ironer lines, handle ironed goods from the Central Silverline folder/crossfolders, and manually hand fold the majority of the towels.

Anderson noted that some of the military laundry processing could now be classified as hospitality rather than institutional work, following a call for an improved "quality of life" for sailors. The result was an infusion of color bedding and heavier 14-pound towels. What has not changed is the military's desire for Eggleston Services to buy the linen stock and rent it out to the various facilities.

The original return-on-investment (ROI) for the $29,000 rainwater project was calculated at three years based on normal rainfall averages for the area.

"The ROI may be slightly longer because the weather has not been cooperative, but I can't blame it on the system," says Anderson. "The system catches exactly what David Crawford [Rain Water System's President] claimed it would."

And what happens if Mother Nature decides to send a deluge of rain To the Norfolk area? "There is an overflow at the top of each tank allowing excess rainwater to flow to the normal drain system," said Anderson. "In a steady rain, the tanks would actually fill up faster than the facility could use it, but that hasn't been the case yet. Right now, we don't waste any rainwater we collect.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Mac-Gray Corporation’s Lighten The Load™ Initiative

WALTHAM, Mass. — Mac-Gray Corporation, a provider of laundry facilities management services to multi-unit housing locations announced that it received the Foundation’s first annual For People and Planet award in the education category. Since Mac-Gray launched its Lighten the Load(TM) initiative in 2008 with, they have partnered with 29 academic institutions to offset more than 40 million pounds of carbon.

“This award highlights Mac-Gray’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Our Lighten the Load™ initiative is helping to reduce the carbon footprints of college and university laundry programs, while educating students on the benefits of being ‘green’ in the laundry room,” said Stewart G. MacDonald, Mac-Gray’s chief executive officer.