I have become accustomed to the rhythms of an industry trade show. An early-morning flight to the town, drop off my baggage at the hotel and then rush to the show floor to start work.

Next, I pack in as many meetings as I can at exhibitors’ booths to see what new products and technologies are available to our industry. Or I am up in the upper levels of the convention hall taking in educational sessions to learn more about the changing landscape the MEP engineer/designer faces.

Then it’s on to the after-hours events, typically at a landmark in the hosting city to relax and enjoy the company of our great industry.

So it was a nice surprise to see a company trying to find new ways to maximize its opportunity at a recent show — the 2017 Greenbuild Expo held Nov. 8-10 at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center. For the full report on this year’s Greenbuild event, please turn to page 76 of this issue.

Kohler held a 20-minute Q&A session during a 30-minute break period between educational sessions. The water infrastructure panel, consisted of:

  • Moderator: Rob Zimmerman, Kohler’s Director – Sustainability and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene; and
  • Panelists: Ratish Namboothiry, Kohler’s Program and Portfolio Manager; and Daniel Huard, principal of Humann Building Solutions.

They discussed how innovative solutions such as Kohler’s Clarity and Aquifer have helped people in underdeveloped countries have access to clean water and the future of water infrastructure.

But there’s more to finding the solution than just water filters and toilets. The industry has to look at the biggest picture. “Having access to toilets is only a small part of the problem,” Namboothiry says. “Treating waste is the bigger issue.”

Huard also noted that in the United States “we lose a day’s worth of potable water through leaks.”

Zimmerman wrapped up the Q&A panel by asking Namboothiry and Huard if they had a magic wand, how would they want to help the industry and the world in terms of water infrastructure. Both agreed immediate waste treatment would spur great growth.

“I would like to see human-waste treatment happen in a wide variety of low- and high-tech solutions,” Huard said.

Namboothiry concurred by saying a high-tech toilet that can immediately process waste at the source would be a godsend. A low-tech option that would be able to separate waste right away would be great as well, he noted.

“We need to be able to treat waste and water in a more competitive environment than the sewer,” he said.

These may be pie-in-the-sky dreams right now for the industry, but it’s what we should be shooting for. According to a 2016 Energy Star report, wastewater treatment plant energy use intensity (EUI) ranges from less than 5 to more than 50 kBtu/gal. per day with those at the 95th percentile using nine times the energy of those at the 5th percentile.

That range of energy use could be shrunk significantly, as well as overall energy wastewater treatment plant usage. Here’s hoping Kohler continues to reinvent the way we do things, at tradeshows and beyond.


Check out 2017 Greenbuild Expo photo gallery.