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Editor's Note: Are You 'Water Woke'?

May 1, 2018
From our May issue... In a city known for its over-the-top extravagance, the Uponor Convention and its host hotel last month became unlikely water conservation allies.

"April showers bring May flowers.”

Of course, this year, in more than a few places, the traditional spring precipitation actually included snow showers. But that only heightened our collective anticipation for nice weather, making me jump at the chance a month ago to leave wintry Chicago for arid Las Vegas and the Uponor Convention, held at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino, part of MGM Resorts International. 

The 3,800-room Bellagio, of course, is best known for its spectacular dancing fountains, visible to thousands of passersby each day along the Vegas Strip. The free daily water shows, more than 200 per week, are synchronized to rise and fall in rhythm to some 30 pop songs from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles. But also think for a moment about all the elaborate piping, mechanics, and programming behind each show, which uses some 1,200 fountain jets to propel more than 17,000 gallons of water as high as 24-stories into the sky. 

The brief but recurring show is as spectacular and as extravagant as anything in Sin City. So I had to laugh when I checked into my hotel room and saw this message prominently displayed inside: SAVING WATER IS VERY VEGAS.

(Right, I thought. I guess I somehow missed the conservation message.) As I soon discovered, I actually had missed it. 

Performing minimal research, I went to the MGM Resorts website, and found an Energy & Water Conservation page listing several tangible (and sizable) achievements. In just the past five years, for instance, the company boasts there that its Vegas properties have “saved 194M kWh of electricity and 239,000 MMBtu of natural gas, enough energy to equal the annual usage of 23,000 average U.S. homes.” And over that same period, “we have saved 794 million gallons of water,” it claims. 

So, with all that it mind, perhaps it made perfect sense for Uponor to bring its own water-saving message to the desert. The crowded, two-day convention put particular emphasis on the new Phyn Plus smart water assistant + shutoff device, the product of a joint venture between Uponor and tech giant Belkin International. In January, the pair had unveiled Phyn Plus simultaneously at both the International Builders’ Show in Orlando FL, and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), also in Vegas. 

Aiming to bring home water use into the digital age, Phyn Plus is initially targeting the single-family residential market. Once installed on a home’s main water line, it automatically measures tiny changes in water pressure, 240 times per second. Its function is to: (1) identify and alert homeowners the moment a leak is detected via a smart phone app; (2) mitigate costly damage through an automatic shutoff; and (3) diagnose potential problems in plumbing systems before they become an issue. 

Last month’s convention was also the site of the first official training session for the initial 100 professional plumbing installers to join the Uponor Pro Squad. More than 2,500 additional plumbers were expected to participate in training this spring via online and in-person sessions. 

The Pro Squad members on hand represented the 30 target markets chosen in North America, urban areas that the company has identified as having the highest prevalence of leaks, water usage and “aggressive” water conditions. The cities include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas/ Fort Worth, San Francisco, Washington DC, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Toronto, and Minneapolis, among others. 

Which flips the local ad slogan on its head: What happened in Vegas last month is most assuredly not staying there. Instead, the ‘smart water’ movement is now ‘woke’ and coming to a project near you. Are you ready?

About the Author

Rob McManamy | Editor in Chief

An industry reporter and editor since 1987, McManamy joined HPAC Engineering in September 2017, after three years with, a Chicago-based media startup focused on tech innovation in the built environment. He has been covering design and construction issues for more than 30 years, having started at Engineering News-Record (ENR) in New York, before becoming its Midwest Bureau Chief in 1990. In 1998, McManamy was named Editor-in-Chief of Design-Build magazine, where he served for four years. He subsequently worked as an editor and freelance writer for Building Design + Construction and Public Works magazines.

A native of Bronx, NY, he is a graduate of both the University of Virginia, and The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Contact him at [email protected].