High-Tech Machines are Employing Natural Resources and Winning Engineering Awards

(L-R) Pat Flood, PE (TN Dept of Environment & Conserva- tion-Director, Division of Solid Waste Management); Tom Needham, PE (Shelby County Public Works Director); Matt Turner, PE ( U S Army Corps of Engineers - Memphis District - Mississippi Valley Division Regional Integration Team); Pat Phillips, Loudon Co. Economic Development - Director (Retired); and Wes Kelley (Columbia Power and Water System - Executive Director). - photo by David Smith

(L-R) Pat Flood, PE (TN Dept of Environment & Conservation-Director, Division of Solid Waste Management); Tom Needham, PE (Shelby County Public Works Director); Matt Turner, PE ( U S Army Corps of Engineers – Memphis District – Mississippi Valley Division Regional Integration Team); Pat Phillips, Loudon Co. Economic Development – Director (Retired); and Wes Kelley (Columbia Power and Water System – Executive Director). – photo by David Smith

If you arrived at the Tennessee Engineering Center in Nashville, last Wednesday, the first thing you would have noticed is the engineers — stoic men and one woman — encircling presentation boards that stretch along the perimeter of a square meeting hall.

The group is judging applications for the Engineering Excellence 2017 awards.

The Nashville International Airport Geothermal System is one of the favorites, and its use of the former Hoover rock quarry located on airport property gets the most attention. The group is trying to pinpoint how the cool temperatures from the quarry that help run the airport’s air condition system will result in cost saving and new innovation for the profession’s future.

Also, the more precisely they can identify how using the natural features of the quarry will improve social and economic features, the better the engineers can judge the project.

Last year, the airport authority spent a lot of time testing the water at the former Hoover rock quarry, although more than a decade ago the 400-foot deep water-filled hole had been considered a dangerous liability. But now, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA), the airport’s air conditioning energy consumption has been reduced by 50 percent since the airport began the switch to the new system in February 2016.

“It’s something that I would have never thought to do,” Director of Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation Division of Solid Waste Management Director Pat Flood said about the airport project. “Even in a billion years from now, I don’t know if I would have thought of doing that.”

However, the very elaborate machine that engineers created to harness the power of natural system is only one of 27 projects competing for the award.

According to the Tennessee Engineering Center Manager of Member Services Judy Logue, along with a knowledgeable panel of judges, the awards aim to be nationally relevant and give recognition to the most innovative companies.

The judges will award the top project and awards by sector, selected from submissions made by companies that completed the work in 2016.

Wes Kelley, who is the Executive Director of Columbia Power and Water System, said the goal is to not just think of the projects in isolation. The projects that Nashville-based engineers submit should be able to show real monetary value for the companies.

Kelley acknowledged he is thinking ahead, to ultimately find the project that uses energy best and returns value to the people who paid for it.

“With the energy savings the best project will pay for itself,” Kelly said.

In addition to projects that utilized natural water systems, the transportation sector, residential buildings, environmental restoration and special projects were represented.

Another favorite in the water category was a Water Treatment Plant Disinfection Improvement project, led by Nashville-based, Smith Seckman Reid, Inc., aimed in helping Nashville’s water services.

The firm removed 100 tons of gaseous chlorine storage from the two Metro Water Services Water Treatment Plants. The new system allows them to disinfect up to 180 million gallons per day of drinking water by producing the equivalent of 14,400 pounds of chlorine daily, making it one of the largest municipal onsite hypochlorite generation systems in North America.

Kelley said this project has both improved the reliability of Metro Water’s disinfection systems and the safety and security of the neighboring inhabitants.”

“It’s between these two for me,” several engineers said.

The top prize, the Grand Iris, will be awarded to the best all-around project, while Grand Awards will be presented to projects in each individual category. A peer-chosen People’s Choice Award will also be presented to the crowd favorite on awards night.

Award winners will be announced on Tuesday, March 7 at 8 p.m., during the annual awards gala held at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs.

David Smith
Staff Writer