In 2014, a major global manufacturer of carbon fiber products announced plans to invest $1 billion to build a manufacturing plant on 400 acres in...
Daphne Utilities had old and failing infrastructure that was not meeting regulatory compliance. Worse yet, the original treatment building was a 20-ft by 20-ft bunker on a narrow lot in an area that had become densely populated with homes since it was first constructed in 1953.
These factors limited the space for upgrades, and because the utility could not afford to take the building out of commission for a year to construct a new one on the same lot, the utility sought a new location. As if by fate, a home across the street from the original plant came up for sale in 2013, and the utility saw the potential to use it as the new grounds for its facility.
There was one catch, however. The house was 1940s-era structure, which had previously been the Deacon’s Cottage for a local church, and it held historic and sentimental value. Rather than see this as a road block, Daphne Utilities saw it as a means to create an aesthetically pleasing plant while meeting its regulatory compliance and expansion needs.
“It’s hard to believe from the street. The plant looks like an unassuming, quaint cottage home with architecture dating back to the 1940s,” said Kevin Creel, project manager for The Creel Co. Inc. “Once you walk through the front door, it takes on the personality and functionality of any other outstanding municipal water treatment facility.”
One of the larger challenges of the project was saving a historic Live Oak tree while also satisfying neighbors of the location who were concerned the facility would not be aesthetically pleasing for a residential area.
“The facility includes a 30-ft-wide by 45-ft-long by 13-ft-deep concrete reservoir for treating the water that was very close to the oak tree,” Creel said. “A shoring system had to be designed, such as not to harm the root system of the oak tree and also provide enough room to construct the reservoir.”
With noise a concern to neighbors of the property, Daphne Utilities specified and installed low-noise treatment equipment with noise abatement being a high priority. So high was this priority that the decibel level of the finished plant when in operation is no louder than a residential air conditioner unit.
Heating and cooling costs for the facility are improved with insulated walls and an insulated roof. The piping in the facility also was designed in such a way as to transport treatment water throughout the structure and provide a temperature-moderating effect. Natural light from a skylight and the use of LED lighting also cut energy costs for the facility and nearly eliminated heat load.
Lastly, rather than using chlorine to disinfect the system due to its proximity to nearby homes, an elementary school and local businesses, Daphne Utilities used an on-site sodium hypochlorite generation system. This system uses only salt, electricity and water for disinfection.
“The fact that we were able to construct an industrial facility within a historic neighborhood district is quite remarkable,” Creel said. “It was our responsibility to keep these neighbors happy, at the same time as staying on schedule and under budget. And we were successful in doing so.”