Water Distribution in Buildings

Up-Feed Water Distribution

To prevent rapid wear of valves, such as faucets, water should only be supplied to building distribution systems at pressures not more than about 80 psi. This pressure is large enough to raise water from 8 to 10 stories upward and still retain desired pressures at plumbing fixtures (Table 14.1). Hence, in low buildings, cold water can be distributed by the up-feed method (Fig. 14.1), in which at each story plumbing fixtures are served by branch pipes connected to risers that carry water upward under pressure from the water source.
In Fig. 14.1, cold water is distributed under pressure from a public water main.
The hot-water distribution is by a discontinuous system. Hot water rises from the water heater in the basement to the upper levels under pressure from the cold-water supply to the water heater.
When an up-feed distribution system is desired, but the city water pressure is not sufficient to provide adequate water pressure, the water pressure may be boosted to desired levels by the installation of a packaged, domestic water-booster pump system. This equipment usually consists of a factory-built system with multiple pumps, a pressure tank, and all operating controls to maintain the required water pressure. This type of system may also be used in buildings in excess of 10 stories by proper zoning and the use of pressure-reducing valves at each zone.

Down-Feed Water Distribution

For buildings more than 8 to 10 stories high, designers have the option to pump water to one or more elevated storage tanks, from which pipes convey the water downward to plumbing fixtures and water heaters. Water in the lower portion of an elevated tank often is reserved for fire-fighting purposes (Fig. 14.2). Generally, also, the tank is partitioned to provide independent, side-by-side chambers, each with identical piping and controls. During hours of low demand, a chamber can be emptied, cleaned, and repaired, if necessary, while the other chamber supplies water as needed. Float-operated electric switches in the chambers control the pumps supplying water to the tank. When the water level in the tank falls below a specific elevation, a switch starts a pump, and when the water level becomes sufficiently high, the switch stops the pump.
Usually, at least two pumps are installed to supply each tank. One pump is used for normal operation. The other is a standby, for use if the first pump is inoperative.
For fire-fighting purposes, a pump must be of adequate size to fill the tank at the rate of the design fire flow.
When a pump operates to supply a tank, it may draw so much water from a public main that the pressure in the main is considerably reduced. To avoid such a condition, water often is stored in a suction tank at the bottom of the building for use by the pumps. The tank is refilled automatically from the public main. Because refilling can take place even when the pumps are not operating, water can be drawn from the public main without much pressure drop.
Figure 14.2 is a simplified schematic diagram of a down-feed distribution system of a type that might be used for buildings up to 20 stories high.

Tall buildings may be divided into zones, each of which is served by a separate down-feed system. (The first few stories may be supplied by an up-feed system under pressure from a public main.) Each zone has at its top its own storage tank, supplied from its own set of pumps in the basement. All the pumps draw on a common suction tank in the basement. Also, each zone has at its base its own water heater and a hot-water circulation system. In effect, the distribution in each zone is much like that shown in Fig. 14.2.
If space is not available to install storage tanks at the top of each zone, the main water supply from a roof-mounted storage tank may be supplied to the zones if pressure-reducing valves are utilized to reduce the supply-water pressure to an acceptable level at each zone.

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