Designing for Pure Water on a Submarine

When I was a kid (we won’t go into how many scores of years ago that was!) I remember marveling at the crud (okay,”scale”) that would build up on the bottom of my Mom’s teapot after gallons and gallons of boiling water had gone through it. Now imagine that “teapot” is part of the propulsion system in your very fancy, very expensive Navy submarine. Obviously that same scale in my Mom’s teapot would be an unwelcome hitchhiker on your submarine; especially when it has to be out on duty and operational for months at a time. The solution? Ultra-pure water of course!

Since 2013, I have had the distinct privilege of being the Reid Middleton Project Manager for design and construction of a new Pure Water Facility at Navy Base Kitsap Bangor. While there is an existing pure water plant on the base, it does not meet the strict requirements that are required of essential Navy facilities. The design of the new facility has involved the cooperation and genius of many people including ten Reid Middleton subconsulting firms!

So what does a Pure Water Facility look like? The Pure Water Facility is essentially a big two-story cube with concrete walls that enclose lots of very intricate pure water production piping and equipment. Frankly, before this project began, I did not know there were so many processes you could subject a water molecule to in order to make it “ultra-pure”! We are talking reverse osmosis, demineralization, UV filters, multi-media filters, carbon filters, water softeners, and metal edge filters! My education in all of this came courtesy of my friends at Notkin Mechanical Engineers.

“Very fancy Navy submarine” also known as a Trident nuclear submarine

You might ask what kind of architectural statement was made in the design of the facility. Well, to be blunt, not much. Our team architect, Fraser & Fogle, did a splendid job of aesthetic design through the use of color, metal flashing, and concrete textures. But in the end, there is only so much you can do with a concrete cube.

This project has been one of the most unusual projects I have ever managed in my 42 years of consulting. However, just as the maestro is nothing without the orchestra behind him, I want to thank the many people on the Reid Middleton team for their excellent work. In addition to our own in-house team and those mentioned above, much thanks goes to:

Stantec – Electrical Engineering
ProDims – Cost Estimating
3B Design – Interior Design
GeoEngineers – Geotechnical Consulting
Aegis –Fire Protection Engineering
Knebel Company – Hazardous Materials Management
Lerch Bates – Vertical Transportation
KBA Construction Management – Scheduling

Finally, I must express my thankfulness for the opportunity to lead this project. The Navy team was highly collaborative, leading the charge to ensure the project meets the critical needs of the Navy. When you combine the experience of leading this type of project with the other military, industrial, commercial, recreational, and residential projects I have been involved with over the course of my 26 years with the company, it makes me realize that I have been one lucky boy indeed . . . and maybe now I have found a way to keep the scale out of my own teapot!