An Efficient Plan

Lavish curb appeal is a key element at the Regency at Monroe, an upscale, active adult community in Middlesex County, N.J.; just a short distance from New York City, the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia. This development, consisting of 1,500 luxury homes and spanning 450 acres, features 2,500- to 3,500-square-foot homes, country club resort-style amenities, a nine-hole golf course and a 27,000-square-foot clubhouse for adults 55 and older.

Given the Regency at Monroe's first-rate atmosphere and requirements to reduce water use, Toll Brothers, the developer, needed to incorporate an irrigation system to ensure that all of the homes' lawns were maintained in top condition — while still adhering to water restrictions.

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Kevin Kernahan, Toll Brothers' director of land development and lead development manager for the Regency at Monroe, understood the importance of implementing such a system.

“Homeowners tend to water their yards to a tremendous degree. In their minds more water is better than less,” says Kernahan. “With water restrictions in our area, it was important to implement an overall irrigation system we could control.”

Stephen DiVito, an irrigation designer and consultant with New Jersey Irrigation Consultants, was entrusted with the task of designing an effective irrigation system that would adhere to water restrictions.

WATER RESTRICTIONS DEFINED

The benefits of a central control system designed to handle multiple sites was an important feature at the Regency at Monroe because the site incorporates state and local best-management practices and utilizes surface runoff for irrigation. The water is collected in ponds, treated for acidity and iron, and used to irrigate the site. The site is also in the process of obtaining a water allocation permit. Annually, the Regency at Monroe uses 74 million gallons of water taken from surface runoff — this is important because wells cannot be drilled in the area.

“Our drought and resource management is paramount to our ability to utilize the water we have efficiently,” says Kernahan. “Since this is a private community and we are responsible for the maintenance of the yards, we can most efficiently control the irrigation with a central control system.”

According to DiVito, “Implementing a central control system was the only way we could manage the water restrictions.”

DiVito proposed utilizing the Rain Bird Maxicom2 Central Control System, Rain Bird's controller system designed for multi-site irrigation applications. DiVito chose Maxicom2 for its ability to control and monitor hundreds of sites and multiple weather stations from one location through telephone, radio, cellular, direct connect, fiber-optic and Ethernet communication.

“With Maxicom2, the irrigation system's water runtimes at multiple sites can be managed from one location,” says DiVito.

The system was implemented on the site with an average of one zone per house. When the site is totally complete, there will be about 1,700 zones including common areas, four Cluster Control Units (CCU) and at least 43 satellites with the irrigation runtimes managed from one location.

“We've had to educate the residents about the benefits of a central control system,” says Kernahan. “Some didn't like the fact that they didn't have control over when the irrigation was turned on, but in the end they know the system will be beneficial to them.”

In conjunction with Maxicom2, the site also utilizes Rain Bird 1800 Series pop-up spray heads, PEB plastic industrial valves and 5000 Plus Series full- or part-circle rotor pop-up sprinklers.

To date, about 300 homes have been built. The entire site build-out is expected to take 8 to 10 years.

COMMUNICATING WITH MAXICOM2

When using Maxicom2, Kernahan utilizes a dedicated phone line to allow the central computer modem to “call” the CCUs twice each day. The first call sends irrigation and monitoring schedules that will operate that night; the second retrieves all runtime and water use data logged in the CCU. This type of communication can operate anywhere in the world where a telephone line can be accessed.

COST-EFFECTIVE BENEFITS

Another key benefit Kernahan likes about Maxicom2 is the option of utilizing a weather station, which supplies daily ET (evapotranspiration) values to the system. The central control system then uses the data to automatically adjust operating times. The system also compares site conditions with weather factors, such as soil infiltration rate and rainfall intensity, to determine the exact effect weather has on irrigation needs.

“By having a central control system tied directly into an on-site weather station, it allows us to be as efficient as possible,” says DiVito.

Detailed zone-specific databases give Kernahan additional control of station operating times. Slope, soil and exposure conditions by zone are entered into databases, eliminating overspray, standing water and runoff; conditions that not only waste water but also impact the health of turf and landscape, and can undermine sidewalks and roadways.

GPS MAPPING

Because of Toll Brothers' commitment to water conservation and the need to remain within strict usage limits at the Regency at Monroe, Kernahan verifies the Phase I and II designs after installation with the assistance of Rain Bird Services Corporation. Typical irrigation system auditing methods are being used in tandem with a service that enables Toll Brothers to review and assess the as-installed systems based on Global Positioning System (GPS) data. Field data including sprinkler, piping, valve and landmark locations are collected, and detailed irrigation coverage maps are generated. Kernahan plans to use these mapped results to provide assurance of the as-installed irrigation system layout and as a tool to evaluate future phase designs. This detailed process is expected to contribute to reducing water usage while assuring uniform coverage on all irrigated areas.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

While building at the Regency at Monroe will take several more years, Kernahan is looking forward to the cost and labor savings provided by a central control system.

“We are certainly banking on a lot of cost savings,” says Kernahan. “Water is money, so the fact that we can cut traditional station-to-station irrigation by 50 percent represents a big savings.”

In addition to the expected cost savings, Kernahan is pleased with the results the central control system has provided so far. Kernahan said that, in a construction environment, being able to adjust and control every irrigation zone from a central location and to monitor and isolate leaks, even in lateral lines, was invaluable.

“At this point Maxicom2 has been fantastic. The idea that we can monitor the weather on a daily basis and utilize a system that puts the optimum amount of water on the grass is great,” says Kernahan.

Sarah Willnerd is a public relations associate with Swanson Russell Associates (Lincoln, Neb.).

MORE ON THE MAXICOM2 SYSTEM

At a primary location, the Maxicom2 system uses a central controller that transmits information to a Cluster Control Unit (CCU), ESP-SITE or LX-SITE Satellite in the field. Acting as the system's “computer-in-the-field,” the CCU can control, monitor and react to as many as 28 ESP-Satellite controllers or other field devices at a single site via hardwire or wireless communication. The CCU orchestrates the operations of field devices as if they are all part of one combined controller. This gives the real-time ability to monitor and react to flow and sensor data from up to 28 individual controllers, even seeking and isolating leaks in lateral lines and controlling station starts so demand does not exceed hydraulic capacity. Each satellite can control as many as 40 irrigation stations or other outputs. A SITE-Satellite combines the functionality of a CCU and a single satellite controller, and is ideal for smaller sites with as many as 40 irrigation stations.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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