Student Research Becomes Law

What began as a research project to increase hot water efficiency by students at Winston-Salem State University has emerged as legislation that could save North Carolinians millions in water bills.

 

Last year, WSSU chemistry students developed a solution to conserve water and energy by simply insulating hot water pipes. In April of 2007, chemistry majors Barbara Gateau-Carrington and Luico Holland, along with adjunct physics instructor Wyndham Wilkinson defended the research at the Raleigh, N.C., research symposium.

The idea was so compelling that Democratic state Rep. Bill Faison introduced a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly mandating that all hot waterlines larger than 1/4 inch would be insulated beginning Jan. 1, 2008, for all new construction, subject to the approval of the North Carolina Building Code Council (NCBCC).

Both bodies of the North Carolina General Assembly approved the measure. The bill was signed by North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley Aug. 31, 2007. If approved by the NCBCC, all new homes in North Carolina will be required to have waterline insulation for hot water lines.

While North Carolina state legislators are seemingly convinced of the research’s money-saving capabilities, the NCBCC continues to examine the issue, waiting for more “comprehensive study,” Wilkinson reports.

“The research conducted by this project will reduce costs to the consumers, save millions of gallons of water, and multiple millions of dollars to the state,” Faison said, “I find it amazing that the council cannot see the long-term benefits of adopting this research into the current building codes. I think it is irresponsible.”

Still, Wilkinson is making the most out of the opportunity, sharing his group’s research with policymakers in other regions. “I have been asked to serve on a panel and make a presentation on behalf of WSSU at the 2008 Forum on Water Heating and Use in Sacramento, California,” said Wilkinson. “On June 4, I’m traveling with Gary Klein of the California Energy Commission to Davis, California, to take part in tests devoted to this subject.”

A significant development in this project was the close collaboration between the researchers and the  WSSU Center for Entrepreneurship led by Dr. Notis Pagiavlas. “When Mr. Wilkinson visited my office, I was intrigued with the tremendous potential this work had in establishing a future commercial entity” said Pagiavlas. “In fact, I was so convinced of the value of this project and presentation to an important audience that I pledged to support Mr. Wilkinson’s trip from my own personal funds.”

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