Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015; 4:00 to 5:05 PM
Natcher Building, Conference Room C1/C2
National Institutes of Health

Opening Remarks—Anthony Clifford

Mr. Clifford opened the meeting at 4:10 p.m.

He welcomed the Council members and noted that an Agenda Committee meeting will take place later in the month.

Mr. Clifford explained that the purpose of the meeting was to talk about some important engineering developments concerning the central utility plant that will help to ensure chilled water capacity at the NIH in order to assure efficiency of services to patients in the hospital, research animals alive, and so on.

Thermal Energy Storage Update & Industrial Water Storage Update—Anthony Clifford

Mr. Clifford pointed out that the importance of ensuring that campus utilities are secure cannot be overstated. Human and animal lives depend on electricity, water, steam, and cooling. NIH cannot work without water. He showed a slide of a water main break at River Road in 2008, but he noted that this has occurred numerous times since. When NIH loses water, it is impossible to operate the utility plant, and this puts NIH at risk. The important thing is to keep the central utility plant running. NIH stops without it, endangering patients and research. It is imperative that the campus utilities do not go out.

The other important consideration is cost. NIH must both save money and be energy efficient. NIH spends $120 million per year on utilities.  One way to achieve this is to use more energy late at night, when it is more available and less expensive than in the daytime. This is why the energy companies are always admonishing households to do their laundry and run the dishwashers after peak hours.

The new system is designed to help achieve these goals. It will store 7 million gallons of chilled water. This water will be used in the daytime for climate control in the buildings, then recycled and chilled at night during off-peak electricity hours when power is less expensive.

The new system will consist of a thermos-like, insulated tank holding 7 million gallons of chilled water for energy transfer. The tank will be 120 feet in diameter and stand 70 to 80 feet above grade. Construction on this will take two years. A second component of the system will be another tank for the storage of industrial water to feed the boilers. It will also be 120 feet in diameter and about 65 feet tall.  Each of these tanks will have an accompanying small pump house structure.  This system is planned to save money and serve as redundant source of water in the case of a system failure in the external supply.


  • Mr. Schofer asked about water for drinking and flushing toilets.
  • Mr. Clifford answered that the water stored in these two tanks will not be suitable for drinking. This is an issue of water quality. All drinking water has to be certified to be considered potable, and there are many issues involved in certifying drinking water. NIH will not be getting into the business of supplying potable water.

Mr. Clifford continued describing the system, explaining that the water will come from the distribution system, go into the tanks, and then be pumped into the central utility plant for cooling or for the boilers. Two tanks are involved and one is insulated, with the second being for simple water storage.

The insulated tank and pumping station will be located on the site of the existing Building 34. The second tank, the industrial-water storage tank will be located at the southwest end of campus, just north of parking lot 41 and quite a way in from the South Lawn.

Mr. Clifford showed a number of slides to make clear the locations of these new water storage tanks. The first was a central campus schematic indicating the locations. He explained that there is a substantial shift in the topography between the two sites, with the land coming up higher where the industrial storage tank will be located. He oriented the Council members, showing where Rockville Pike is and the south side of the NIH campus. A second slide was a satellite photo of the campus with the tank locations marked by red circles. This clearly showed where the existing Building 34 is located, which will be torn down and replaced by the insulated tank. The lower tank will be somewhat embedded into the hillside and will be near the existing Building 14 complex, where research animals are housed. It was noted that many trees have been planted as a visual buffer. Other slides showed an artist’s rendition of the tanks.


  • Mr. Schofer asked whether the tanks will be steel or concrete.
  • Mr. Clifford explained that the tank for storage of industrial water will be concrete and the thermal energy storage tank will be steel because it has to be insulated and steel is easier to erect. He also noted that the tanks will incorporate aesthetic features, including stone walls with screening. The concrete tank will have a mottled surface making it more textured, and the steel tank will also have additional jacketing of decorative steel panels.
  • Mr. Schofer asked whether the concrete tank will be precast or poured on site.
  • Mr. Clifford answered that it will be precast, and sections will be trucked in for placement.
  • Ms. Michaels asked why the tanks will be built above ground instead of below ground if the object is to save energy in chilling the water by doing it at night.
  • Mr. Clifford answered that the original concept was to put the insulated tank underground in the middle of campus, under the Building 10 parking lot. It turned out that the costs to operate this, especially the pumping costs, would have been prohibitive. It costs less to operate if it is above ground.
  • Ms. Michaels asked whether savings in operational costs were sufficient to offset the extra chilling costs due to the loss of the extra insulation factor of being underground.
  • Mr. Clifford explained that because the tank will be insulated, the difference is not very much. Construction costs would have been much higher because putting it into the ground would also require that it be much stronger, and it is so big that the excavation would have exceeded 100 feet. It simply would not pay off. The real operational cost is pumping the water.
  • Ms. Witt asked whether the cooling cycle will occur daily.
  • Mr. Clifford explained that the tank is always filled with water. The chillers come on to make the water cold. As the tank starts to fill up with cold water, it pushes the warmer water to the top, so the water loops around. Eventually the tank is entirely filled with cold water. The question is how and when to chill the water, and it turns out that off-peak chilling is much less expensive. All of the pumping stations will be in a big building, so it will be quiet. This process goes on every day. The campus has to have a lot of chilled water. From a security standpoint, if the main chilled water line breaks, it must be recharged quickly. WSSC cannot provide water at a rate as fast as what this tank can provide; with the tank, there is always an immediate supply.
  • Ms. Michaels asked where the pumping station will be.
  • Mr. Clifford reiterated that it will be near the thermal energy tank. He noted that the alternative to doing this would be to purchase more chillers to cover the load. Building this large thermal energy tank obviates that need, because it will take care of the spikes. The chillers cost $10 million to $20 million apiece, and the large storage of chilled water also saves on maintenance. It was noted that this is the direction most universities and other large institutions are going because this is the most sustainable way.
  • Ms. Michaels asked whether the construction will affect the path outside the fence.
  • Mr. Neuberg said that the tank is inside the fence, and all construction will be inside the fence. The fence cannot be opened because that would jeopardize security. During construction, they will be very sensitive to possible impacts on the community due to noise and dust and will mitigate these as much as possible.
  • Ms. Michaels asked whether this concern about the community will reduce or increase costs.
  • Mr. Neuberg said that the construction costs are expected to be within budget. It is actually cheaper to do it this way.
  • Mr. Schofer asked whether the water will be recycled and used again and again.
  • Mr. Neuberg explained both the industrial and chilled water storage tanks will be treated and used again and again. Mr. Clifford noted that when a water main breaks—lately not a one-time event—the first thing WSSC asks NIH to do is to go on a water-use curtailment plan. NIH uses a tremendous amount of water. With this new system in place, drinking water will still be needed, but NIH can otherwise disconnect and use these reserves.
  • Ms. Witt asked whether once the reserves are used up, it will be necessary to pump water back in to recharge the system.
  • Mr. Clifford replied that the answer to that is yes. Anything that must come from outside, such as water, electricity, or gas, puts NIH at risk if the supply is cut off. NIH uses gas and has reserve oil available in case the supply is cut off.
  • Ms. Michaels asked whether this is part of a federal mandate.
  • Mr. Clifford answered that it grew out of a study done by HHS, which found that there are risks to every federal agency from events that happen at other sites. NIH, for example, cannot afford to lose water supply. NIH is both a hospital and a research facility, so it must be prepared. It can no longer rely on the old infrastructure.
  • Ms. Michaels commented that the proposed solution sounded like a good way to solve the problem.

Round Robin/Q&A/Comments and Concerns

  • Mr. Schofer stated a current thought in the literature is that in the future, it is highly likely that urban areas will use bottled water for drinking water. In other words, it is unnecessary and expensive to purify all water to be potable. Most water is used to water lawns and flush toilets.
  • Mr. Clifford agreed. He said he was at a meeting at the University of Maryland yesterday, and there were boxes of water bottles. You can’t find a drinking fountain or a pay phone. The world is moving fast. We are starting to identify how much it costs in energy to make potable water, when gray water is suitable for most uses.
  • Ms. Michaels asked whether NIH has a gray-water system, and said that she is looking at this for her home.
  • Mr. Clifford replied that, no, NIH has chilled water, potable water, and a laboratory water system that is kept separate for security purposes. The real control imperative is to keep these systems from cross-connecting.
  • Mr. Schofer said that you can find gray-water systems in luxury hotels in China and other places. You will see signs that say the water is not drinkable.
  • Ms. Witt wanted to put in a plug for seating outside the fence. This has been mentioned before, but it has not happened because of fear it might attract homeless people. The problem is that there is no place for people to sit. There used to be picnic tables. It would be nice to have benches, or at least flat benches.
  • Mr. Neuberg said they will take that down. A place NIH was concerned about putting benches in was on Woodmont Avenue, near the South Lawn. That is NIH property, near new high-rise apartments and the Woodmont House of the Children’s Inn. They met with the Bethesda Urban Partnership, with which they actually signed an agreement. NIH would not allow them to put a pathway through the property or a series of gazebos the partnership wanted because NIH was worried about security and the possibility of undesirable people and activities in the park. There are no benches in that area.
  • Ms. Witt said that all she was suggesting is maybe just some flat benches. Lots of people walk there. Even if some rocks were there, people could lean against or sit on them. The area has nice trees and a path. She was thinking of some rocks about the height of a chair, or benches. Someplace to rest. Lots of older people walk on the path, so it would be nice to be able to sit down.
  • Mr. Clifford agreed and said the nice thing about it is that it is very restful. If you go outside there about 9:30 or 10 in the morning, it is really pretty, especially in the fall. He takes no position on adding benches. They ran it up the ladder, and the security folks said no. Perhaps it can be brought up again with the facility folks, who might be willing to try it again—as long as they are not close to the fence line.
  • Ms. Michaels said the new LED lights are very nice, much better than the old lights, and they work much better. She expressed her thanks.
  • Mr. Clifford explained that all that work did not cost NIH anything up front. NIH has an Energy Performance Savings contract with Pepco, a federal contract. Because the LED lights are saving money, their installation is paid back on the utility bills. That way, NIH did not have to come up with a big up-front sum to buy all the fixtures.
  • Ms. Wade said that at the previous meeting, the Council was told that the exit from Rockville Pike south onto Woodmont Avenue will be one lane. Is that still the case?
  • Mr. Neuberg replied yes and said that will happen near the time of the tunnel.
  • Mr. Moss noted that same evening NIH was set to re-launch a traffic Web site for employees, but it is a public site and will be available for everyone, at This is a co-sponsored site. It will link to live traffic cameras, and it will have a map showing major construction projects at the Jones Bridge Road–Rockville Pike intersection and other sites. All the major construction surrounding the NIH campus will be included. There also will be descriptions of the construction with timelines for everything that is going on. The site will feature alternative methods to get to work.
  • Mr. Clifford stated that this will really pay off during the winter, making it possible to see road conditions before leaving the house or work. The new site will be up Friday, September 18, 2015.
  • Ms. Michaels asked whether the group could send this link out to their communities.
  • Mr. Moss said yes and stated that it will be advantageous to all of the people represented by the Council and that this is their community as much as it is NIH’s. To repeat, it will be at


The meeting adjourned at 5:05 p.m.
Next Meeting: November 19, 2015


CLC Members
Margaret Dittemore, Huntington Terrace Citizens Association
Marilyn Mazuzan, Town of Oakmont
Deborah Michaels, Glenbrook Village Home Owners Association
Ralph Schofer, Maplewood Citizens Association
Jeannette Wade, Whitehall Condominium Association
Andrea Witt, Huntington Parkway Citizens Association

Anthony Clifford ORFDO/OD
Brad Moss, ORS/ORF
Phillip Neuberg, ORF
Sharon Robinson, OCL

Gias Ahmad, NIH/OD/ORF/DTR
Dan Cushing, NIH/OD/ORF
Ron Inman, NSAB

This page last reviewed on March 9, 2017