Engineering Plumbing Excellence

By CN Staff 

With an extensive 30-year career in the water management industry, Shawn Bush is a visionary leader committed to innovation and sustainability. His company, I-CON Systems Inc. (I-CON), engineers and manufactures cutting-edge plumbing technologies that address the unique challenges of correctional facilities. In this exclusive Q&A, we delve into Shawn’s insights and explore the status of the water management industry from the perspective of an industry expert.

Q: Can you provide an overview of the current state of water management in correctional facilities?

SB: Many correctional facilities have had the same type of water management systems for decades. With little to no improvement in these systems, excessive water waste can become prevalent. The primary sources of water waste in correctional facilities are inmates’ toilets, sinks, and showers. Compared to the commercial industry and other sectors that promote environmentally friendly building practices, the correctional water management industry has been slower to adopt green initiatives. This delay can be attributed to the unique challenges posed by high-security requirements and the complex nature of correctional facilities. While commercial and residential toilets have long used 1.28 gallons of water per flush, stainless steel toilets in correctional facilities have been less quick to transition to lower flush volumes. The flush volumes of toilets may not seem like they would significantly impact water waste, but installing a plumbing solution with lower flush volumes can conserve thousands of gallons of water a year.

Q: What are some challenges in the correctional water management industry, and what advancements has I-CON created to address these challenges?

SB: There are three main challenges that I-CON addresses with our plumbing solutions. The first challenge is excessive water waste. I-CON has developed flush valves and stainless-steel toilets that flush lower water volumes more efficiently, saving water while maintaining the same quality. With our MOMENTUM® flush valve, older facilities that typically use a 3.5 gallons per flush fixture can reduce water usage to 1.6 gallons per flush. The second challenge is clogging in the water flush jet, which can render the toilet useless. To address this challenge, I-CON has introduced unique product innovations, such as our Removable Jets. This feature simplifies cleaning of debris, eliminating the need to remove the entire toilet and send it out for repair or replacement. The third challenge is the misuse of plumbing fixtures by inmates. I-CON’s solution to this challenge is our NEXUS® controller, which eliminates cell flooding, contraband flushing, and allows for scheduled water use.

Q: Security is a critical aspect of correctional facilities. How does I-CON Systems ensure its water management solutions are technologically advanced and secure from potential tampering or misuse?

SB: I-CON’s electronic plumbing controls offer facilities security through cutting-edge technology, including features like flush lockout, scheduling, and water usage control. When these controllers are interconnected wirelessly, a lockdown feature for contraband search can be activated. This allows for the complete shutdown of the water supply to a pod or specific area before officers enter. This proactive measure prevents inmates from attempting to dispose of contraband by flushing it down the toilet. Additionally, the system can display the locations of inmates on a computer touchscreen. This will indicate suspicious activity of an inmate repeatedly flushing the toilet during this time, suggesting the possible presence of contraband.

Q: What emerging technologies and trends do you foresee shaping the future of water management in correctional facilities?

SB: The Internet of Things (IoT) is the future, not only for correctional facilities but also for the entire water management industry as a whole. With the growth of the IoT environment, we will be able to wirelessly connect products together, have them communicate, and gather data from multiple different management systems. This will ease implementation in new construction projects and provide seamless integration when upgrading older facilities with new electronic plumbing controls.

These plumbing solutions will continue evolving and offer advanced features like local temperature and pressure monitoring, automatic shut-off valves, AI technologies, and data analytics. In turn, it will create a more comprehensive plumbing system, providing a complete overview of the facility’s water management.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Correctional News.