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Warren Green

Warren Green

A History with Water

By Richard Massey

His distinguished gray beard earned him the nickname “Old Man Winter.” He wears it well. With over four decades in municipal water, Warren Green, PE, of Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc., is respected among his peers and a beacon for the new generation. In the process of building his career, Green became his own man. When a lot of folks were moving from north to south, Green went in the opposite direction, leaving Jackson, Mississippi for Chicagoland in 1988. He has an herb garden – fresh basil, cilantro, and rosemary year-round – builds 18th Century furniture, owns a trove of over 100 antique engineering texts, and can tell you about a miraculous Civil War-era bridge over Potomac Creek that seemed to be made of “cornstalks and beanpoles.” And, most importantly, he was blessed with the gift of fatherhood when he was 50, an event that changed and enhanced his life. Indeed, any which way you cut it, Green is just a bit different from the rest. But when you set aside the personal background that makes him unique, one finds an engineer’s engineer, a man whose top priority is to devise an economical solution to a problem. And he’s done plenty of that. He was part of the team that brought Lake Michigan water to surging DuPage County, Illinois, an achievement that Green counts among his finest. But it being a water utility, that accomplishment, among others, was essentially cloaked in anonymity. Those who labor over piping systems and fluid dynamics just don’t get the kind of public recognition given to the builders of skyscrapers. But Green doesn’t mind. If the job is done right by the client, he’s satisfied.

“My career has touched millions of people and they don’t even know it,” he said. “I’m okay with that.”

A Conversation with Warren Green

Civil + Structural Engineer: You graduated from college in 1978 and have 40 years of experience. Looking at the latest generation of water and wastewater engineers, what’s your advice to them?

Warren Green: Take some time and learn the history of our profession. And that means not just reading it but delving into the theory that our predecessors developed when addressing design questions. The early engineers had to “figure out” the solutions without the aid of computers or even calculators, so their mathematical calculations were elegant. We still use many of these equations today, such as the Barlow Hoop Stress equation for the design of pressure pipes. The equation was developed in the early 1800s.

C+S: You are an acknowledged expert in “all things water.” Tell us about your love of water and wastewater engineering, and how you’ve contributed to the communities you’ve served.

WG: I do not refer to myself as an expert in “all things water” and I have limited experience in wastewater. I lost interest in wastewater when I fell knee-deep, and headfirst, into the primary cell of a sewage lagoon while working on a research project my senior year in college! Yep, killed that career interest.

I decided to pursue the “clean water” side because most of the sanitary engineers (that’s what we were called back then) were going into wastewater due to the U.S. EPA programs of the late ‘70s, and there was less competition. The new U.S. EPA Safe Drinking Water Act was just beginning at that time. I thought it would be an interesting career to get in on at the start.

Communities receiving improved water quality, pressure, and fire protection have been the contributions of my career. Sometimes, when I am in a group, people will be discussing their communities’ water systems and they have no idea that I was part of the team that brought the improvements to them. That gives me a real thrill.

C+S: What was your biggest project? How long did it take, what was the key challenge, and what was the local/regional impact?

WG: My biggest project was working with the DuPage Water Commission to bring Lake Michigan drinking water to an entire county. DuPage County, just west of Chicago, was primarily a farming area back in the 1950s. The population of the county began seeing accelerated growth to a point that some of the 30 communities in the county were said to be the fastest growing in the country.

These 30-plus communities relied on ground water from an aquifer that was rapidly depleting, therefore supply was limiting growth and the water quality was somewhat marginal, primarily high hardness and iron. Many of the new residents were from communities that had access to high-quality Lake Michigan water supplied by the City of Chicago. The citizens of the county began demanding Lake Michigan water.

A massive $380 million (in 1985 dollars) project was initiated in the mid-1980s with the DuPage Water Commission formation in 1984. Engineering began in 1986 with the first construction contracts let in 1987. The projects included 162 miles of large diameter pipe (up to 96-inches), a 320-mgd pumping station, a 185-mgd pumping station, 2.4 miles of 12-foot diameter tunnel, two 30-million gallon storage reservoirs, two 6-million gallon water storage tanks, three 7.5- million gallon water storage tanks, and 64 delivery structures.

I joined the project in 1988 as the manager of construction phase services. The key challenges were maintaining project schedules with up to 20 construction projects running simultaneously and coordinating with 35 governmental entities for permits.

We finished the project one year ahead of schedule and almost 850,000 people had a new water supply. No more in-home water softeners! To this day, I remember that project with a lot of pride.

C+S: Tell us about your love of engineering history. As we all know, Alexander the Great, Fourth Century BC, was accompanied by engineers while out on campaign. How far back do you go into the history of engineering, and who, in your mind, is the father of engineering, whether it be in the ancient or modern age?

WG: Over the course of my career, I’ve read numerous accounts of “ancient engineers” from the pyramids from the Middle East and Central America, to the khanats (rock-lined tunnels) constructed in Persia to bring water to the parched cities of the area. One cannot forget the water systems developed by the Romans and the engineering required to build the aqueducts.

I tend to read/study modern engineering development in the fields of fluid dynamics and structural design of piping systems, generally from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.

Who is the father of engineering is a difficult question. For my water supply profession, I would pick George Warren Fuller, considered by many to be the father of modern-day water supply. Early in my career, I worked as the water engineer for the City of Jackson, Mississippi, and one of our water treatment plants was originally constructed in 1914. Even though it was expanded several times over the decades, the original portion was still in use while I was there. The original plant was designed by George Warren Fuller.

C+S: You are a noted Civil War historian. What was the greatest feat of engineering during the Civil War?

WG: I generally refer to myself as a “well-read” Civil War history buff. There were many technological advances during the American Civil War, but two areas of advancement stand out to me: railroads and naval combat vessels.

Railroads were used by both sides in the war to move men, livestock, and equipment. The U.S. Army built a vast network of railroads over the four years of the war. Herman Haupt, a mathematics and engineering professor from Pennsylvania, led the Union’s railroad effort. He was responsible for the building of approximately 600-plus miles of railroad track, which included 26 miles of bridges, during the war.

One of his numerous bridges comes to mind: It is more than 400 feet long and approximately 80 feet high and crosses the Potomac Creek. During a visit to the site by President Lincoln on May 28, 1862, he observed: “That man Haupt has built a bridge four hundred feet long and one hundred feet high, across Potomac Creek, on which loaded trains are passing every hour, and upon my word, gentlemen, there is nothing in it but cornstalks and beanpoles.”

The American Civil War saw advances in naval warships that had never been seen before, such as ironclads, warships with no sails, submarines, revolving gun turrets and pressurized flushing toilets. On March 8-9, 1862, the ironclads CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor faced each other at the Battle of Hampton Roads and every other navy in the world immediately became obsolete.

The USS Monitor was designed by a Swedish born engineer named John Ericsson. The ship’s most prominent feature was the revolving turret instead of fixed gun positions but, in fact, the ship had approximately forty patented inventions. This is a remarkable achievement considering the ship was designed, built, and delivered in about 120 days!

C+S: Provide us a few details about your collection of engineering references dating back to 1862.

WG: I started collecting old engineering texts 35 years ago when a colleague gave me an old pump manual. While reading through the manual, I was impressed with the design engineering information provided to assist the engineers in the proper selection of the pumping equipment. My second acquisition was at a used bookstore when I found a book on steam engineering. This second one started my intentional search for old engineering books. Currently, I have about 100 textbooks, design manuals, equipment catalogues, and handbooks from 1955 all the way back to 1862. The majority are from 1890 to 1930.

Usually, I get one or two calls a month from clients or colleagues with questions about aged pipeline products and they ask me for data on those products to effect repair solutions.

C+S: You’ve done a lot of work in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Outside of the Packers, what makes that town special?

WG: Very simply, the quality of life and the people. My family has made lifelong friends in Green Bay. Nearly every project that I worked on in Green Bay was a joint effort between the owner, engineer, and the contractor to get the job done on time and done right.

My family enjoys Green Bay several times a year for long weekend visits, not including Packer games. One February, several years ago, my 11-year-old son was unhappy during our Friday night dinner at his favorite restaurant. When I inquired as to why, he said, “I need some Green Bay,” then my wife said, “I need some Green Bay also.” We left the next morning for Green Bay to snow tube and visit friends.

C+S: You’re from Mississippi, but a large chunk of your career has been spent in the Midwest. What took you so far from home, and how did you handle the culture shock of leaving the Deep South?

WG: I decided to leave the public sector and move to the private side. I was offered several opportunities in the south along with one offer from a firm in Chicago. The Chicago firm had the contract for the DuPage Water Commission and offered me the construction manager position.  It sounded challenging, and it was a new area and a new experience. So, I accepted that job offer.

From the cultural shock point of view, I was struck by how fast everybody moved, talked, etc. It was just a different pace of life which I initially found somewhat rude. About a year or so after moving there, we went back for a visit and I could not believe how slow things were back in the South.

C+S: As a Mississippi State football fan, which era do you prefer, Jackie Sherrill’s or Dan Mullen’s?

WG: Hard call. Sherrill brought a winning attitude to MSU. Mullen refined it. If forced to choose, I probably prefer the Mullen era. When I was attending a game during Mullen’s time, I felt an energy on campus that had never existed before.

C+S: Your nickname is “Old Man Winter.” How did that come about?

WG: Bestowed upon me by my dear friend Bob Card because I have a very white beard!

Green’s passions include a love of 18th century furniture. He builds furniture from the Georgian, Queen Anne and Chippendale periods. Photo: Warren Green

C+S: You have a love of 18th Century furniture. What drew you to the furniture of that era, considered one of the landmark centuries in Western History?

WG: I started woodworking at about age seven, working with my grandfather in his garage. Under his direction, I completed my first furniture project, a nightstand for my bedroom, when I was 10. In my middle teens, I started noticing that older furniture was just better made than newer pieces. Around age 17 or 18, I started wood carving, which led me to appreciate the carving on the Chippendale-style furniture with the foliage, shells, and ball-and-claw feet.

Green collects old engineering books. He has more than 100 textbooks, design manuals, equipment catalogues and handbooks from 1955 all the way back to 1862. Photo: Warren Green

In my early twenties, I started taking classes on how to evaluate and recognize antique furniture by examining period tool marks and construction techniques. The wood on most antiques is only finished on the outside and the unfinished side still has the tool marks. Examining these tool marks helps date the piece. It was this training that challenged me on how to recreate the work of these furniture masters who produced their pieces with hand tools.

I make two types of furniture from the Georgian, Queen Anne, and Chippendale periods. One type is built with no nails or screws, with only hand cut joints and glue. I do use modern glue (in lieu of animal hide glue), modern finishes and power tools, but I carve, smooth and cut joints by hand. The second type is “modern furniture” styled after the period pieces.

C+S: Herb gardening. What do you grow and are you using it in your kitchen?

WG: My summer garden includes rosemary, cilantro, basil, sage, thyme and scallions. Indoor winter garden includes basil, cilantro, and rosemary. We use them almost every day.

Green with his wife Diane and son Corban at a Green Bay Packer game in the snow. Photo: Warren Green

The Warren Green File

Family: Wife Diane and son Corban

Outside the Office: Furniture making, herb gardening, and collecting old engineering books

Building Business: Established LAN’s Chicago Office

If Not an Engineer: Trauma Surgeon

Favorite Author: Clive Cussler: Deep Six

Favorite Movie: The Right Stuff

Neat Fact: Has visited over 100 Civil War battlefields. He and wife’s ancestors fought in Civil War, and two of them served together in the same company/unit at the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863.

Richard Massey is managing editor of Zweig Group publications. He can be reached at rmassey@zweiggroup.com.