For the last seven years, Building Design and Construction magazine has provided annual updates on the green building movement. They’ve discussed the green building movement (2003), sustainability (2004), life cycle assessment (2005), green building bottom line (2006), industry perspectives (2007), climate change (2008), and now water performance (2009).
In early November, prior to the 28,000-person-attended GreenBuild conference in Phoenix, BD&C issued their 2009 white paper, which focuses on the role of water in sustainable design and construction. The editors provide a set of 21 detailed recommendations for consideration by building teams, home builders, developers, and other green building stakeholders.
The paper found that:
1. Virtually every region of the U.S. and parts of most states likely will experience water shortages in the next 10 years. Some are already feeling the effects of water scarcity.
2. More water is consumed outside buildings and homes—for landscape irrigation and cooling towers—than is used inside for toilets, faucets, showers, and the like.
3. Somewhere between 15% and 20% of the nation’s water never makes it from the filtration plant to the property line, thanks to our decaying infrastructure.
4. Manufacturers have significantly improved the efficiency of plumbing, irrigation, and water reuse technologies in recent years, but long-term conservation also depends heavily on how people use these products.
5. There may be limits to water efficiency. In some cases, saving water can lead to “unintended consequences,” such as pipeline drainage problems, health and safety concerns, and negative impacts on the environment.
6. Improvements in water performance can have a bonus: reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
7. The reuse of water may be “the next big thing” in water conservation, efficiency, and performance.
Concerning recommendations, here’s what the editors suggest…
What Building Teams Can Do
1. Design buildings to reduce cooling load.
2. Take advantage of cooling tower management technology.
3. Consider alternatives to cooling towers.
4. Design water and drain lines for optimal performance.
5. Get the landscape architect involved early in the job.
6. Become the expert on water rebates and incentives.
What Building Owners Can Do
7. Engage in water management planning.
8. Conduct water audits.
What Governments Can Do
9. Harmonize plumbing codes for water
10. Consider water-use labeling on sale or transfer.
11. Use the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) green plumbing supplement as a guide.
12. Address the infrastructure problem.
What Water Utilities Can Do
13. Be more creative in pricing water.
14. Provide incentives for water audits.
15. Implement metering innovations.
What Manufacturers Can Do
16. Support research on water performance issues.
17. Support the growth of green plumbing jobs.
What Community Colleges Can Do
18. Create a “pre-apprentice water auditor” certification program.
What the Public Can Do
19. Use less turfgrass, more native landscaping.
20. Irrigate sensibly.
21. Understand the energy cost of water.
On this last recommendation, the general public needs to understand the hidden costs of water. Water requires energy to deliver it to the end user. Water processing and distribution, coupled with sewage treatment, consumes about 4 percent of electricity in the US. In California, water transport and treatment accounts for 19% of electricity used in the state.
What are your strategies for saving water?