5 Ways to Increase Water Efficiency in Green Buildings

There is not an endless supply of water. Water efficiency in Green Buildings enables you to preserve this precious, natural resource. There are several ways you can improve the water conservation of buildings your design, own, or operate.

Although 70% of the world consists of water, only 3% is freshwater. That leaves the population with 0.4% usable and drinkable water. 

For that reason, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program helps building designers, owners, and operators develop measures to become sustainable and efficient structures. These facilities are known as Green Buildings. 

Graph of the world's freshwater


Key Takeaways:

  • It is possible to design a building with net-zero energy consumption, meaning the structure is nearly completely self-sufficient regarding energy usage. 
  • Conducting water audits gives you a better understanding of the water usage in the buildings you own, manage, or design. That will help you develop efficiency policies and practices.
  • Collecting rainwater and incorporating water treatment systems allows you to use that water throughout your facility in areas freshwater isn't needed.
  • Eco-conscious fixtures and fittings in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchen areas will save you three times what older models can, saving you money and conserving water.

What it Means to Have a Green Building

The concept of net-zero energy consumption and green building designs derive from the goal of creating positive impacts on the environment and the climate. They combine efficiency and renewable energy recourses to reduce water and power consumption and improve the quality of life in the surrounding communities.

The LEED created a rating system used to score each of these structures. The purpose of the LEED Green Building Rating System™ is to measure a building's sustainability and efficiency in the U.S. and Canada. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) offers accreditation through this program.

Projects pursuing LEED certification can obtain points for various Green Building categories. They base them on the number of points achieved, and these projects can earn one of four LEED rating levels:

  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Certified

The highest level is Platinum. Projects earn these points through the framework of design, construction, performance, and operations. It focuses on material selection, air quality, human comfort, and health features. 

5 Ways to Improve Water Efficiency in Green Building

The Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, is considered one of the greenest commercial buildings in the world. Developers used heavy timber to create this structure, and materials remain in their natural state to avoid toxins like those in finishes.

Developers sourced the wood locally, and the triple-glazed curtain wall systems are airtight and provide temperature control. It captures natural light so that the lighting systems remain off for most of the year.

When developers designed this building, they implemented many of the following Green Building strategies to improve water efficiency.

1. Conduct Water Audits 

The first step in water conservation is to have a complete understanding of water usage within the facility. Experts agree that conducting a water audit will assist engineers and architects with developing water-efficiency designs for existing structures.

You can have them done in-house. There are water-saving calculation tools that make this task easier. However, experts recommend having a utility or plumbing professional conduct these audits.  

Water audits are not as common as energy audits and do not have the same rigorous guidelines. However, several groups are attempting to adopt a standard for water audits.

2. Set Sustainability Goals

Once you understand the water usage within your facility, you can set sustainability goals. If you are working on a new design project, set these goals in the early stages of development. That way, you can begin designing the structure to satisfy these goals.

For example, if you and the stakeholders determine that the building should reduce water usage by 20%, you can choose WaterSense fixtures that facilitate these savings. Incorporating a self-sustaining irrigation system can also help to meet this goal.

3. Implement Energy Simulation Tools  

Engineers and architects can perform advanced analysis through 3D building energy simulation tools to increase efficiencies. These software programs can detect, monitor, and send alerts of any inefficiencies throughout the building. Popular programs include:

  • Green Building Studio®
  • Energy Plus
  • IES Energy Modeling

This technology allows developers to enhance a green building’s design to increase sustainability. They can use this analysis to orient the building for the best efficiencies, particularly power and water consumption. 

4. Collect Rainwater   

Harvesting rainwater allows the building to capture water for use in toilets and irrigation systems. The facility stores the rainwater in a tank under the structure for later use. 

You can take it one step further and install water treatment equipment that purifies the water to make it usable for drinking water or washing hands, dishes, clothing, etc. Doing this reduces or eliminates the need for municipal water use.

Some states require permits to capture rainwater. Check with the regulations in your area before installing a rainwater collection system.  

5. Upgrade Bathroom and Kitchen Fixtures

When you upgrade the fixtures in your facilities' bathrooms and kitchen, you improve efficiencies. For example, older faucets are not water conserving. Today, improvements in design and function enable them to be more water-efficient. 

You can also mount metering and submetering fittings, like touchless faucets with metering settings that allow you to set the flow rate and the amount of water dispensed with every use.

Table of plumbing fixture water flow rates

Before 1992, plumbing fixtures were three times less efficient than today. Your commercial building will use 20% less overall water usage by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Installing dual-flush valves for toilets and replacing high-flow valves with low-flow valves in fixtures will decrease consumption and increase water efficiency. You can also improve water conservation by upgrading appliances, like: 

  • Dishwashers
  • Washing machines
  • HVAC units
  • Ventilation systems

How to Design Healthier Buildings  

At Chicago Faucets, we take water conservation seriously. That is why we are members of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). 

We are proud partners with the EPA's WaterSense program to preserve the nation's water supply through conservation. Together, we enhance the market of water-efficient products, manufacturing practices, and eco-conscious programs. 

If you're looking to be a part of the Green Building initiative, contact us today. You can learn more about our water-conservation products and find the fittings and fixtures you need to design healthy buildings.  

Topics: healthy buildings, water efficiency in green buildings