As water rates rise across the country, many building owners and managers have begun implementing LEED green initiatives to assist in conserving water.
For commercial and multifamily structures, such approaches also encourage relations between individuals who share a similar mindset, according to WaterSignal, a green technology firm focused on water conservation.
Using green technology, a water conservation program can replace inefficient equipment to reduce consumption and continuously measure water flow to immediately alert of potential leaks.
The first step is to create a plan for water conservation. An effective plan examines how much water is being used, when it is used and where it is being used. To accomplish this, the plan requires accurate data. Conduct a water audit to set a benchmark and use subsequent data to measure progress.
Looking at commercial buildings, a successful water conservation program can have a large impact on three major areas: restrooms (accounting for 40 percent of water used), cooling/heating (accounting for 28 percent) and irrigation (accounting for 22 percent).
Through a water audit, information can be obtained on where and how much water enters and leaves the system. One of the major objectives of the audit is to estimate and reduce unaccounted for water use that occurs through leaks, inoperative system controls and water used from unmetered sources. As earlier percentages indicate, significant water usage (and large water bills) could quickly add up if not being tracked.
An audit typically includes a review of floor plans, occupancy and utility records to collect as much information as possible about a building’s current and future water use.
The next step is to conduct a facility survey to better understand how water is being used in the three major areas. Measuring fixture flow rates, irrigation system usage and cooling tower usage can help managers compute total water usage.
Time to execute
With the data and visual surveys collected, a water conservation action plan can be launched. The plan should encompass the system and equipment changes required, as well as a return on investment forecast taking into consideration the rising water/sewer rates. Additionally, include short-term no-brainer fixes and long-term remedies for each of the three major water consumption areas of the building. The following items are typical within a commercial water conservation plan:
· Leads and drips of faucets, which can drip away more than 10,000 gallons per month if not fixed
· Winterize outdoor spigots and pipes in unheated areas to prevent freezing and leaking
· Check for wet spots and alligatored paving, which may indicate underground leaks
· Keep accurate reports on inspections to note changes that may indicate potential problems
· Educate tenants and employees on your conservation plan, what they can do to help and what to do if they spot a problem
Most toilets, urinals and faucets in use today were not designed for water conservation and are the main culprits for water (and money) needlessly being washed down the drain. With 4.8 billion gallons of water flushed every day in America, toilets are responsible for approximately one-third of a building’s water use.
Here are some guidelines to conserve water and save money:
· Install low flow fixtures and consider metered valve, self-closing, infrared and ultrasonic sensor fixtures
· Keep toilets in good working order by periodically inspecting and replacing flapper valves and ballcocks that deteriorate and case leaks and/or toilets to continually run
· Consider waterless urinals
· Adjust flush valve to use less water
While having a beautifully landscaped area helps with tenant retention, keeping up with it can be costly. Since most sprinkler systems are set for pre-dawn watering, most managers don’t notice a major problem until an area goes brown because of a malfunctioning device or they get a high water bill at the end of the month.
Here are some guidelines for immediate water savings:
· Inspect irrigation system for leaks, broken heads
· Adjust sprinkler heads to ensure your watering landscape, not pavement
· Install rain sensors so the system won’t start while it’s raining
· Water before 9 a.m. to minimize evaporation
· Consider irrigating from detention ponds or reservoir
· Stop using water to clean sidewalks, parking lots and other hard decks
Cooling towers keep us comfortable, but as the largest single water user, their water consumption can make us anything but. Designed to remove heat through water and evaporation process, the system continually replenishes water as it loses it from bleed-off required to remove suspended or dissolved solids left behind, drift (mist and droplets carried out of the tower) and leaks.
Some guidelines for conserving water are:
· Inspect cooling tower for leaks and malfunctioning valves on a regular basis
· Install flow meters on make-up and bleed-off lines
· Read meters regularly and keep a log of make-up and bleed-off quantities
· Recycle and reuse by investigating other uses for bleed-off water and find additional sources for make-up water