This is part 4 of a 5-part series.
So far in our series of green initiatives for office buildings, we have discussed the benefits of installing green roofs and living walls, implementing tenant recycling, and enhancing energy efficiency of HVAC systems. Today, we are going to take a look at what is arguably our planet’s most abundant and precious resource—water. I’m not just talking about the little metal drinking bowlful that I get! Buildings use a lot of water in many different ways!
As with other green improvements, focusing on water conservation might require considerable upfront costs. But these can easily be recouped. Simple fixes can pay immediate dividends. For example, a leaking faucet can release up to 1,000 gallons of water every week, which will add up to savings of $300 a year. A 10-story building could have 50-100 faucets. That wasted water really adds up!
For today’s discussion, we are focusing on water conservation efforts for tenants in “typical” office settings, instead of businesses that use large amounts of water in manufacturing processes.
Some water conservation changes could also potentially provide the extra benefit of tax advantages. Be sure to check with your accounting firm for information about possible state or federal credits.
Since most large buildings use thousands of gallons of water every day, let’s explore some of the ways that you can ensure you use those gallons wisely:
- Piping and Water Systems:
- Ensure hot water pipes are properly insulated for increased efficiency.
- Perform an inspection of all water pipes to uncover leaks which not only waste water but can also cause problems such as rot or mold growth.
- Check water pressure to make sure is the gauge is not set higher than necessary. Install water pressure regulators, if needed.
- Bathroom Water Conservation:
- Installation of low-flow toilets, which can reduce water requirements from about 4.5 gallons per flush to 1.6 gallons. I just “go” on the landscaping. Talk about reusing water!
- Faucets should be continuously monitored for leaks. And tenants should be asked to report problems to their facility management team. Faucets can be replaced with lower-flow models which can save water without inconveniencing tenants.
- Urinals can be changed to automatic flush models.
- Close the lid unless you want Fido to recycle your toilet water, himself. Personally, I prefer unclaimed water.
- Choosing the right plants for your climate zone can reduce irrigation needs substantially.
- Consider xeriscaping some landscape areas. This is particularly important for offices located in the Southwest, where large expanses of green lawn are water wasters! As much as we dogs love to run on grass, some sand is just fine. Just let us know in advance if you’ve planted any cactus.
- Install rain sensors so sprinklers are turned off when they are not needed.
- Adjust the irrigation schedule for seasonal sun and rain patterns.
- Graywater Treatment Systems:
- Systems collect untreated wastewater from bathroom and kitchen sinks and, in some instances, clothes washers.
- Collected water is integrated into landscaping irrigation.
- Proper signage is important to keep people (especially splashing children) away from recycled water. Maybe consider installing a fence to keep pooches out.
- Train tenants and their employees to follow sound water usage practices:
- Limit dishwasher usage by running only full loads.
- If the offices have shower facilities, encourage employees to limit shower times.
- Cleaning and Maintenance:
- Instruct your maintenance staff to use sweeping or other methods to clean sidewalks or patios, instead of spraying water.
- Cleaning crews should manage water usage properly.
- Don’t wash your dog:
- You know me and my pals hate the garden hose! Take us to the groomer or just leave us alone. A little dirt never hurt anybody.
Water conservation can be achieved through changes to physical processes and materials as well as adjustments to tenant and maintenance personnel behaviors. An important step in the process is to keep track of your water usage before and after changes are implemented, so you and your facilities’ team can see the long-term savings in actual dollars. I use a spreadsheet to track the critters I chase and a corresponding score for each critter type. It’s wonderful to see my long-term successes!
Visit us next week for the final entry in our 5-part series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact the good people at RJ Westmore, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.