Saving Water with Construction Management

Time Tells is concerned with the preservation of historical buildings as we move forward into a new era of construction. In today’s post, Noelle Hirsch continues the discussion in a post about the challenges of sustainability by considering the ways in which modern construction managers are attempting to save aquatic resources and money by building with the future in mind.

Construction Management Takes a Crack at Lowering Water Consumption by Retrofitting Buildings

Water use in the U.S. is at its lowest while the economic productivity of water in the country is at an all time high, according to US Geological Survey research. In fact, per-capita water use has dropped almost 30% since 1975. Much of the good news can be attributed to improvements in irrigation and industrial water usage, illustrating how lowering consumption and raising efficiency leads to tangible results. However, even as efficiency increases, demand continues to grow. Water scarcity is a rapidly growing problem around the globe, and as population grows, the strain is expected to worsen, even in the U.S. In the midst of these precarious conditions, building and construction managers are in a unique position to substantially raise water efficiency. By using technology to build and retrofit buildings for increased water efficiency, managers can take an active role in subverting the deepening water crisis.

Water conservation strategies can be implemented using a variety of methods, though one of the first steps for a construction manager will often be a water audit. A water audit seeks to define where water is being used and how much is being used at each location. With this information, an assessment of potential water savings can be conducted. Once an audit and water savings assessment are conducted, managers are often surprised at how much water is being wasted in seemingly small ways every day.

On example of wasted water that affects many buildings can be accounted for by restroom usage. Simply flushing a standard toilet will commonly waste three to four gallons of water with every use. Ultra-low flush toilets can be installed that use an industry standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. Pressure-assist toilets limit water usage to as low as 1.0 gallon per flush, although these systems cannot be retrofitted onto existing fixtures since they must be installed new. Installing aerators on bathroom and kitchen faucets can save an average of 0.7 gallons per minute at normal usage rates and installing low-flow shower heads can save 0.75 gallons per minute at normal usage rates.

Increasingly popular among managers looking to severely reduce water usage are high-efficiency toilets like dual-flush technology, which can limit water consumption by 20 to 40%. With manual dual-flush systems, restroom users can choose a reduced or regular flush, reducing water usage to as little as 1.1 gallon per flush. Plumbing systems that use sensor operations and adjust water usage depending on need are also gaining traction as one of the most effective ways to save water. Most high-efficiency technologies can only be installed through large-scale renovations. Though they require more investment than small scale retrofits, they are an excellent way to increase the value and relevance of older buildings when conducting large-scale renovations.

Instrumental in popularizing the usage of water-efficient technologies has been The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification. Using captured rainwater and recycled wastewater or increasing irrigation efficiency by utilizing native plants to eliminate the need for irrigation will all garner points towards LEED certification. By utilizing natural water resources through efficient irrigation and limiting unnecessary water usage, construction managers can cut water usage by as much as 50% without any inconvenience to a building’s patrons. As water issues worsen around the globe, the modest retrofitting of structures by U.S. building managers makes tangible progress towards protecting and preserving our most vital resource.

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