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Building Design+Construction White Paper Recommends 21 Ways to Use Water More Effectively


The following is an excerpt from a construction industry white paper titled "Green Buildings + Water Performance: What Building Teams and Home Builders Can Do to Confront the Pending Crisis in Water Scarcity," a joint effort produced and sponsored by the following: IAPMO, Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments, The Construction Specifications Institute, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Program, U.S. General Services Administration Public Buildings Service, Kohler Co., Lafarge, Sloan Valve Company and Watertronics, Inc.


"The building and plumbing codes are perhaps the biggest hindrance to the adoption of green buildings," says David Viola, director of Special Services for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. To bridge the gap between existing mechanical and plumbing codes and green building programs, IAPMO has produced the Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement. "There's so little information about how to do green systems properly and safely within existing building codes, so we're rolling out a document that shows how it's done," says Viola. A draft was released in August for peer review; the final version is due February 2010.

The five most important areas covered in the Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement, according to Viola:

1. Using alternate water sources

"The biggest void in the industry is how to safely use alternate water sources," says Viola. "Inspectors and code officials think it's best to avoid using graywater because they're very conservative and feel it's best to avoid the risk of something bad happening," particularly any health hazard, he says. However, many green building rating systems already give points for using alternate water sources, but they don't prescribe how to use the graywater correctly. "That's where the supplement fits in," says Viola. "We show you how to replace potable water, earn your points, and do it safely."

2. Proper use of high-efficiency plumbing products

With water conservation comes the potential for drain line clogging. For IAPMO, it's important to identify code provisions and testing methods to ensure waste flushes out correctly and efficiently. Dry drains, like those for waterless urinals, are especially tricky, according to Viola, who says the supplement states that jurisdictions should require an upstream fixture that discharges past a waterless urinal to clean the drain and minimize potential for build-up. The document also recommends a requirement to rough in a water supply in the wall in case the waterless urinal ever has to be replaced with a water-fed unit.

Another hot-button issue: multi-headed showers, which have become "the poster child for anti-green," says Viola. Installing two showerheads flowing at 2.5 gpm in a single shower stall doubles the amount of water used, even though the individual low showerheads still meet the guidelines of most green building rating programs. Viola says IAPMO is giving product manufacturers an opportunity to work out a solution. "It's an interesting debate and I like where things are heading," says Viola. "They're getting creative, which may bring us into the realm where we're using more recycled water. It's forcing the industry to think outside the box."

3. Conserving hot water

"Every bit of hot water that's conserved is energy saved," says Viola. IAPMO considers hot water systems a key part of the supplement. Energy savings can be captured by designing systems that bring hot water to the tap more quickly, by insulating pipes to mitigate heat loss as water moves through the pipes, and by right-sizing pipes and shortening runs of pipe to reduce the need to re-heat the water flowing through them.

4. Energy conservation in HVAC systems

Water conservation is one of the most important things the supplement is accomplishing, because water has so much embedded energy," says Viola. "When you save water you're getting inherent energy savings."

Viola calls energy conservation codes and standards "probably one of the most mature green areas," says Viola, pointing to ASHRAE 90.1, which serves as an energy conservation document that covers HVAC. IAPMO partnered with ASHRAE to bridge the gap between green standards and existing codes. As a result, the IAPMO supplement has essentially integrated the ASHRAE standards as its backbone.

5. Training and education in green plumbing systems

"The existing infrastructure for training professionals lacks the green element," says Viola. IAPMO recommends that jurisdictions look for examples of specific competency from professionals involved in designing, installing, and inspecting green systems. The document shies away from specifying types of training, instead recommending that industry sectors be involved in training professionals. Viola points to the complex solar and geothermal sectors. "A lot of people came up through the system without getting training in those technologies," he says.

Click here to download entire White Paper (2MB)

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