Designing, Building for Water Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a topic that is all around and for good reason. My feeling is that the problem is not just one factor but many, such as climate change, a growing population and more. Some of these we can work on and yet others such as human population growth and demand, are areas that are much larger in scope. As builders, we cannot affect worldwide population change but we can help in every project we build and design for others.

To the is a chart from the Environmental Protection Agency showing a breakdown of the average use of an American family of four and how they consume approximately 400 gal. of water per day.

What can a builder do to help make a difference?

Faucets. Make sure every faucet is a water saver and meets the EPA’s WaterSense guidelines. This assures the buyer that you have taken the time and are concerned enough about water issues to install the best that is available in water-saving devices.

Showers. Showers are another area that can use a great deal of water. Again, using the proper fixtures not only saves water but other energy sources that are used to heat that water.

Toilets. As you can see from the chart (left) toilets are the top consumer of water in a household followed by the washer. Providing new homes with efficient toilets costs little and the pay back is almost immediate. I recently fixed a toilet due to leaks and age. It was using 140 gal. of water per day – 51,100 gal. per year. Providing a water-saving toilet and washing machine are two of the best investments you can add to a home.

Landscape watering

Do you consider weather-based irrigation controllers for landscaping on your projects? Poor irrigation systems use a great deal of water very inefficiently by applying it at the wrong time or place. This, of course, wastes water.

“WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers, which act like a thermostat for your sprinkler system telling it when to turn on and off, use local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on the site. Instead of irrigating using a controller with a clock and a preset schedule, WaterSense labeled controllers allow watering schedules to better match plants' water needs,” states on the WaterSense website.

Product specifying

So how do you find the right products to show your clients so that they can save water? The easiest way is to look for the WaterSense label (shown top left) on products. Also consider reading through the EPA WaterSense website to find advice on products and a list of locales where using these products may entitle a rebate.

WaterSense products have been engineered to a higher degree with efficiency in mind. Pricing can be higher on some items but many products are comparable in price to non WaterSense items from the research I have done. Think long-term for your client as well as everyone else.

Make an impact

We have the tools to make water usage a more efficient feature in every home and there really is no reason not to. If you haven’t looked into what features and fixtures you could add to a new home yet, now is the time. Utilize every advantage you can to make your homes stand out as well as benefit your client. Building homes that are efficient in every sense is the way we need to be moving and not doing so will surely hurt your bottom line.

What features are you thinking of adding to help conserve water in your next home?