4 tips on Water Efficiency
1. Why Water Efficiency Should Be A Priority
Today's tip is about why water efficiency should be a priority for facility managers.
Last year, more than 60 percent of the U.S. experienced at least moderate drought conditions. The droughts highlight again the increasing value of water. You may have heard the expression several times in the last few years: "Water is the new energy."
Some see that statement as hyperbole. Indeed, many facility managers, even in drought-affected regions, can still point to their water and sewer bills and calculate the total as only a small fraction of a facility's energy bill. But that certainly doesn't mean water should be ignored.
Though still a small percentage of a facility's operating budget, water is getting more expensive. Much of the studies showing water rate rises are for residential rates— like a study last year published by Circle of Blue shows water rates in 30 major cities have risen an average of 17.9 percent since 2010. The particular study also points out that the cost of water is rising much quicker than inflation. And it doesn't take a water consultant to figure out that in cities where the residential water rate is rising rapidly, so is the commercial.
ASHRAE and the U.S. Green Building Council are two organizations that see the writing on the wall in terms of the importance of reducing building water use. ASHRAE is hard at work on a new standard, 191, Standard for the Efficient Use of Water in Building, Site and Mechanical Systems. According to ASHRAE, "the purpose of this standard is to provide baseline requirements for the design of buildings, landscapes, and mechanical systems that minimizes the volume of water required to operate HVAC systems, plumbing systems, common building special process systems, cleaning systems and irrigation systems."
And USGBC is adding much more weight to the Water Efficiency section of its signature LEED rating system (especially in LEED-EBOM) when the new version is released later this year.
Water efficiency advocates say now is the time to look at your facility's water use - and make reducing a priority. Do a water audit. Calculate return on investments for simple upgrades. Start an education campaign for occupants in your buildings emphasizing the importance of being water conscious.
2. Understanding Key Plumbing Upgrade Considerations
I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic discusses plumbing and restroom maintenance.
Many institutional and commercial facilities are installing a new generation of water-efficient plumbing fixtures — including flush valves, urinals, and faucets — at an ever-increasing rate. Their goals most often are to curtail water use by plumbing systems, reduce utility costs and improve the organization's overall sustainability.
But to ensure that these products deliver the desired benefits to the organization and the environment, maintenance and engineering managers who are making product selections need to carefully consider the maintenance impact these products are likely to have.
As maintenance and water costs rise, managers are increasingly installing pressure gages and flow meters at strategic locations in their buildings' plumbing systems to monitor the flow of water. Once managers are certain all of these readings are at normal levels, the next step is to look at individual fixtures and assess their condition. The first steps in effective troubleshooting involve knowing baseline flow readings, and monitoring, recording, and comparing the current readings.
Other efficiency considerations include lowering water use by replacing the aerator on the tap with a new one at a cost of a few dollars. The installation yields a new flow rate of one-half gpm. The flow is reduced by 3-1/2 gallons per minute.
Even if the valve operates just three minutes a day for 250 days per year, the annual savings from that level of operation would be more than 2,600 gallons. Ten faucets operating at that level would multiply the savings to 26,000 gallons.
Hygiene is also a critical component to successful restroom maintenance. Daily cleaning of the toilet seat, bowl, fixtures, and urinals is important to maintain an antiseptic, odor-free restroom.
3. Roofing: Making Photovoltaic Systems Work
I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic discusses photovoltaic systems.
The development of more efficient, cost-effective solar panels, combined with volatile energy prices, makes PV technology an attractive alternative for managing energy prices and supporting sustainability efforts. Maintenance and engineering managers considering installing a PV system need to consider several practical factors before, during, and after installation of a rooftop system.
Before installing a PV system, managers need to examine several critical factors, including business goals, energy audits, location, system size and type, roof age and type, budget, and financial incentives. Each of these factors will play an important role in the success of the project.
Prior to installing a new PV system, it is imperative to evaluate the condition of the existing roof system to determine the appropriate maintenance, repairs or replacement that might be required.
And, when installing a rooftop PV system, the roof becomes more than just a watertight barrier. It becomes a work surface with increased traffic.
Managers should consider incorporating a roof-maintenance program that begins with designing a more durable roof system and focuses on identifying potential leaks and making repairs before leaks occur.
The cost of installing a PV system has fallen dramatically in recent years, but available funding still might be a limiting factor. Current systems typically cost around $5 per watt. Although still expensive, managers should consider additional sources of funding that might reduce the overall cost to the facility owner.
Federal incentives for commercial businesses include a 30 percent tax credit on the total cost of the system and a five-year depreciation schedule, including a 50 percent bonus provided during the first year.
Many states and utilities also provide incentives and other options to consider that can reduce the payback period. Managers can visit www.dsire.org for more specific information on federal and state incentives.
4. LEED-EBOM 2012 To Focus on Performance
Today's tip of the day is about some of the major changes to look forward to when LEED EBOM is released in its newest version this fall. All of the LEED rating systems are getting overhauls, but it's the Operations and Maintenance rating system that has some of the biggest changes.
Most importantly, each LEED-EBOM credit and prerequisite is being rewritten to include two parts, an Establishment part and a Performance part. Facility managers will have to comply with both parts in order to earn the points for the credit.
The establishment portion of each credit is, as the U.S. Green Building Council explains, "static and foundational." It "establishes" the foundation for ongoing performance in the building, including strategies like installing meters and developing policies and procedures. As an example, in the draft version of LEED-EBOM, the Establishment portion of the Water Efficiency Credit for "additional landscape water use" requires users to calculate the baseline of current landscape water use and install a submeter to measure it.
The Performance portion of each credit, as its name implies, ensures that the Establishment portion of the credit is carried out in the real world. The Performance part of a credit is "dynamic and recurring," and includes strategies such as surveys, audits, and ongoing tracking. As an example, for the water efficiency credit mentioned early, to comply with the Performance part of the credit, facility managers must calculate the metered water use, and then are awarded 1 point if that use is 30 percent below a baseline of the average of the last three years, and 2 points if use is 40 percent below that baseline.
One of the goals of the dual-part credits in LEED-EBOM is to help reduce redundancy in the recertification process. Facility managers can more easily track each performance requirement and only submit that information for recertification, as opposed to have to start essentially from scratch to recertify.
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