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Networked Water-Management Systems Aid Green Goals


While most of the focus and attention regarding green buildings is on energy, there are LEED credits related to water use which address landscaping, water-use reduction, and innovative wastewater techniques. Water is a uniquely critical resource and also has a direct connection to energy use. Every drop from the faucet requires some pumping or treatment which uses energy; therefore, reducing potable water use reduces energy consumption. Networked water-management systems can play an important role in reducing water use.

From a green building perspective, the interest is primarily in how we manage and monitor the water use in buildings. More specifically, the focus is on systems that will allow us to collect data on water use and provide actionable information to the facility or property manager. The water management system can identify water leaks and running fixtures and provide information as to when the fixtures are in use, flow rates, restroom traffic patterns, and how water usage changes with the season.

Networked water-monitoring and -management systems consist of flow meters, sensor-operator water fixtures such as faucets, urinals, water closets, occupancy sensors, automated ball valves, and water valves. Some of these devices can be monitored and managed, and others only monitored. These management systems are also applicable to greywater, wastewater, and recycled rainwater systems. For example, a greywater system will need to monitor ultraviolet lamps used to disinfect greywater, the filters, system pressure, UV lamp life and failure, pumps, etc.

By integrating data from a power management or energy management system with the water management system, it is possible to measure energy consumption of the water distribution or irrigation systems and also use the power usage and gallons per minute (gpm) of the pumps to detect inefficient or failing pumps. For example, if the kW/gallon drifts up from historical data for the same gpm (i.e., not just a performance curve variance), that is a sign that the pump (while operational) needs service because it is less efficient.

This quick read is from Jim Sinopoli, managing principal, Smart Buildings LLC.

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