Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Living LEED Edition No.2: Water, Water everywhere or is it?!

This is a guide for LEED accredited professionals and eco-conscious individuals on how to apply the LEED credit scorecard to their personal lives.

This edition is a topic of much discussion: Water Reduction. We are all criminals in our over usage of water. Me, I am just as guilty. It's a cold early Spring day as I write this. I really enjoy a long hot shower. Who doesn't?! But how do you check and balance this is the heart of this discussion.

LEED across the various disciplines dictates our projects reduce its water usage by at least 20%. When you score higher percentages, for instance 30, 35 or 40, you get more credit points. We know how to achieve this: by metering, timed water usage, low to no flow toilets and more. As you know these formulas are based on men and women using toilet rooms "X" times a day. Come on LEED, let's get real! Not use the mean average! If you drink multiple cups of coffee a day, are you really holding it in and going about 3 times a day. I highly doubt it! In my interpretation, the credit is a minimum of what we should be doing on the job.

At home there is little chance of us ripping out our old faucets and installing new proximity sensor faucets. Usually we install a low flow toilet. Yet how many people have really installed aerators on their sink and shower faucets. I dare say many people love a pulsating water massage! Which is a water hog. No pun intended! So how do we get water usage reduced at home when we can or cannot replace fixtures? The answer is a major culture shift in our habits. One we have to practice no just at home but at work.

Get your water bills for the past year and create log of how much you use. Notice any variations. These could be time of year, a vacation or maybe you forgo showers at home for the ones at the gym! My lifestyle is already blissfully spartan even with 2 dogs. And these boys drink a lot of water. Yet my bill never goes above the minimum. I know by reviewing my bills and watching my water habits, I've drastically reduced my water consumption. By how much? I wish I could know. But when the city only charges you baseline, then you have nothing it to compare to.  

The keys to home Water Reduction and Consumption are simple: Reduce and Re-use. If there are children in the house it will be a challenge but one the kids will probably have fun doing. For us adults, it's changing our mindset. I've composed a list of things to help shift our Water Hog mentality. Many most of you will know. This list won't be pretty but neither is waste or wasting water. Clean water might not be an issue here in New England but I am waiting for the dam to break in Drought cultures in Texas and California. For your friends out there, this blog will help! So tighten those valves and let's get to reducing!
  • Reduce your hand washing time. PERIOD!
  • Wash your hands in a sink of water and not let the water run. Or put all your cups and bowls that need rinsing and wash your hands over them and let the grey water soak the dirty dishes.
  • Transfer that water or rinsing water to a potted indoor or outdoor plant. This is especially effective come summer. I rarely fill a bucket with water to water my patio garden of a dozen or so plants.
  • Fill up a bucket by keeping one with you in the shower. So that it catches the 'waste' water.
  • Install aereators!
  • Install a Flow Control valve on your shower head. While living in Europe, you learn to get wet, shut off the water, soap up, turn it back on to rinse the soap off. This would often lead to a cold shock but with a flow control, you will have the water temperature where you last had it.
  • Rinse all fruit and vegetables into a bucket and use the water for plants or, ahem, flushing No.1!
  • Icky dog or cat water, the plants love it!
  • Buy water saving/energy star dishwashers, horizontal axis washing machines. Only wash full loads!
  • Install rain barrels!
  • Plant indigenous and drought tolerant plants.

We've all got to Conserve! I need to take shorter hot showers. You and your family have to ween yourself of letting the water run forgetting that is is wasted down the drain. By conserving, we are helping to preserve our water resources and save money. 

We've all got to Reduce usage!

We all have to Re-use too!

LEED for buildings doesn't take into account the cultural factors. Living LEED does. I bet you can reduce far more than you think. The added benefit is more money in your wallet. So grab that glass and have a tall glass of filtered water, bottled is not the answer. Your tap is!

Steve is a Holistic Design Professional at a large Boston-area design firm. The opinions expressed by member bloggers are their own and not necessarily those of the USGBC Massachusetts Chapter. We welcome contributions from all Members. If you would like to write for the blog, use the Contact us tab to drop us a line.


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