Slow the flow of wasted water

How much water do you drink each day?

If you keep an insulated reusable water bottle at your desk and fill it every hour, you will consume about a half gallon in a workday. That includes the two cups of coffee that you enjoy.

The surprising truth is, all of those glasses and cups are negligible when compared to the average 8.5-gallon daily use per employee in and around office buildings. Water can be a significant utility expense in many work environments.

  • Office buildings
    While coffee-drinking is an office ritual, essential for a morning wake-up, the largest water uses in office buildings are restrooms, HVAC systems, and landscaping.
  • Educational facilities
    Teachers consume no less coffee, but schools also require cafeterias and commercial kitchens. Restrooms, landscaping, and HVAC require significant quantities as well.
  • Healthcare facilities
    Beyond HVAC, plumbing fixtures, and landscaping, medical process rinses contribute to total water costs at hospitals and clinics.

It all adds up. Commercial and institutional facilities consume 17 percent of U.S. public water supplies. To make the monthly expense total little less in your organization, consider these quick-win suggestions:

Small investments

Many commercial-grade automatic faucets cost less than $300 per fixture. Add the necessary plumbing and electrical installation expense, then factor in the monthly benefit.  Automatic faucets can save 70% of the water that would otherwise swirl down the drain unused.

The investment pays off in other ways, most significantly in touch-free cleanliness that spreads fewer of the germs that add to sick days. Automatic faucets require far less routine maintenance as well.

If fixtures are to be replaced but automatic faucets are not in the budget, know that single-lever faucets will trim the expense of hot water heating and are less likely to drip. On standard faucets, the lowest-cost option takes two minutes to install. For a few dollars, a flow restrictor will pleasantly aerate the water while reducing the volume to about 1.5 gallons per minute. Note that these devices may be gender-specific to the faucet design.

Minor maintenance

Even a slowly dripping tap can send 2,500 gallons of water down the drain in less than a year. The wasted volume could otherwise fill the insulated reusable water bottles of 20 health-conscious employees.

The single-lever faucets mentioned above quickly reach the desired temperature. That, too, saves water.

A switch from styrofoam

You have heard of the perils of polystyrene. It takes five centuries to decompose. Styrofoam cups leach carcinogens into our morning java. It kills marine life.

Styrofoam cups conveniently stack in the breakroom cupboard, but so do mugs which can be customized with a logo, distributed as a corporate perquisite, and washed again and again. If your well-equipped breakroom has a dishwasher, instruct employees to place the mugs there rather than in the sink. Skip the wasteful pre-rinse, and wait until both racks are full before initiating the air-dry cycle.

When upgrading the breakroom, remember that water-efficient dishwashers use 50% less water than average models.

More resources

As you consider the alternatives, consult the online calculator provided by Kohler Co. It estimates water use in a commercial building and provides comparisons to both the U.S. average and the USGBC LEED baseline.

For some quick reading, download the EPA’s two-page guide to Saving Water in Office Buildings.

Alexa Stone
LEED AP, Sustainable Facility Professional, Envision Sustainability Professional - - Alexa has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable operations, decarbonization, and occupant wellness. Her strategic planning work has served local, state, and federal government, higher education, and private industry. Alexa founded ecoPreserve in 2009 as a team of three and has grown the company to over 20 of the brightest sustainability and project management professionals in the industry.
Alexa Stone

@ecopreserve

We empower organizations to reduce environmental impact, improve efficiency, and improve quality of life.
Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005. A 50-year timeline of climate change digs deeper to reveal a… https://t.co/Z5BraPEZMk - 2 weeks ago
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Tools tailored to location and need

Disaster resilience requires a select toolset, identified, adapted, or created as needed based on planning calls and inclusive workshop participation.

Business and government organizations today are confronted by threat categories that range from drought to flood, from fire to hurricane, and extend globally to pandemics and sea level rise. Threat categories are broad and diverse, but ecoPreserve and collaborating organizations design resiliency tools for specific local context.

Local needs are identified and verified. Building from that essential understanding, tools are designed, tested in pilot programs, refined, then implemented through action plans.

AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

Today's challenges/
tomorrow's potential

ecoPreserve collaborates with major community and private organizations in optimizing the resiliency and resource efficiency of their workplaces, venues, and public spaces.

In response to ever-increasing environmental, sociopolitical, and public health challenges, we advocate for and participate in assessment and planning actions that directly address disaster preparations, recovery activities, infrastructure improvements, and smart building/city design.

Online and in-person workshops

ecoPreserve designs and leads workshops in varied formats, to achieve varied goals.

Often an event is held for skill and knowledge development, but some needs of an organization or community are better resolved through collaboration to identify requirements and to design solutions. A range of Disaster Resilience workshops are available for solutions planning and development, as well as for training and communication.

Disaster Planning and Recovery Workshops

  • Identify technical and business process gaps
  • Define stakeholders, recovery teams, and processes/functionalities necessary for operation
  • Highlight missed expectations from a data loss and recovery time perspective
  • Address compliance with regulatory agencies and industry standards
Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

Facility Condition Report

The report is prepared in accordance with the recommendations of ASTM E2018-15, Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments. This is a partial list of contents:

  • PHYSICAL CONDITION
    • General condition of the building, grounds, and appurtenances
    • Physical deficiencies, their significance, and suggested remedies
    • Photographs
    • Safety issues observed
  • INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPREAD POTENTIAL
  • OPPORTUNITIES
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    • Electricity and water use reductions
    • High-efficiency interior and exterior lighting
  • ORDER OF MAGNITUDE RENOVATION BUDGET
    • Recommended interior finishes
    • Construction costs

Risk Mitigation Improvements

  • IAQ
    • Airflow
    • Temperature and humidity
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC EQUIPMENT
    • Settings
    • Conditions
    • Capability
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  • FLOORPLAN
    • Traffic patterns
  • FURNISHINGS
    • Placement for social distancing
    • Clear barriers where social distancing is not possible

Interior Elements

  • Foundation
  • Building frame and roof
  • Structural elements
    • Floors, walls, ceilings
    • Access and egress
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC equipment and ductwork
  • Utilities
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing
  • Safety and fire protection

Grounds and Appurtenances

  • Façades or curtainwall
  • Topography
  • Storm water drainage
  • Paving, curbing, and parking
  • Flatwork
  • Landscaping
  • Recreational facilities
Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

An OPTIMIZED Assessment

Certified Sustainability Consultants on a facility assessment team can discover ways to lower energy costs. Their understanding of HVAC equipment suitability and condition along with the specifics of LED lighting retrofits can provide offsets for needed investments in upgrades and replacements.

Knowledge of water systems can bring further savings while averting water waste. It can all be part of an assessment which might otherwise overlook water fixtures and irrigation schedules.

How should a facility be ASSESSED?

A thorough facility assessment finds the issues - on the surface or below - which have a potential negative impact on the building. That brings the facility to meet building codes. Beyond that, the assessment proactively addresses the deficiencies not covered by code.

The occupants of a building benefit as the assessment reveals conditions having a potential impact on their health or safety. The assessment must not overlook those conditions, nor fail to consider the frequency and duration of occupant visits.