February 12, 2014
(Jake Arlein with EBS contributed a wealth of expertise to this article)
The good news: It finally rained in California! The bad news: the Department of Water Resources claims California would need heavy rain and snowfall every other day from now until May to catch up to average annual precipitation totals. The California drought is still on.
With the Department also announcing to cut off the public water supply to 25 million residents, and some predicting the state to lose $5 billion dollars in farming revenues in 2014, we need sizable solutions to alleviate water shortages and avoid serious health and economic repercussions.
Buildings present significant opportunities for water conservation, as buildings use 25 percent of global water consumption. Yet while local, state and federal governments have ratcheted up building energy efficiency codes over the years, water consumption mandates have remained largely untouched since the EPA set baseline consumption standards in 1993.
Governor Jerry’s Brown’s late-to-the-game drought declaration further evidences that the government has fallen asleep at the water wheel.
(image source: Ted Rall / For The LA Times)
Despite the lack of regulatory incentive, market drivers such as LEED and progressive municipalities like San Francisco are tackling the problem by setting water standards and efficiency opportunities of their own. And why not? With national water rates rising an average of 9% per year since 2008, water conservation presents a major financial incentive.
Saving water in buildings is easy and cost effective through plumbing fixture retrofits, which we’ll dive into in a minute. Graywater (greywater) systems—recycling water from lavatory sinks and showers to be reused in non-potable applications (toilets, irrigation, cooling towers)—present another growing opportunity. But the real commercial building water efficiency opportunity lies in blackwater systems — recycling water from toilets, urinals, and kitchen sinks for reuse in non-potable applications.
The real opportunity lies in blackwater.
There. We said it.
So why not graywater? Graywater is a good first step to water reuse, and it’s an excellent opportunity for residential water efficiency where consumption from showers and sinks is high. In commercial buildings, however, toilets and urinals are the significantly larger culprits. The only way to get to net zero water in commercial buildings is with blackwater reuse. (Blackwater diagram: Aquacell)
Installing a blackwater reuse system doesn’t cost much more than a graywater system when considering the internal rate of return—especially in San Francisco where all new construction is already required to install double piping for future water reuse capabilities. (San Francisco is one of the first and only U.S. cities to pass codes for blackwater permitting and dedicated reclaimed water piping. The city is already leading the blackwater charge in its own municipal buildings.)
And because blackwater can supply 100% of toilet and urinal flushing and 60% of total non-potable building water, it reaps a much quicker payback than graywater systems (we’ve calculated a 7 year payback for a proposed commercial skyscraper blackwater system in San Francisco). Graywater systems in commercial buildings are still economically and environmentally beneficial. But if you’re already thinking about graywater, consider blackwater as a significantly stronger commercial real estate investment and water conservation impact.
Finally, for those still feeling queasy about blackwater reuse, it’s important to understand that it undergoes rigorous filtration, disinfection and biological treatment. Depending on where your water comes from or how old your plumbing is, blackwater may even be cleaner than your potable water. As extra precaution, however, San Francisco mandates that signage be posted to alert building occupants to not drink the…toilet water.
Other methods for water conservation: fixtures, catchment, eco-districts
Blackwater systems definitely take some time and planning. System maintenance for filters, pumps and treating stations are all factors that must be planned and supported for a safe, effective system. So while you consider your future blackwater system, efficient fixtures are what you can do NOW to lower water consumption. Efficient fixtures such as toilets and faucets significantly reduce usage, and therefore water bills. Saving water also saves energy, creating a two-sided utility savings measure that makes for a highly effective real estate investment.
Low-flow and dual flush toilets and pint urinals can reduce water consumption in toilets and urinals up to 40%. In California, rebates can be obtained for upgrading 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) toilets to 1.28 gpf, which can yield a simple payback in 2-4 years.
Most kitchen sinks can be converted to high efficiency 1.5 gallon per minute (gpm) faucets by attaching a $5 aerator. (If your faucet looks like this, you can put a water efficiency aerator on it). With efficiencies gained up to 60% with aerators, you could save enough water to earn your $5 back within a day.
If you’re building a new construction project, autosensing faucets are also a great investment for water efficiency. With all of these upgrades, of course, it’s important to make sure the building’s pipes are in good order. A leaking pipe would send all these water efficiency investments straight down the drain……..
Additional opportunities for water conservation include rainwater and stormwater reuse systems, which collect water from the roofs and surrounding hardscapes of buildings and reuse the water for non-potable purposes. San Francisco mandates that all new construction reduce stormwater runoff by 25% below pre-development runoff levels—a measure that both prevents flooding and promotes water reuse.
Eco-districts are also gaining ground as a more progressive opportunity for both water and energy conservation. Eco-districts are neighborhood scale public-private partnerships that have a central water and power plant to share water and energy more efficiently within a smaller community. Eco-districts merit their own blog post (and we’ll work on that), but should be understood for their growing popularity and impact on the environment as well as the community.
How will YOU alleviate the water shortage?
What’s most important while considering how to respond to the drought is to be open to solutions. After all, Singapore has already taken the plunge by converting sewage blackwater to potable drinking water for years. It’s not out of the question that California and other drought-prone U.S. states could come to that.
Interested in learning more about how you can save water and money in your commercial building? Get in touch with us!
January 28, 2014
Today, Obayashi and Webcor announced that Obayashi’s Technical Research Institute Techno Station in Tokyo, Japan, received the third highest LEED EBOM platinum rating out of 6,199 projects worldwide.
Webcor Builders, an Obayashi Group subsidiary, managed the LEED EBOM certification process, contracting EBS to assist with the credit requirements and documentation. The companies used iLiv Technologies’ All-In cloud-based collaboration tool to collect and share data, maintain communication, and track project tasks over the course of the certification process.
Beyond the incredible LEED achievement, what makes this project so unique is that the nature of the TRI Techno Station is to research and develop cutting edge sustainable building designs and technologies. These technologies are tested on the Techno Station to determine their effectiveness and viability for implementation in Obayashi’s global construction projects. As one of the largest construction firms in the world, the designs and technologies refined in the Techno Station have the potential to significantly affect global building energy usage.
There are dozens of technology firsts within the building that help the Techno Station reduce its carbon emissions by 55% lower than the baseline of similar buildings, and achieve an ENERGY STAR rating of 93—meaning it’s more efficient than 93% of buildings worldwide. Our engineers were blown away by the innovative techniques and systems used in the building, and getting that excited about an energy audit isn’t something you see very often (traveling to Japan to conduct the energy audit didn’t hurt either)!
See our project page for more sustainability achievements and technology features, and see the full press release for more information about the LEED EBOM certification news.
You can also see our previous blog post about some interesting sustainability nuances in Japan, and how the country as a whole provides a solid foundation for pushing the limits of sustainability.
Photo Credit: Kudo
Questions? Comments? Please get in touch with us!
November 21, 2013
So far in our LEED EBOM Recertification series we’ve covered:
- The difference between initial LEED EBOM certification vs. LEED Recertification
- What you can do now for smooth LEED recertification
The 101 California St. in San Francisco, which went from the basic level of certification to obtaining one of the highest EB Platinum certification scores in the world.
Setting the standard for constant improvement, recertification requires that policies be updated to meet the current EBOM rating system requirements. With three iterations of LEED for Existing Buildings over the years and a fourth around the corner, let’s look at the most pressing changes between LEED EBOM v2009 and the upcoming LEED v4 Rating Systems.
You can also reference this full list of differences between LEED EBOM v2.0 and v2009 starting on page 19, and stay tuned for EBS’ upcoming LEED v4 educational series for the full breakdown of LEED EBOM v4.
Sustainable Sites (SS)
- The SS credit category will be split in two, adding a Location & Transportation category (LT). The former SSc4 Alternative Commuting Transportation credit will now be the only EBOM credit for this category, LTc1, and will carry the same credit requirements.
- A new site management prerequisite will combine the requirements of SSc2 (Hardscape Maintenance), and SSc3 (Landscape and Erosion Control Plan ONLY).
SSc6 is now worth 3 points, and requires the project to capture and treat 25% of the water that falls on the site’s impervious surfaces
A new site improvement plan credit was created worth 1 point (new SSc6), which requires a 5-year site improvement plan to address and improve hydrology, vegetation, and soil health
- This means that buildings will now have to address hardscape and landscape maintenance
- This prerequisite focuses on the policy only portion of the old SSc2 and SSc3, while a credit, SSc5, has been created to capture the performance requirements
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been moved fully to the IEQ credit category
Water Efficiency (WE)
- New prerequisite for whole building water metering (WEp2), which increases the number of subsystems that must be submetered
- Increased performance based and testing requirements for the Cooling Tower Chemical Management (WEc4.1), now worth 3 points
Energy & Atmosphere (EA)
- Increases the minimum ENERGY STAR score to 75 from 69 (EAp2)
- Now requires building level energy metering (EAp3)
- A new submetering credit worth 2 points (EAc5) will require that the building meter end uses that represent 20% or more of the total annual building consumption
- A new Demand Response credit (EAc6) requires participation in a demand response program for the full 3 points; other options available for less points
Materials & Resources (MR)
- New prerequisite for facility maintenance and renovation (MRp2), which covers the prescriptive requirements related to facility alterations and additions from the old MRp1 (green purchasing plan), MRp2 (solid waste management plan) and IEQc1.5
- Merged the old purchasing and solid waste management plans into one prerequisite (MRp1)
- Merged durable goods and ongoing consumables into one waste and one purchasing credit both worth 1 point (MRc1, MRc2, MRc7 & MRc8)
Environmental Quality (EQ)
- IEQp1 must now follow new 2010 ASHRAE Standards
- The no smoking policy now requires signs within 10 feet of every building entrance (IEQp2)
- Increased the IEQc3.3 green materials purchasing threshold to 75% from 30%
- Increased the IEQc3.4 green cleaning equipment threshold to 40% from 20%
- More stringent prescriptive requirements for lighting quality and controls (IEQc2.2) which is now worth 2 points
- The old IEQc1.4, IEQc3.5 and the CO2 requirement of IEQc1.2 are all combined into one Best Management Practices credit worth up to 2 points (EQc2)
- The previous Daylight and Views credit has additional options with new prescriptive requirements, worth 4 total points (EQc5)
- The exterior and interior components of integrated pest management (IPM) have been combined into one credit worth 2 points (EQc9)
- Cleaning service providers can now be certified under Green Seal’s Environmental Standard for Commercial Cleaning Services (GS-42) or the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) Cleaning Industry Management Standard for Green Buildings (CIMS-GB). (IEQp3 &IEQc3.1)
Innovation in Design (ID)
- Changed the number of possible exemplary points from 3 to 2
We have now covered who is subject to LEED Recertification, what recertification entails, when recertification must be pursued, how to meet recertification requirements and why recertification is important for maintaining and improving your building performance and value.
If you have any additional questions about LEED Recertification or want guidance on making it a smooth process, please get in touch with us!
November 21, 2013
Green buildings have experienced rapid growth in recent years, fueled by a combination of increasingly stringent building codes and the validation that higher performing buildings can in fact yield financial returns.
Additional market drivers such as third-party certifications have emerged to further boost and legitimize the industry. And evidenced by the tens of thousands of LEED Certified buildings and the tens of thousands attendees at this week’s Greenbuild, the USGBC’s LEED Certification is unarguably the prevailing rating system that’s changed the market and policy all together.
Like any industry leader, however, LEED is not without fault. Anyone who has completed LEED documentation would agree that LEED is notorious for its labor-intensive documentation process.
This year at Greenbuild, Autodesk and EBS previewed Autodesk’s emerging software solution that aims to change that. By streamlining the LEED process, Autodesk’s new software could be the key to help LEED retain its edge in the real estate industry.
Autodesk’s new LEED automation app, based on Autodesk PLM 360, will streamline LEED project management by tracking tasks, teams, milestones, documents and action items all in a centralized location (screenshot below). With direct access to LEED Online, the app will also provide insightful and actionable reports, charts and dashboards.
An early pilot customer of Autodesk’s software, EBS has been integral to the testing and QA of the Existing Building Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) component of the software. Having overseen more than 70 LEED for EBOM projects at EBS, EBS Partner Jake Arlein applies the tool to his day-to-day LEED tasks, assisting Autodesk with fine-tuning the product to make it highly effective at facilitating and achieving LEED certification. See a video demo of the LEED automation tool here.
Alongside Ani Deodhar, Program Lead, Sustainable Buildings Solution at Autodesk, Jake co-presented the product at Greenbuild. Together they discussed multiple scenarios in which Autodesk’s LEED software will help simplify the everyday LEED documentation and project management processes, changing the LEED process for the better.
Learn more about Autodesk’s sustainability solutions and about Autodesk’s news at Greenbuild 2013.
LEED project management tool:
Questions about Autodesk’s LEED project management tool? Get in touch with us!