The 1993 Dublin Statement on water and sustainable development called for concerted action to reverse over-consumption, pollution, and rising threats from drought and floods – as seen in the UK. Yet, we still use 70% more water than 30 years ago and despite massive regional water company investment, leakage from mains pipes remains a major issue.
Through BREEAM, the Government is promoting effective water management. Proper evaluation of proven water saving point control solutions is encouraged for example point-of-use electronic or self-closing basin taps and showers delivering regulated water saving flow rates, and electrical interlock to isolate water supply and prevent wastage when a washroom is not occupied. Rainwater harvesting is also being increasingly evaluated.
BREEAM recognises that effective water management is part of the total building solution, which makes a significant contribution to reducing energy/running costs. It also helps create a green building which is more attractive to potential clients and demonstrates environmental commitment to customers and staff. Its management checklist of building performance encourages a better, healthier working environment for staff and building users.
The ECA (Enhanced Capital Allowances) Scheme also encourages private companies to invest in environmentally beneficial products for water saving and quality improving technologies.
In the domain of the building services/public health professional a more leading, higher profile role is needed. We must be the client’s specifier friend, providing innovative, environmentally friendly, building solutions and helping to deliver environmentally effective water and energy savings.
This responsibility has been relinquished to architects and interior design teams in selecting sanitary ware and shower product solutions. Throughout Europe, the engineer is recognised as the ingenious one with building services people involved from the first concept brief however, building services professionals are in the best position to evaluate water, sewerage and energy needs and practical completion providing an efficient, healthy environment for a commercial building.
Historically, domestic water control product solutions are used in commercial applications where usage patterns and user demands are different. Significant savings can be achieved in commercial buildings, notably via water utilisation, basins and shower controls.
Efficient water management solutions in public buildings, hospitals, sports and leisure facilities, motorway services and education establishments will prevent water wastage and water diversity will be improved by automatically regulating quantity of water delivered to washbasins, showers, WCs, urinals.
Water supply and drainage costs impact on the bottom line. If you consider that hot water costs between five and eight times more than cold water with energy, storage and treatment costs, then the impact on high water users can be dramatic and businesses such as motorway services, schools, leisure companies and retailers are seeing increases associated with water supply.
The traditional basin mixer designed for low-pressure applications is a water waster in today’s modern commercial plumbing systems. However, an alternative like Tempostop is a cost effective time flow basin tap with pre-set flow rate at 4 litres per minute, offering easy use, eliminating cross contamination risk. By using this product water savings of over 60%, with equivalent energy savings, can be achieved.
New generation electronic controls with a total hygiene solution with non-touch operation also prevent cross contamination. The risk of transferring harmful, even life-threatening, bacteria/viruses is reduced and water savings of over 70% can be achieved.
Some electronic basin taps and mixers have an anti-Legionella feature – an automatic one minute duty flush if the tap has not been operated for 24 hours, preventing water stagnation and bacteria development in supply pipes.
Thermostatic shower valves are now installed in new and existing domestic properties. Used around 100 times a day in the demanding sports and leisure sector, the regulate the water delivered which means considerable savings in water and energy can be delivered.
Thermostatic Mixing Valves (TMVs), independently tested/certified under BuildCert’s TMV3 scheme, are now a standard feature of modern commercial washrooms, providing safe hot water temperatures and preventing scalding.
Urinal flushing systems can also be major water users with historic cistern problems of long fill times, poor flush and fragile mechanism affected by impurity accumulation. However, direct flush solutions, used extensively throughout Europe offer self-closing or non-touch infrared operation – providing successive, powerful flushing, essential for heavily used washrooms without high frequency maintenance.
Effective water management integrates water utilisation, hygiene control and safety.
With water costing more it will significantly improve the bottom line of any company and there are plenty of ways in which savings can be achieved. Rainwater harvesting is a good example because although it requires sizeable capital investment to collect, store, treat and distribute, it has a role in the environmental solution but only if we effectively and wisely manage this free water resource.
The simple fact remains that we must save water and therefore we must use it wisely but it is up to building services professionals to address these issues.
The technology is proven and the solutions are available – we just need to ensure that we are making the most of the technology available.