Where Blue Meets Green: Facility Management Strategies for Reducing Water Consumption and Costs
Linda Seigler, Northeastern Regional Sales Manager, T&S Brass and Bronze Works
In today’s business climate, facility managers face ever-mounting pressure to reduce costs and become more environmentally-conscious. Ironically, one of the most universally-used resources is one of the most frequently overlooked areas for immediate conservation opportunities: water.
As reported by USA Today, water and sewer rates have risen by an average of 7 percent or more for each two-year period since 2000. With every increase in water and sewer costs come additional expenses, as well; many facilities include foodservice or maintenance operations that require the use of hot water and, often, treated water, which adds the cost of heat and chemicals into the mix. As a result, many facility managers find themselves throwing money – a lot of it – literally down the drain.
There are a number of affordable, easy-to-implement changes that can dramatically reduce water consumption. They can also cut operating expenses to help meet sustainability goals, and even help earn points for U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification.
The first step in reducing water cost and consumption is to develop a water management plan. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an outline which we highly recommend for existing facilities; it lists key areas in which to establish a plan, set goals, measure use, plan for emergencies and assess savings opportunities. You’ll find this plan at www.epa.gov/oaintrnt/water/plans.htm
A facility’s equipment plays a major role in reducing water consumption. Prior to the EPAct 2005 legislation, most faucets ran at 5 to 6 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Now, the legal standard is 1.6 gpm and several companies, including T&S, provide even greater opportunities for savings and conservation by manufacturing low-flow faucets and fixtures that that take flow down as low as.65 gpm.
Another easy fix for reducing water consumption is installing aerators, which mix air into a faucet’s water stream to reduce flow and splashing. Inexpensive and easy-to-install, aerators can greatly reduce water consumption and the related energy costs of heating water. A standard faucet will flow at the rate of 12 gpm at 60 psi; a standard aerator will limit this flow to 2.2 gpm, reducing consumption by nearly 80 percent. Many facilities have, through aerators, limited flow to as little as 0.5 gpm, realizing huge savings as a result. T&S Brass offers an online calculator that can help facility managers calculate how much they can save by making this simple switch. That tool can be found at www.tsbrass.com/aeratorcalc
A facility’s choice of faucets can play a major role in conservation efforts. Metering faucets significantly reduce water usage and save energy by reducing water flow and duration. Electronic sensor faucets, which also flow at a pre-determined rate, take this a step further by only turning on when a user’s hands are under the spout. While most electronic faucets offer an AC or DC power option, a few manufacturers—including T&S—also offer a hydro-generator option that uses running water to power the faucet, compounding the energy savings. Both metering and sensor faucets can save as much as one gallon of water per hand wash.
Of course, no discussion of water conservation would be complete without addressing the issue of leaks. According to the U.S. EPA, a faucet that leaks at a rate of one drop per second can add an extra 3,000 gallons per year to a water bill. To put it in perspective, that’s enough to fill three fire trucks! Facility managers can play a leading role in reducing water wasted through leaks by choosing durable, high-quality products that are less likely to develop leaks and for which replacing parts will be easy. Since most leaks are caused by wear, another consideration is to favor the use of ceramic cartridges, which have no seals or washers that can wear out. In addition to helping prevent leaks, ceramic cartridges use up to 20 percent less water than compression-style cartridges.
Facility managers are inundated with equipment choices every day, but there are a few resources available to help insure that so-called “green” products are what they purport to be. The EPA’s WaterSense program independently tests and certifies products to help consumers and businesses save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance. Only products meeting the highest standards earn WaterSense certification; for more information and a listing of WaterSense certified products, visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense
While reducing water consumption for the sake of the environment is the right thing to do and an increasingly critical issue, the truth of the matter is that, for most companies, interest in reducing water and energy usage comes down to the bottom line. Implementing aggressive sustainability goals and striving to be as green as possible will certainly bring significant savings of both dollars and water, allowing “blue” and “green” to converge in a most positive way.
By doing their homework, evaluating all factors involved in the impact of a building’s equipment and design and, ultimately, making smart choices, facility managers have the power to create healthier environments, more efficient operations and increased profit margin for their own facility.
About the Author
With decades of industry expertise, Linda Seigler has worked closely with a wide range of facility management professionals to meet their most challenging plumbing and foodservice equipment selection, specification and replacement needs.
About T&S Brass
T&S Brass and Bronze Works, Inc. has been a leader in providing innovative equipment solutions to the foodservice and plumbing industries for more than 60 years—since 1947—when it developed the first pre-rinse unit. Today, T&S leads the way in environmental initiatives from an eco-friendly manufacturing process to developing water and energy-conserving products. T&S is among the first commercial plumbing manufacturers to be registered by UL to ISO 9001 Certification, the most stringent certification a corporation can receive. For more information, visit www.tsbrass.com
or our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tsbrass
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(@tsbrass). Industry professionals will also find a wealth of information and practical how-to advice on the company’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/tsbrass