3 Ways Low-Flow Restroom Fixtures Save Water

11/30/2017 | By Janelle Penny

How high-performance projects cut consumption

One Woodward Avenue SLOAN BRADLEY

How much money do you flush down the drain when it comes to water consumption? If you still use older water fixtures with a high gallon per flush rate, the answer may be quite high. 

Today’s water-efficient fixtures are often comparable in price to their high-flow counterparts, so if you’re still using legacy models, investigate the possibility of updating your restroom’s sinks, toilets and urinals. These three projects are saving millions of gallons with simple low-flow fixtures – could your building benefit from the same technology?

1) Toilets

A simple toilet replacement can save a considerable amount of money, especially if the toilet you’re replacing is from before the federal maximum flow rate of 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) took effect. Older toilets can use 3.5 gallons every time they’re flushed, more than double the current standard, so the savings add up quickly with replacement. 

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Water conservation was behind the choice of efficient new flushometers for the renovation of One Woodward Avenue, a landmark 26-story property in Detroit. Bedrock Real Estate Services, a firm focused on redeveloping urban cores in the Midwest, specified 220 Sloan flushometers (as well as 100 all-in-one sinks) with water efficiency in mind – the dual-flush toilet uses 1.6 or 1.1 gpf, with a 1.1-gpf single flush toilet also available.

The redesign attracted new tenants, helping the property grow from just 20% occupied in 2013 to 100% occupied as of 2017.

2) Urinals

You’ll find a wide range of flush volumes available to replace your old urinals, from the federally mandated minimum of 1 gpf down to no water at all. Older urinals can use up to 5 gallons, so they present another opportunity for a quick payback. Familiarize yourself with your options to determine whether to go water-free or simply low-flow.

The Staples Center in Los Angeles opted to retrofit 178 Falcon Waterfree Technologies urinals as part of its focus on sustainability, a key consideration for the owners since the arena's construction in 1999. The 950,000-square-foot arena can hold up to 20,000 guests at a time and accommodates over 4 million people every year, so the restroom fixtures need to stand up to heavy use.

Bill Pottorff, Vice President for Engineering at Staples, estimates a monthly savings of 4,500 cubic feet of water from the urinals alone and just over 7 million gallons each year, representing roughly $2,350 per month in water costs.

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One Woodward in Detroit opted instead for low-flow urinal flushometers available in 0.125 to 0.5 gpf models.

3) Faucets

Faucets can use up to 2.2 gallons of water per minute, but new technologies can reduce the flow by 30% or more without sacrificing performance. The Merchandise Mart, an iconic Chicago building covering 4.2 million gross square feet, needed to ensure that sustainable fixtures would stand up to its traffic of more than 38,000 people every business day.

A fourth floor modernization project gave the Mart the chance to test two triple-unit all-in-one sinks from Bradley that use 24% less water than sinks with conventional faucets.

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The efficient, hands-free sinks paid off for the Merchandise Mart – the water consumption rate met the building’s requirements for sustainable design, and visitors responded positively to the soap and hand dryer conveniently located over the sink basin.

Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.com is senior editor of BUILDINGS


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