Drought conditions and fast growth in water-poor regions have heightened building owners' awareness of the need for bathroom fixtures that conserve water. Even if buildings are in geographic areas that don't suffer from water shortages, there are financial and other compelling reasons for installing environmentally friendly fixtures.
Besides environmental concerns, owners and operators of public facilities are under pressure to deliver on other restroom objectives: Maintenance personnel want plumbing fixtures that are as trouble-free as possible. Meanwhile, those who use the facilities simply demand a pleasant restroom experience.
By going green, management can appease all interests simultaneously.
And installing green plumbing fixtures makes good financial sense. Investments made in water- and energy-conserving fixtures may be paid back in a matter of months after figuring how much is saved on water, sewer, and/or energy costs by replacing less-efficient or even wasteful models.
Owners of buildings that adhere to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) green rating standards are likely to be financially rewarded for their environmental efforts. A report issued in October 2003 by California's Sustainable Building Task Force, titled "The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings," states that, on average, a typical two-percent increase in upfront costs to achieve green design yields life-cycle savings of 20 percent of the total investment.
Green fixtures are also designed to be more hygienic and convenient to use. For example, sensor-operated faucets, which automatically turn on and off and keep water from running excessively, enable users to wash without touching bacteria-laden surfaces.
Sensor-operated fixtures address ongoing maintenance issues as well. Minimizing users' direct contact reduces fixture wear and tear, which can ultimately result in costly repairs. Touchless fixtures don't have handles or push buttons that are vulnerable to everyday use and abuse by those fearful of getting their hands dirty.
Each type of plumbing fixture can do its part in saving water and/or energy - and money. For example, facilities can shave as much as 80 percent off energy costs incurred by conventional hand dryers, as well as 90 percent off the cost of buying and cleaning up after paper towels, by installing ultra-fast, energy-efficient hand dryers operating on 15-amp service.
The main conservation benefit of sensor-operated faucets is that they regulate water use. Based on the Food and Drug Administration's recommended handwashing procedures (calling for four seconds to wet hands, 20 seconds to lather with soap, and four seconds to rinse), a sensor-operated faucet can save as much as one gallon of water per use by shutting off during the lather cycle.
Waterfree Urinals Save Thousands Annually
|Waterfree Urinal Savings|
|# of Waterfree Urinals Installed||75 units||100 units||200 units|
|Total Facility Population||55%||50%||60%|
|Number of Males||825||1,500||3,000|
|Number of Urinals||75||100||200|
|Number of Uses per Day/Person||3||3||3|
|Gallons per Flush for Old Urinals||3||3||3|
|Water Costs per 1,000 Gallons||$2.50||$2.50||$2.50|
|Sewer Costs per 1,000 Gallons||$2.50||$2.50||$2.50|
|ANNUAL WATER SAVINGS|
|Total water savings per year (gallons/dollars)||1,930,500||3,510,000||7,020,000|
|(3 uses/day x 260 days x number of users x water cost)||$4,826.25||$8,775.00||$17,550.00|
|ANNUAL SEWER SAVINGS|
|(same gallon/dollar figures as listed under water savings)|
|ESTIMATED WATER AND SEWER SAVINGS||$9,652.50||$17,550.00||$35,100.00|
SOURCE: SLOAN VALVE CO.
Replacing toilets using more than three gallons of water per flush with low-flow models is an obvious way to achieve savings. Low-consumption water-closet models typically use 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), and urinal models use one. Water efficiency is always improving, however: One recently launched pressure-assist, 0.8-gpf toilet uses only about 60 percent as much water required by low-consumption models, while newer 0.5-gpf urinal flushometers have cut water use in half.
To keep conservation efforts from being undermined, it's important to install flushometers whose valves cannot be modified to deliver a flush exceeding their designated water usage.
Installing green plumbing fixtures is not only the right thing to do for the environment - it also makes good fiscal sense.
Jim Allen is the Water Conservation Division manager for Sloan Valve Co. (www.sloanvalve.com), a leading manufacturer of water-conserving plumbing products in Franklin Park, IL.