Vol 2. 2009 – Easy ways to building green

Did you know?

200 Market Building’s Green Retrofit

The 200 Market Building in Portland, Oregon spent $53,000 to replace existing plumbing fixtures with modern ones, reducing water use from 7.9 million gallons a year to 3.7 million gallons per year. The retrofit paid for itself in about 18 months thus became the first multi-tenant office building in the US to complete a LEED-EB retrofit.


Aerators – The Simplest and Cheapest way to Retrofitting

Installing a low-flow faucet aerator is probably today’s single most effective water conservation method. Inexpensive and simple to install, aerators can reduce both water consumption and the cost of heating this water by as much as 77%. Low-flow aerators available on the market can reduce flow rates from 2.2gpm down to 0.5gpm. For new construction, many faucets come with a low-flow aerator option, but for the retrofit market, a low-flow aerator is a great option to consider and is only a fraction of the cost for replacing a new faucet. When possible, select a vandal-resistant model as opposed to its counterpart as typical aerators can be easily removed thus leading the faucet’s flow rate to return to a flow even greater than the original flow.


Smart Faucets/ Lavatories for Different Applications

One of the largest water wasters is a dripping tap. A dripping tap that wastes just two gallons of water per day is the equivalent of wasting 730 gallons per year. The best method of water reduction would be to avoid continuous water discharge when the faucet is not in use. There are four main types of faucets that can be used to tackle this waste of water in a commercial setting.

Metering Valves

Metering valves (automatically shut-off after a preset time span) or negative shut-off valves (user must continue to exert pressure on valve handle to maintain water flow) can not only deter flooding but also contribute to water savings. The valves are often adjustable for the duration of the flow. The flow should not exceed 5 seconds or 0.25 gallons per activation. Many public facilities have installed metering cartridges to reduce over-use and virtually eliminate the possibility of leaving the metered faucet running.

Multiple-Station Wash Fountains

Multiple-station wash fountains that are sensor/ foot operated or outfitted with push button metering valves can prevent water from running continuously in the washroom, especially in the school/ daycare environment where young children are less cautious about water conservation. In additional, these wash fountains, made from ultra tough terrazzo stone or stainless steel are vandal resistant which means they are less likely to end up in landfills. There are many manufacturers on the market that produce these units using recycled materials, which make them an even ‘greener’ choice.

Ceremic Cartridge

A ceramic cartridge not only eliminates the leaky faucet, it also filters the water. The ceramic cartridge is often overlooked as part of the water conservation effort.

Electronic/ Sensor Faucets

Electronic faucets use proximity sensors to detect motion using beams of infrared light. A disruption to the beam’s path activates the water flow. Not only do sensor faucets increase water conservation, but they also improve sanitation. Opt for these faucets with metering capability for maximum water savings. An average person who uses a manual faucet at 2.2gpm for 20-30 seconds (taking into account that users often wipe their hands and shut off the valve with a paper towel) will generate 1.1gal of water per use. Contrarily, a low-flow electronic faucet at 0.5gpm metered for 20 seconds (how long it actually takes an average person to thoroughly wash their hands) will generate only 0.17gal of water per use. Therefore, a sensor faucet with metering capability can save as much as 89% in water use and heating costs. However, since electronic faucets do rely on battery backup, much attention must be paid to the proper disposal of the batteries.

Water closets & urinals

Types of Water Saving Toilets & Urinals

The standard flush rate for a pre-1994 toilet was 3.5gpf. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the United States Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which mandated that starting in 1994, the common flush-toilet use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Since then, manufacturers have been improving the low-flow technology in response to the unsatisfied consumer market.

What to look for in Low-Flow/ High Efficiency Toilets and Urinals

Whether considering a low-flow 1.6gpf toilet or a High Efficiency Toilet (HET), one of the most important factors worth paying attention to is the MaP rating. A Maximum Performance (MaP) score is measured by the amount of waste (in grams) that can be evacuated by a single flush. A MaP rating of 1000g is the highest rating attainable and according to Veritec Consulting, a MaP rating of 350g is widely cited as a minimum performance threshold for meeting customer expectation.

Flushometer or pressure assist floor and wall mounted toilets are most commonly used in commercial settings such as hospitals, schools and government buildings. Another great option is dual flush toilets. They allow users to decide whether to use more or less water for each flush: potentially saving up to 30% more water over current standards. Dual flush toilets often use 1.6gpf for solid waste (full flush) and up to 1.0gpf for liquid waste (partial flush). For a stronger, cleaner and quieter flush, choose a model that combines the Siphonic technology with pressurized bowl cleaning action.

For urinals, the EPAct mandates a maximum of 1.0gpf but there is a wide variety of HEU (high efficiency urinals) from 0.5gpf to ultra low consumption 0.125gpf available on the market to extend the water savings.

If a project is building to LEED® certification standards, water-free urinals are a good option as they contribute to a large reduction in water use and blackwater generation. Although low-flow fixtures are quickly becoming commonplace within the industry, building owners are still somewhat hesitant about the concept of no-flow fixtures, such as waterless urinals. The plumbing designer must understand the various alternative fixture technologies available and be able to present the pros (water savings), cons (maintenance and piping concerns), costs and benefits that each fixture will provide.

Types of Flush Valves vs. Usage

Flushometers are generally classified into two categories: manual or sensor operated. However, attention should be paid to the specifics of the flush valve to suit each unique application. For instance, concealed 1.28GPF flush valves should be specified for recreational facilities while typical office settings could use battery powered (with proper battery disposal plan in mind) dual flush valves for retrofit purposes. Where applicable, a solar powered dual-flush valve with battery back-up would be the most eco-friendly option for water closets. Regardless of the type, the proper selection of a low-flow fixture/ flushometer combination for a commercial building can lead to significant water savings.

Low-Flow Showerheads: Saving Water Without Compromising Comfort

In recent years, low-flow showerheads have quickly become the standard because they are among the easiest ways to “greenify” any building. The most popular low flow showerheads provide increased aeration: by spreading out the flow of water and incorporating increasing amounts of air into the water, users can experience the same energizing spray from full flow showerheads, all while saving money and lessening their impact on the environment. Choose a low-flow showerhead at 1.5gpm and water usage can be reduced up to 40%.

Note: Pressure balancing valves from some manufacturers do not function properly once a showerhead flow of less than 1.5gpm is added due to the backpressure on the valve. Care should be taken in properly matching shower valves and reduced flow showerheads.



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