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Earth Day Series: A Focus on Water and Building Standards

We are currently embarking on a short Earth Day series, narrowing in on sustainability in the construction industry. Last week, we looked at overall sustainability in our buildings. Today, let’s narrow in on the conversation surrounding water and building standards.

In March, the Intl. Code Council shared the findings of a new report from the University of Miami, which found building standards are a defense against water scarcity. The IWCCP (Intl. Water Conservation Code Provisions) promotes water conservation through safe and sustainable practices.

In the book Sustainable in a Circular World, Peggy Smedley wrote about the dangers our world faces with water scarcity. Predicated on the current consumption rate, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. And ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.

We need, then, a combination of new technologies and strategies for how to conserve water in our homes, buildings, and ultimately in our cities.

The report from the University of Miami determines baseline potable and non-potable water use and examines the potential water savings for one-and two-family dwellings in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Houston, and Des Moines based on adoption of four different water conservation strategies:

  1. Adoption of more efficient plumbing fixtures;
  2. Rainwater harvesting, treatment, storage, and reuse;
  3. Graywater treatment, storage, and reuse;
  4. HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) condensate catchment, treatment, storage, and reuse.

Let’s explore the outcomes in Houston first: Here optimized total water savings from all four strategies when integrated into new home construction alone is projected to be 23.3 billion gallons by 2029. Meanwhile, in Phoenix, we see that water savings are projected to be roughly 7.3 billion gallons annually. Additionally, the report researchers expect 1.7 billion gallons saved in Las Vegas and 1.57 billion gallons in Des Moines.

Across all the cities examined, the cost of one more water conservation approach is similar to the current cost per gallon of water consumption. The end result is addressing the very real challenge our world faces with water scarcity.

We know between two and three billion people worldwide experience water shortages—and these shortages will only intensify in the coming years. Something must be done to combat this. As this happens, the construction industry must step up and determine ways to save water today and in the future. What will your company do?

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