Every Drop Counts: Water Recycling within Buildings

May, 2018
Thinking green -being conscientious of sustainability and reducing stress on the environment- is an important consideration in the building industry. New and advanced green improvements are rapidly being incorporated into building design to lessen the impact on finite natural resources. The
U.S. Green Building Council established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building rating system in 1993. LEED standards are currently used world-wide to promote healthful, durable, affordable, and environmentally-sound practices. 
One of the seven categories of LEED certification is water efficiency. All aspects of a building’s water usage –indoor, outdoor, and metering– can be examined with an eye towards conservation. Many methods have been developed to allow a building to use less water, from low-flow/no-flow plumbing fixtures to recycling water and putting it back to work in the building.
Creative methods of recycling water include rainwater harvesting, condensate reclamation, and graywater reuse. An example of rainwater harvesting may be seen in SBM’s work on the Arthur Weisberg Family Applied Engineering Building at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. The plumbing system includes a toilet located on the first floor served primarily by rainwater collected in the penthouse from the roof drainage system (see detail below). Rainwater that would previously be wasted is now put to good use within the building. In the event of a dry spell, the toilet still works, as the  tank will automatically fill from the domestic cold water system if need be. Another method of water recovery is condensate reclamation. Condensation that forms when air is cooled for refrigeration and air conditioning typically just gets dumped into the sewer. This by-product can be captured and reused, sometimes also taking advantage of the fact that the water is typically very cold.
When implemented proactively, recycled water can be a cost-effective alternative to using municipal water supplies, especially if sewer credits are metered. Water-saving strategies such as these save money and earn LEED points, but most importantly help to preserve limited fresh water resources.
Scheeser Buckley Mayfield has over 20 LEED certified projects under its belt. All seven SBM principals are LEED AP accredited, with advanced knowledge of sustainable building strategies. If water conservation is something that could benefit you or your stakeholders, please contact us for additional information.