The Secret to Reducing Total Building Water Use for New Construction in LEED V4

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Conservation has gone from being just a simple buzz word to a critical sector of the design and building phase of new construction. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is the most popular 3rd party green building verification system. LEED-certified buildings are not only more efficient than their predecessors, but they are eligible for numerous tax breaks and credits as well.

The 4th generation of LEED certification standards is focused on a better user experience, new materials, a performance-based methodology, and a comprehensive approach to water efficiency that evaluates total building water use. Engineers and architects who are tasked with designing green buildings should be aware that LEED V4 has doubled down on the importance of water protection. For example, earlier versions of LEED actually awarded a point for a 20% reduction of water usage below previous levels, but the new version makes the 20% reduction a prerequisite. This shift signals a clear acknowledgment about the growing importance of freshwater control.

So, how can plumbing and mechanical engineers tasked with water efficiency take steps to ensure that their next green building significantly reduces energy costs and is eligible for LEED V4 certification? Realizing just how dramatically the scope of the water efficiency segment has been expanded is a necessity.

Water Use in LEED V4

Previous versions of LEED certification were primarily concerned with fixtures and fittings. V4 has broadened the new requirements to include all possible water use categories. The Total Building Water Use for New Building Construction and Design takes into account: processes, cooling towers, outdoor water, rainwater management, and ongoing building metering requirements. This means that engineers and architects must account for the entire “lifecycle” of their building’s water use.

The EPA WaterSense Program

The second drastic change to LEED V4 is the requirement to employ products that have been certified under the EPA WaterSense Program. The WaterSense Program is a voluntary US Government sponsored program that is designed to change the market for water-efficient products. To qualify for WaterSense labeling, products must provide water savings, increased performance, various technological options, measurable results, cost-effectiveness, and energy differentiation.

WaterSense certified toilets, for example, must use 1.28 gallons per flush or less. This 1.28 GPF rule qualifies certain fixtures for the toilet water efficiency credit category in LEED V4.

Smarter Products

As water efficiency continues to grow in importance, it will be necessary for engineers to find products that can support new green building codes from the outset. Niagara’s Original Stealth Toilet, for example, uses less than a gallon of water per flush and is an easy modification that can merit the toilet a LEED-point contributor.

Toilets are only the beginning, though! LEED V4 is a comprehensive new approach to water conservation, and new building designs will have to shift their focus on water efficiency from afterthought to the design pillar.  Read more about what it takes for your building to be LEED certified!

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