Published 1 year ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Mike van Schoonderwalt
Commercial real estate is the second-largest consumer of publicly supplied water in the US. Imagine if we came together to tackle this problem head on! Here are four recommendations for how property managers and building owners can lead the way.
Record-breaking temperatures and prolonged drought conditions are impacting
communities all over the world. We see examples of this in the US Southwest,
where the Colorado River — a critical water source for Utah, Colorado,
Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California — is
reaching a crisis tipping point with frighteningly low water
In fact, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change, the US
southwest’s “megadrought” is the worst it’s been in 1,200
That staggering fact puts into perspective how urgently we need to address water
While we’re seeing pockets of progress in the private and public sectors, we do
not have a solution. Any governmental policy takes years to enact; we need
coordinated action at the local, state and national levels now.
We can begin to take action in the commercial real estate sector. Incorporating
water conservation and efficiency in places such as office buildings,
restaurants, hotels, hospitals and schools would have a significant impact.
According to the EPA,
“the commercial and institutional sector is the second largest consumer of
publicly supplied water in the US, accounting for 17 percent of the withdrawals
from public water supplies.” Imagine if we came together to tackle this problem
What can the commercial real estate industry do to propel water efficiency and
conservation? Here are four recommendations for how property managers and
building owners can lead the way.
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Base-level building and plumbing codes often reflect how buildings were
designed decades ago, when there were no requirements for water-efficient
fixtures. The introduction and expansion of “green” construction codes has
helped prompt more sustainable
including plumbing codes aimed at increasing water conservation and
States and local governments have the ability to modify existing codes. Building owners and property managers should continue to collaborate closely with government officials to build off the foundation established by these more sustainable construction codes.
Building owners can pinpoint high water use or water loss by auditing
existing plumbing systems. A good way to get started is through the use of
Water Simple Water Assessment Checklist for Commercial and Institutional Facilities,
which calculates potential water usage and savings, as well as steps for
reducing water use.
Properly upgrading to more efficient products in kitchen and bath areas can
reduce water consumption by up to 50 percent. Additionally, the use of smart
water shutoffs or IoT flushing-management systems — leveraging sensors and
internet-connected devices — are also effective ways to cut water
consumption in buildings. These newer, water-efficient products do not
compromise performance; instead, they use water more effectively.
The same water-monitoring technology found in smart homes can be applied to
office buildings, where employees routinely use kitchen faucets, dishwashers
and bathrooms. Installing smart systems in commercial
can have a profound impact on water efficiency by sharing daily insights on
where businesses and property managers can cut down on usage.
By generating more awareness of real-time water usage at the office, people
will become more mindful of their water consumption. And at scale, this can
have a substantial impact on more responsible water use.
Building owners and property developers have a great opportunity to use the
latest plumbing and building codes to construct structures with sustainable
designs and advanced, water-efficient fixtures and fittings.
As water-scarcity issues persist, it is likely that governments will take
action to enforce more rigorous building and water-efficient systems.
Building owners must go beyond basic compliance requirements governed by
existing plumbing codes and demand more robust water-efficiency standards.
By being pro-active, builders won’t have to go back to the drawing board
after they finish construction.
News headlines around water scarcity can be unnerving; however, there is reason
for optimism. We need to see more of the great work that is taking place behind
the scenes, particularly in commercial real estate. The use of smart
water sensors and monitoring systems show extraordinary promise and will
continue to optimize water usage. Replacing and upgrading plumbing fixtures will
yield immediate water-efficiency benefits; and new construction projects,
increasingly governed by more rigorous building and plumbing codes, will lead
the industry toward more responsible and sustainable building practices.
We all have a role to play. I am confident that the progress we continue to see
in the commercial real estate sector will have a genuine impact on our journey
to conserve our most precious resource.
Published Sep 29, 2022 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST