Water Conservation Techniques for Building Design


Eco-friendly building and architecture techniques are abundant. Builders, architects and other industry professionals have responded to the call for more environmentally conscious structures, and one of the primary areas of interest is water conservation. While things like power and energy can often come into play later in the process, water conservation can be especially important during the building process itself.

People who are curious about what exactly constitutes a water-conservative build are in luck. From recycling to low-flow plumbing, there are so many techniques that can benefit the environment, and they all start with conscious design.

1. Rainwater Harvesting

Water Conservation Techniques for Building Design

Rainwater harvesting and collection works especially well for buildings with a large roof area to work with. It also tends to be a particularly prevalent option in areas with heavier amounts of rainfall. Rainwater can find various uses in both commercial and residential buildings — everything from laundry to toilets. This is a great way to use natural resources to create less water waste.

2. Greywater Reclamation

Many regions are facing water crises with urbanization rapidly expanding in drier climates. California, for example, already imports water from other states to combat a diminishing supply. Buildings that can recycle existing water help manage this supply for their communities and play a critical role in water conservation. 

Besides harvesting rainwater, another great way to get even more use out of the water a building uses once is to have a system for reclaiming greywater. This is defined as any untreated wastewater that hasn't come into contact with sewage. 

A lot of wastewater from homes and commercial spaces is greywater, which can be used in land irrigation and agriculture, toilets or landscaping. These systems are consistently improving, and this process will only become more efficient with time.

3. Leakproofing

Small leaks can lead to great water loss over time. About 1,140 drips lead to 1 gallon of water loss, and that adds up quickly. This costs the building owners money in addition to harming the environment needlessly. That's why it's vital to build with leak protection in mind. Nipping the issue in the bud is usually the best bet.

4. Low-Flow Plumbing

Water Conservation Techniques for Building Design

Low-flow plumbing fixtures such as showerheads, faucets and flush valves can save a lot of water for any structure. They often pay back their investment within a year of installation. These items work just as well, but with less water waste. These fixtures are also usually easy to install.

5. Water Conservation Landscaping

One place people often forget about when it comes to water conservation in building and design is the outdoors. However, this is a worthwhile place to keep an eye on, as there are so many ways that landscaping design can save water. 

Fixtures like rain gardens and perennial gardens can capture and filter rainwater back into the environment. Landscaping designs that limit turf area and use native plants also save water and improve the local ecosystem at the same time.

6. Educating Users

One of the best ways to ensure that the advanced systems in place work to the best of their ability and that older systems save as much water as possible is to educate the users about the best practices day to day. When those who frequent and maintain the buildings know about water conservation tips and efforts, those measures are more likely to work in practical, daily use. 

While building design certainly plays a role in conserving water, there's no denying that consumer habits do, too. Turning off faucets when they're not being used, checking for leaks often and limiting unnecessary water waste can make a big difference, especially when paired with more advanced systems.

Conserving Water in Building Design

Water Conservation Techniques for Building Design

As architecture improves, so does the environmental aspect of it. By using techniques that reuse, recycle and conserve water in new structures and building designs, the industry can begin to give back to the planet little by little. Through techniques like leakproofing, greywater reclamation and smart landscaping, designers can build sustainably well into the future.

Evelyn Long is the editor of Renovated, a construction and home improvement magazine. Her work focuses on better building techniques for more sustainable communities.

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