New plumbing technology benefits LEED certified builders

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Whether you call it smart plumbing, green plumbing or plumbing biospherics, the concept is the same: the reduction of water use through resourceful landscaping, wastewater technology and high-efficiency plumbing design.

If you are applying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for your building, such environmentally friendly plumbing could help you meet requirements in several point categories, including materials and resources, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, sustainability and innovation in design.

Even if you aren’t seeking LEED certification, but are interested in greening up you plumbing here are 3 ideas that are worth considering because they go a long way in protecting our natural resources.

1. Water efficiency

The goal of water efficient plumbing is to reduce potable water use, thereby putting less of a pull on Aquifer systems. The current LEED reference guide allows points for a 20 percent reduction in time of each use for automatic motion-control or metering sensors on lavatory and sink faucets. A second point is allowed for a 30 percent reduction.

At the very least, fit all sink and lavatory faucets and showers with water restricting aerators.

Go one step further by replacing your plumbing fixtures with low flow and ultra-low flow versions. Most low-flow faucets limit flow to 1.8 gallons per minute, meeting the base design requirements for LEED (2.5 gallons per minute). Others use sensors to limit the amount of time the water runs, resulting in tremendous water savings up to 70 percent less than manual faucets. By shutting off during the lather cycle of 20 seconds, sensor-operated faucets can save as much as a gallon of water each use.  Though uncommon in normal residential homes this technology may start to become more common.

You can also increase water efficiency by looking at how you irrigate. Using drip hoses or sprinkler systems that are automatically timed and programmed to turn on or off based on ground soil moisture also contribute to a reduction in water use.

2. Waste removal

How we get rid of waste is a big water waster. Instead, use a low-flow (using 1.2 gallons per flush) and ultra-low flow (0.8 gallons per flush) toilet. Or choose a dual-flush toilet that has two levers — one for urine (one gallon per flush) and one for solid waste (1.6 gallons).

If you’re feeling really brave, try a waterless system such as a non-water urinal. Such systems are gaining in popularity around the world — from California elementary schools and football facilities to the Taj Mahal and South Pole.

A water-free urinal uses a cartridge that eliminates odor and the need for water. Inside the cartridge, the chamber retains a small amount of liquid waste while the rest drains down the sewer. A lighter-than-water sealant floats on top of the trapped waste, creating an airtight barrier and keeping odor from escaping. When urine is added, it passes through the sealant, displacing the waste already there. The sealant then emulsifies to recreate the barrier. There is no flushing.

3. Water collection

Storm water capture, storage and use systems collect rainwater and reuse it in the building’s non-potable water fixtures, such as landscape, toilets and fire suppression storage. However, because the system requires two plumbing systems, it is best suited for new construction in areas where rainfall is substantial.

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