Water Efficiency Progresses Through LEED Rating System

Using Water Efficiently
Water Efficiency Progresses
Through LEED Rating System
D e b or a h G r e en
In the past ten years, there
have been great strides regarding improvements in
water fixture efficiency.
With MaP testing, the
third-party testing of maximum performance
for toilets, and additional testing and labeling
through the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s WaterSense program, customers can
more easily choose toilets, faucets, and showerheads that are both efficient and meet their
performance expectations.
Also in the last decade, a “green building”
movement has spread throughout the United
States. While building codes set a baseline for
communities to use, green rating systems encourage owners, contractors, designers, and
others in the building industry to aim for ever
higher environmental standards. When a project achieves certification under the rating system, these professionals can proudly use it
when marketing their services.
Water supply issues may force a utility to
use a “stick” approach when adopting more
stringent building codes. For instance, Miami-Dade County has
mandated that new single family
homes use up to 31 percent less
water than stipulated under the
Florida Building Code by requiring installation of WaterSense labeled fixtures (Miami-Dade
Ordinance 08-14, Miami Dade
Building Code—Effective Jan. 1,
Utilities and local governments can test the waters before
adopting more stringent codes
by promoting green building rating systems using the “carrot” approach, such as offering
reductions in impact fees, fasttrack permitting, or other incentives for builders achieving
certification under these green
rating systems.
G r e e n B u i l d i n g R a t i n g S y s te m s
a n d t h e Ne e d f o r I n c re a s e d
Profil e of Wa te r Ef fic ien cy
In green building certification programs,
a building receives its rating through the accumulation of points on a checklist. Most items
are voluntary, although a few are mandatory
in order to achieve the rating. Having a degree
of choice among green features benefits the
builder and helps to bring about the development of new and innovative technologies.
In the past, the diversity of what can be
classified as green products made it difficult
for people to grasp what a green building
should look like, and made marketing them
more difficult. However, for many groups of
products (sustainably harvested wood or carpets with non-toxic adhesives, for example),
a third-party certification and labeling system has been developed. These product rating systems have made it easier for builders
to find true green products and avoid “greenwashing,” which refers to products that are
deceptively promoted as environmentally
friendly. The EPA’s Energy Star program was
The USGBC LEED Gold plaque.
one of the earliest of these product rating and
labeling systems and remains the most well
The biggest incentive that makes a home
buyer or purchaser of a commercial building
choose a green structure is the desire for lower
energy bills. The second biggest driver, applying to both home buyers and businesses that
are willing to pay extra to rent in green commercial building space, is indoor air quality.
Both at home and at work, people spend an estimated 90 percent of their time indoors, and
they want a healthy environment.
With energy and indoor air quality the
biggest concerns, raising the profile of water
efficiency within green rating systems has
taken a concerted effort. National water efficiency leaders from the AWWA Water Conservation Division have focused much of their
energy on this, especially since water prices in
many areas do not yet send a signal of the importance of water use efficiency.
W h a t i s LE E D ?
For commercial structures, the most important national green building standard is
LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System™), which is a program of the nonprofit
United States Green Building Council
(USGBC). The Council, which was founded in
1993, rolled out the precursor to LEED in 1998
for commercial buildings, and has since added
rating systems for buildings in the following
categories: operations and maintenance, commercial interiors, core and shell, schools, retail,
healthcare, neighborhood development, and
homes. A LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built
using strategies to achieve high performance in
five key areas: sustainable site development,
water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. A
building can receive the basic LEED certification, or the higher levels of LEED Silver, LEED
Gold, or LEED Platinum.
As evidence of the national and worldwide recognition of the LEED rating system,
the 10,000th commercial building was certiContinued on page 6
Continued from page 4
fied to LEED standards on Aug. 31, 2011, and
the total LEED-certified commercial space
around the world now tops 1.3 billion square
feet. The LEED certification of buildings continues to grow exponentially: as of December
2004, there were just 157 certified projects and
1706 registered projects; by June 2007, there
were 829 LEED-certified projects and 13,000
LEED-registered projects; and today, along
with the 10,000 projects certified, there are
30,000 additional projects registered.
This rise in LEED-certified buildings has
been assisted by federal mandates for the government’s own buildings. In 2003, the U.S.
General Services Administration (GSA), the
central management agency that sets federal
policy for procurement, property management, and information resources management, required that all of its new building
construction be LEED-certified. Other federal
agencies, including the U.S. Air Force, U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, State Department,
Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Navy, are also following the requirements. Many state and local
governments are using the certification criteria as well.
Here in Florida, one of the leaders of the
LEED-certified building movement is the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), which recently constructed its administrative building
using LEED standards. "As a municipal utility
in Florida, it is very important to OUC that we
lead by example," stated Rob Teegarden, water
business unit vice president. "As the first LEED
Gold-certified building in downtown Orlando,
our customer service and administration
building uses 43 percent less water and 26 percent less energy than a building of similar size.
This helps us show our customers what they
can do to become more efficient in their
homes and businesses."
R a i s i n g t h e Pr o f i l e
of Water Eff icie nc y
The OUC Reliable Plaza building received its LEED Gold certification in 2009.
Builders register their projects under the
version of the building rating system available
when construction begins, and if there are
construction delays lasting several years, projects are still able to complete certification
using the standard in place at the time of registration. Since the rating systems have become
increasingly detailed and stringent—USGBC
has sought to make the criteria more predictive of success for a building project to reach
its goals—some builders try to register their
projects under the oldest rating system avail-
able at the time. In 2000, LEED v2.0, was released, followed by LEED v2.1 in 2002. Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, registration of all new
projects was under LEED NC 2.2, which was
the rating system in place during the period of
greatest growth of LEED certification. From
2006 to September 2011, over 3000 buildings
were certified under LEED NC 2.2 and many
more are registered, with construction to be
completed in the next few years.
The USGBC prides itself on being a consensus-based organization and revises its rating systems every few years, first through
committee input and then consideration of
online comments from its members. Dave
Bracciano of Tampa Bay Water, past chair of
the Water Use Efficiency Division, serves as
one of two members from Florida on the
USGBC advisory group.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE),
a nonprofit group started in 2006 that promotes the efficient and sustainable use of
water and serves as an advocate for water efficient products and fixtures, has several water
efficiency experts that have been named to
USGBC’s Water Efficiency Technical Advisory
Group and several of its working committees.
To increase the profile of water efficiency, AWE
seeks to reference third-party testing work that
has been done (MaPs and WaterSense) and to
use green building to advance the use of more
water efficient fixtures.
In summer 2008, the first public comment period for LEED 2009 received over 5000
responses. A major emphasis of the LEED
2009 revision process was that credits for reducing energy use in a building be linked to
the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and
fossil fuel use. In convincing USGBC to increase the profile of water efficiency within
LEED, AWE’s experts stressed the embedded
energy costs of water use.
The most important change in LEED
2009 from the standpoint of water efficiency
is that there is now a prerequisite for 20 percent reduction in water use below current
code. This reduction is the quantity specified
by the EPA WaterSense program and can easily be achieved through use of its labeled fixtures, which use 20 percent less water than
those specified by the Energy Policy Act
(EPAct) of 1992.
Following the suggestion that different regions of the country emphasize different aspects of LEED credits, USGBC’s regional
councils, chapters, and affiliates developed regional priority credits as part of LEED 2009.
For each project’s specific location, six LEED
Continued on page 8
Continued from page 7
credits address the specific environmental issues that have been prioritized, and a project
can be awarded up to four extra points
through these priority credits. For Florida, the
regional priority credit under the water efficiency category is sustainable wastewater management. The intent is to reduce wastewater
generation and potable water demand, while
increasing local aquifer recharge. The project
can use or reuse nonpotable water (e.g., captured rainwater, stormwater, recycled greywater, on-site or municipally treated wastewater)
for sewage conveyance, or treat 50 percent of
wastewater on-site to tertiary standards and
allow this wastewater to infiltrate or be used
on-site; examples of this are packaged biological nutrient removal systems, constructed
wetlands, and high-efficiency filtration systems. Reducing potable water use for building
sewage conveyance can also be achieved
through dry fixtures (e.g., composting toilet
systems and nonwater-using urinals).
Other public comments considered by
USGBC staff to be substantive were forwarded
to the Technical Advisory Group to discuss for
the next overall LEED upgrade—LEED 2012.
A second draft of the document is in development, with an anticipated release date of November 2012.
There are two major shifts in focus in
LEED 12: one is larger energy and greenhouse
gas reductions, and the other is product life
cycle transparency, using a tool called environmental life cycle assessment. For example,
an “avoidance of chemicals of concern” credit
requires reporting product ingredients and
not using products containing chemicals listed
under California’s Proposition 65. The MaPs
and WaterSense third-party testing and labeling fit well with LEED 2012’s move to product
The water efficiency prerequisite in LEED
9 requiring 20 percent reduction in fixture use
below code is spelled out in more detail in
LEED 2012; this applies to toilets, urinals,
showers, and bathroom and kitchen sink
faucets. Tank-type toilets must be WaterSense
labeled, use 1.28 gallons per flush or less, and
be performance rated in the MaP rating system as able to flush at least 350 grams of solids
in one flush.
Lavatory faucets in hotel and motel guest
rooms, private bathrooms in nursing homes
and correctional facilities, hospital patient
rooms, and correctional facility cells can have
flow rates as high as 2.2 gallons per minute
(gpm) at 60 pounds per square inch (psi), according to EPAct 1992, and no change is rec-
ommended in LEED 2012. However, public
restroom faucets will be required under LEED
2012 to use no more than 0.5 gpm at 60 psi.
As pointed out by AWE technical consultants, many construction engineers in the
past have incorrectly specified 2.2 gpm faucets
for public restroom faucets; the correct specification is 0.5 gpm, as listed not only in EPAct
requirements, but also in the American Society
of Mechanical Engineers ANSI national standard for public lavatory faucets and the 2009
edition of the International Plumbing Code
and Uniform Plumbing Code. The same standards also required no more than 0.25 gallons
per cycle for metering faucets, which deliver a
predetermined volume of water and then automatically shut off. The EPA’s WaterSense
program continues to label high-performing
faucets that function at lower flow rates and
recommends their use where available.
In LEED 12, all bathroom showerheads
are to be WaterSense rated and use no more
than 2.0 gpm, as opposed to those meeting
current code that have flow rates as high as 2.5
gpm. The new multiple showerheads (“rain
showers”) in luxury homes and hotels have
been addressed in detail in the proposed
changes in LEED 2012 to prevent steps backward in water efficiency.
The new water efficiency prerequisite in
LEED 12 for landscaping water use has two
options: installing landscaping that requires
no permanent irrigation system beyond a twoyear establishment period, or designing irrigation that uses 30 percent below baseline for the
site’s peak watering month. The EPA’s WaterSense water budget tool can be used to calculate a project’s water baseline, landscape
water requirement, and landscape water allowance. Based on stakeholder input, playgrounds and athletic fields are excluded from
this prerequisite.
The remaining prerequisites apply to
cooling water and other process water. For the
LEED healthcare rating system, the new water
efficiency prerequisite is to minimize potable
water use for medical equipment cooling with
the intent to eliminate once-through cooling,
which is highly wasteful. For all new construction, where applicable, LEED 2012 proposes a
new water efficiency prerequisite of appliance
and process water use reduction. Residential
clothes washers must be Energy Star rated and
commercial clothes washers must be CEE Tier
3A, a rating from the Consortium for Energy
Efficiency. Residential dishwashers must be
Energy Star rated and restaurant prerinse
spray valves must use less than 1.6 gpm. Ice
machines must be Energy Star rated, with
specifications that are now highly water efficient.
Representatives from AWE on the Technical Advisory Group will continue to promote these and other water efficiency
technologies for more widespread use.
F l o r i d a Incen t i v es:
Re a c h i n g t o t h e F u t u r e
On July 13, 2007, then Governor Charlie
Crist issued Executive Order #07-126 adopting LEED-NC for any new building constructed for or by the state. New construction
projects must strive for LEED Platinum certification, the highest level possible. The executive order also required the Department of
Management Services to implement LEED-EB
(existing buildings) across all buildings currently owned and operated by the department
on behalf of client agencies. On June 25, 2008,
Governor Crist signed into law HB 7135 requiring all new construction and renovation
of state-owned and state-funded buildings to
follow the guidelines of LEED or other green
building rating systems, including Green
Globes and the Florida Green Building Coalition standards. The bill requires the same of
counties, municipalities, school districts, water
management districts, state universities, community colleges, and state courts. The bill further requires that all new leases of
state-occupied office space meet Energy Star
The city of Gainesville, in 2002, and Sarasota County, in 2005, passed ordinances requiring that all new government buildings be
LEED-certified. Additionally, both governments provided a fast-track building permit
incentive and a 50 percent reduction in the
cost of building permit fees for private contractors who build to LEED standards. In
2007, Hillsborough County passed a residential green homes policy, offering expedited
permitting to home builders with a completed
scorecard from either the LEED for Homes
program or the Florida Green Home Standard
With Gainesville, Sarasota County, and
Hillsborough County leading the way, and HB
7135 now part of Florida law, 50 local governments have LEED requirements or incentives;
an up-to-date list of these cities and counties,
and other details, can be found on the USGBC
In September 2008 there were only 40
LEED-certified buildings in Florida; by September 2011, there were 425 LEED certified
buildings. State and local requirements have
helped expand the reach of LEED in Florida,
even during the current period of building
The LEED certification process will remain a powerful force for market transformation concerning water use. Utilities can
employ the LEED system to provide incentives
to builders and developers that will reduce the
water demand of future residents. By invoking
established standards, the wheel doesn’t have
to be reinvented and builders and developers
will become more familiar with, and interested
in adopting, water efficient practices.
S y m p o s i u m o n Re s i d e n t i a l
Outdoor Wate r Us e
For strategies to reduce outdoor water
use in the single family home sector, I hope
you will attend the Water Use Efficiency Division’s Outdoor Water Conservation Symposium to be held at the FSAWWA fall
conference on Nov. 30. Please also join us for
the FSAWWA Water Use Efficiency Division
meeting on Nov. 29. Feel free to contact me
for more details.
Re f e r e n c e s
• Alliance for Water Efficiency, 2011. AWE
Submits Comments on LEED 2012. Improved Water Efficiency Provisions in
USGBC Green Building Standards
• Green, D. 2011 “National Water Efficiency
Research & Outreach Benefit Us in
Florida,” Florida Water Resources Journal,
Monthly “Using Water Efficiently” Column, March (Vol. 63. No.3 )
• Koeller, J. 2008. Myths, Fictions, Legends,
and Other Tall Tales in the Field of Water
• Mader, R. 2011. What does DOE water rule
preemption waiver mean? Contractor
• Miami-Dade County. 2011. Miami-Dade
Legislative County Water Use Efficiency
Standards Ordinance 08-14. www.miami
• USGBC. 2011. LEED Rating System
Development. www.usgbc.org/Display
O r g a ni z a t i o n C o nt a c t s
• MaP (www.map-testing.com)
• United States Environmental
Protection Agency WaterSense
• United States Green Building Council
• Alliance for Water Efficiency
• Consortium for Energy Efficiency
Deborah Green, LEED AP BD&C, is chair
of the FSAWWA Water Use Efficiency Division,
a past board member of the USGBC—Central
Florida Chapter, and a participant in several
LEED projects by that chapter. She can be
reached at [email protected] (Photos: Orlando Utilities Commission.)