Greenovation+ Professionals

Vol. 2 2012 Save Water, Retrofit Schools.

Green schools have come a long way. From simply adopting the “reduce, reuse, recycle” practice to including rainwater harvesting systems for non-potable water; increasingly  more designers are  supporting sustainable buildings by incorporating green features in the construction of primary and secondary schools.

But what happens to the schools that have already been built, when the initiative to “build green” was not yet considered during the initial design phase? What happens when high-consumption plumbing fixtures are already installed? The answer: Retrofit.

Inspired by the idea that children are our future, and that schools can change the world, this Greenovation+ article provides an overview of the “What, why, and how’s” of retrofitting initiatives that can be implemented, and should be considered, to further support the future benefits of green building.

What is Retrofitting?

Retrofitting is the act of replacing, or modifying existing products within a building, and replacing them with up-to-date models, suitable for today’s purpose.  It refers to the addition of new building product technology to an “out-of-date” system, typically making a building more efficient.  In the case of retrofitting a school to save water, the easiest means to reduce its “Water Footprint” is to replace the high-consumption plumbing fixtures that are currently installed, with current low-consumption models.

Right: Sloan ECOS® Dual-Flush Electronic Flushometer  

When a designer or plumbing professional thoroughly evaluates the plumbing equipment currently installed in many schools, and establishes their  water usage, it is often quickly apparent that by “Retrofitting” the existing equipment to current low consumption, application appropriate models, the amount of water being used or wasted can be quickly minimized.

Why Retrofit Schools?

As many schools across North America were built long before the green movement, the fixtures installed are dated technology and consume a lot of water. By installing low-flow toilets, dual-flush flush valves, faucet aerators, and low-flow showerheads,  schools can save money and reduce water and energy consumption, with a very short timeline for payback on investment.  This savings can then lead to additional funding to use for the actual purpose of a school: Education.

Right: Acorn Engineering Company Cast Terrazzo, Three Station “Tri-Lav Washfountain”

Besides the goal of reducing a school’s carbon footprint, researchers have found a  positive correlation between academic success and schools that employ environmentally conscious practices[i]. In addition, green schools have shown to protect the health of students and staff, pro­vide a productive learning environment, reduce operational costs, and minimize impact on the environment.

 


[i] “Study Finds Correlation Between Green Schools and Academic Success.” April 1st 2012. 2nd Green Revolution. <http://2ndgreenrevolution.com/2012/03/15/study-finds-correlation-between-green-schools-and-academic-success/#ixzz1r5tmOiQM>

Retrofitting Plumbing Equipment

As many schools didn’t have the opportunity to be built during the green building era,  most of the plumbing equipment within the building should be considered during a retrofitting project. Anything from toilets and showers, to faucets and water heaters should be considered, as replacing the old “water-guzzling” products  with newer, water-efficient equipment will certainly go a long way.

  Some of the typical, and easiest, retrofits within a school environment include the following:  

Toilets:

Water savings can be quickly achieved by simply retrofitting old 3.5 GPF toilets with  more technologically advanced 1.6 GPF, 1.28 GPF, or dual-flush models that use 1.6 GPF for solid waste and 1.0 GPF for liquid waste. However, as many toilets in schools are “flush-o-meter” type toilets, retrofitting both the wall-hung toilet and the flush-valve to ensure the consumption levels of both products function together, may be the best option.

Right: Sloan Vitreous China Water Closet with Option for Bedpan Lugs 

 

Note: Pipe slope of an existing building should be considered in such a toilet retrofit to ensure that there is still sufficient line carry.  If not, it may result in waste drainage issues, and these additional maintenance troubles which may affect the proper functioning of the building.

 

Urinals:

One of the biggest “water-wasters” in older schools are the urinals.  This is especially true when urinal tanks were used to washdown banks of urinals within the boys’ washroom.  Urinal tanks were equipped with a “float valve” which would empty the 3 gallon tank, dispersing the water to a maximum of 3 washdown urinals, approximately every 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the time it takes to refill the tank based on building water pressure).  This would mean that over the course of one year (3 Gal. x 6 refills per hour x 24 hour/day x 365 days/year) each urinal tank in the building uses approximately 157,680 gallons of water!   By replacing this product with 0.5 GPF, or 0.125 GPF urinals, huge water, and money, savings can easily be achieved. 

Right: Sloan HEU High Efficiency Urinal  

Waterless urinal products will also yield an enormous water savings in this category.  However, the designer should note that in retrofitting existing urinals to go “waterfree”, due to the age of a building, existing pipe slope may prevent the possibility of usage of such products.  

Faucets:

Perhaps the easiest retrofit, replacing faucet aerators throughout the building, using 0.5 GPM models as opposed to 2.1 GPM units, water usage can be cut drastically, with a very low-cost product and installation solution.

Right: Sloan BASYS Electronic Faucet

Showerheads:

Although green considerations are important with retrofitting projects, personal comfort remains to be one of the major concerns with change. Advanced technologies have allowed products such as showerheads to encompass both green features and comfort. Through the use of turbine technology, water pressure standards and norms are maintained. By including low-flow models into the retrofit project, water savings of 40-65% can be achieved.[i]  However, showers are not used in all school environments, and are typically more prevalent in high-school settings.

Right: American Standard FloWise Transitional 3-Function Water Saving Shower

Hot Water:

Although typically a high replacement cost, hot water system retrofits can yield enormous savings from an energy consumption perspective.  For example, by updating a school’s water heaters from standard efficiency (80%) to high efficiency (95%) models will yield a noticeable return even after the first year.  For example, even if a school uses as little as 2000 gallons of hot water per day, the building could have an operating costs savings of approximately $2.40 per day in gas savings (based on a price of $25.04 per cubic meter of natural gas).    This means that a small, simple change could yield a savings of well over $500 annually.Right: A.O. Smith Cyclone Xi thermal efficient Commercial Gas Water Heater

[i] “Plumbing Retrofit”. April 1st 2012. City of Tampa Florida. <http://www.tampagov.net/dept_water/programs_and_services/Water_Conservation/plumbing_retrofit.asp>

Final Thoughts

It is evident that sustainability in schools is among the most fundamental steps to a better, more environmentally conscious future. When constructing a green school, the building’s “footprint” should be deter­mined beforehand. Although many schools don’t have this luxury, it is not too late to retrofit. As green schools can help  support water efficiency, it is essential to consider these issues  on your next school retrofit project.

 

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