Greenovation+

Vol 4. 2012 – Simple Green Office Space Plumbing Renovations

Although many designers have jumped on board with building “green”, there are still many designers who may find it difficult to justify green products within their design budgets. The questions posed are always concerning ROI (products and labour), efficiencies, and the overall cost of turning an existing office into a ‘Greener’ space.

Contrary to popular belief, water and energy efficient plumbing products do not always mean a hefty cost premium will be absorbed by the owner versus traditional products. However, if products and solutions are considered based on office use and existing space, it is possible to retrofit almost any space on a budget. There are products which also cost a slight premium to go green, however these products often provide a large energy and water savings to the space, making them a worthwhile investment due to their contribution to the reduction of operating costs.

Below are a few easy and cost effective ways to make your plumbing systems more water and energy efficient:

Upgrade existing faucets.

Replace your washers and faucet cartridges. A dripping tap is a huge contributor to water waste across the globe. When fittings are continuously turned on and off, year after year, if the product installed contains rubber washers (instead of ceramic disc cartridges), over time, faucet washers will deteriorate from pressure, chlorine in the water, sediment, and other factors. As such, replacing your faucet cartridges and washers may be the easiest solution to immediately saving water. Fast, very easy, with low labour cost.

Install low-flow Aerators. Inexpensive, and easy to install, low-flow faucet aerators are one of the most cost effective water conservation methods on the market. With a simple replacement, a low flow aerator can easily reduce your space’s water consumption in half. Due to the low cost (approx. $5 per unit) for any green retrofit project, a low-flow aerator is a great option to consider.

 

Update Flush valve toilets and urinals with high-efficiency options.

Toilets

Start making “water sense” by replacing 3.5 GPF / 13.2 LPF toilets with a 1.6 GPF / 6 LPF (minimum) unit, 1.28 GPF / 4.8 LPF, or dual-flush models (1.6 GPF / 6 LPF for solid waste, and 1.0 GPF / 3.8 LPF for liquid waste).
There are two ways to update a toilet: by replacing the entire unit, or updating the flush valve assembly. The easiest and least expensive solution is to update an existing, high volume unit with a dual flush model. There are both manual and electronic versions of this product available on the market, and 1.6 GPF / 6 LPF product can be easily retrofitted without removing actual fixtures and disturbing the wall space. A full replacement (toilet and flush valve) can also be done to achieve even higher savings. These units are now very high performance, and may be worth the additional cost (approx. $500 to 800, depending on manual or electronic).

However, depending on the age of your building, if wall hung units are being replaced, please remember to consider the existing ‘bolt-pattern’ on your carrier (for example, 3-bolt or 4-bolt). This must match the new product being installed, before your plumber has a surprise on site.


In regards to tank-type toilets, the choice is straight-forward. By retrofitting to either low-flow or dual-flush units, a high level of water savings can be achieved. Due to increased performance and styling available, these new products are acceptable for both common areas and executive washrooms alike. Even luxury comes in low-flow.

 

Urinals

Urinals can also be retrofitted to lower flow solutions. However, this will depend on the type of product installed. If Washdown type urinals are currently on site, you may be able to change out the existing diaphragm assembly on the flush valve to a lower consumption unit without substantially affecting performance. However, if a Blow-out or Siphon-Jet urinal is currently being used, a full replacement of the product will be required. With the list price of a 0.125 Gallon complete unit (Flush valve and Urinal) in the range of $500-$800, it is still a fairly inexpensive solution reduce water consumption. These high efficiency products can achieve further savings of typically 30,000 Gallons (113,562 L) can be achieved per year.

 

Install a new hot instantaneous water heater.

As storage capacity is not typically required in most office spaces (due to the lack of bathtubs, showers, laundry and other high-load applications) an instantaneous hot water heater can be installed to supply the entire space, or even at point of use where individual fixtures may exist. Due to the enormous energy savings which can be realized almost instantly, this is an excellent consideration in green retrofit design. Although not the most inexpensive upgrade, this change can lead to huge savings, with a noticeable return being yielded even after the first year, in addition to decreasing the carbon footprint of your building or space.

Note: The most effective instantaneous hot water models require a gas supply, so ensure that this is considered when re-designing your new green space.

 

Water filtration and treatment

Adding the appropriate water treatment and filtration to your new space will also ensure that the low-flow and high-efficient products now installed will function to the best of their ability and preserve the life-expectancy of the products.

Filtration on the building’s incoming main water supply will protect everything from the solenoids on electronic faucets, diaphragms on low-flow flush valves, keep low-flow aerators free of sediment, and protect the seals and washers on all equipment. If this is a retrofit (or new building) project in a downtown core, the city infrastructure is typically 50 years or older, and likely has sediment issues.

The installation of water quality and conditioning products can also ensure that the goals of your efficient design are carried through. For example, by adding anti-scaling water treatment, not only will your instantaneous hot water heater work better, maintain its efficiency, and likely also help with the product warranty, this technology will also help to protect the plumbing system overall, including pipes, fixtures, valves, fittings and other equipment from the negative effects caused by water hardness.

 

Final Thoughts

With continued global concern on water scarcity, these simple, green, and relatively cost efficient upgrades can contribute towards making a difference in the short and long-term lifespan of a building’s efficiency. Especially with companies wanting to put their best “green’ foot forward in the eyes of consumers, these cost-effective retrofit solutions are an excellent way to both demonstrate their commitment to the environment, and save money in the long-run.

 

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