Vol. 3 2011 – Technology for Green Designers
Technology has taken the green community by storm. These advances have demonstrated that an increasing number of designers are realizing the importance of green building techniques, hence actively leveraging green technologies to better use our natural resources and reduce our impact on the environment. This article features some of the ways designers are utilizing technology to reduce their water consumption in their plumbing design.
In order to remain on the forefront of technological advances, leading manufacturers have incorporated green designs, technologies and features into their products. When specified into the correct application, “smart products” can significantly contribute to water conservation and overall costs.
As “low-tech” as it may seem, plumbing products such as low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, solar powered and dual-flush flush valves, and water heaters are using technology to revolutionize green building, the construction industry, and our quality of life.
Water heaters, for example, incorporate groundbreaking functionalities, performance, and technological design. From including intelligent control systems with LCD displays for precise temperature control and operating information, to the use of helical heat exchangers to achieve an extra-high rate of heat transfer, hot water technology has come a long way. In addition, powered anode systems now provide the most modern and innovative technology available to provide long-lasting tank protection.
Above right: A.O. Smith Cyclone Xi thermal efficient Commercial Gas Water Heater
Today, many dual-flush toilets aim to achieve flush rates of 1.1 GPF or less. By specifying a low-flow faucet or dual-flush toilet, designer’s project(s) will not only decrease the burden on our freshwater supply, but also contribute to their project’s potential LEED Credit or certification. These technologies were ultimately implemented in response to the green movement and concerns of the scarcity of our water supply, hence giving the option for the user to choose the amount of water they would like to use. Leading manufacturers also utilize 3D software to not only design products, but use Computational Fluid Dynamics in order to optimize design and performance of low-flow products prior to a product`s production phase.
Above left: Sloan Uppercut WES-111 High Efficiency FV (Down 1.6gpf/6.0Lpf, Up 1.1gpf/4.2 Lpf)
Personal comfort has been a main concern of specifying green products. However, advances in technology have enabled products to encompass both efficiency and comfort. For example, new showerhead fixtures use less water, while upholding the high-pressure performance standards. This is made possible through turbine technology. Turbine technology, otherwise known as a water wheel within the shower head, spins the pressurized water that flows into a small chamber. By adding air “volume” in this manner, our water pressure expectations are maintained.
Above right: American Standard FloWise Water Conserving Showerheads (1.7gpm/1.25gpm)
Rainwater Harvesting Technology
In response to the growing concern of the world’s depleting water supply, many designers are incorporating Rainwater Harvesting Technologies and grey water practices into their building designs. As Rainwater is a free resource that reduces the need for municipally potable water, especially for non-potable water needs, specifying a complete rainwater harvesting package may be a viable solution to not only save money, but also, reduce the strain on our potable water supply.
Rainwater technology allows rainwater to be collected, condensate, and fed into a water storage tank either within or near the base of the building. Upon collection, typically via roof, the water is then sent through vortex fine mesh filters, to filter debris from entering the tank. This process oxygenates the rainwater to enable it to be sent to the storage tanks (through a smoothing inlet). Harvested water for use is extracted from the cleanest part of the tank, which is just below the surface of the water, using a floating filter and pump. By utilizing harvested rainwater for non-potable projects such as flushing toilets, washing cars, irrigating lawns and watering gardens can reduce water consumption by 65% in America”s homes and buildings.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is fundamentally a detailed digital simulation that offers graphical and non-graphical information of a building’s life cycle. It promotes interoperability and can assist with disclosing all the necessary building information to all the stakeholders involved. As all the product details are readily available to review, designers are able to create “what if” analysis, and further identify possible green combinations that may be used in their final project.
In addition, BIM technology can assist with non-intrusive system analysis and aid in future repairs. For example, owners now have the ability to access their BIM project, review the product that is in need of repair, order the correct part from the manufacturer, and have it shipped to the site. As such, additional site visits can be eliminated due to the informational advances now available through BIM technology.
In this competitive market, seeking ways to leverage green technology is a “way of life.” During times when the use of natural resources is of concern to the general public, it makes sense to research technologies to specifying efficient buildings. Make the efficient choice and incorporate green technologies and forward thinking solutions into your next building project, and minimize your carbon footprint.
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