Be wise on water for a better BREEAM

Using less water means more BREEAM credits — and considerable savings in water costs. Bob Blincowe of Cistermiser has lots of suggestions that do not trade off hygiene against BREEAM credits and savings.

Over half of domestic water used in commercial buildings can be attributed to unregulated urinals and some 25% to operating taps for hygiene and cleaning purposes. In itself this type of water use represents an escalating cost for the building owner, particularly in light of burgeoning drought conditions, which have already been confirmed for some parts of the UK this year.

As water becomes a depleted resource, its value will rise and the environmental impact of its consumption will increase. Therefore methods that reduce the normal use of domestic water in commercial buildings are recognised and rewarded under the BREEAM rating scheme.

The wider commercial benefits of a high BREEAM rating make any water saving measure a valid one. These benefits combine with the health and hygiene improvements that some processes deliver to provide a very strong case for implementation.

BREEAM has distinct categories for water and health and wellbeing. There are various courses of action available, which can be designed into a new washroom, or retrofitted into an existing facility, with the aim of improving water use and contributing to a building’s overall BREEAM rating.

Primarily BREEAM category Wat 1 demands evidence to demonstrate that any specification includes any domestic water devices that consume less water. These include taps, urinals, WCs and showers.

The direct flush urinal control valve from Cistermiser ensures only 0.5 l of water is used as and when it is needed. This is instead of an unmonitored urinal cistern that flushes constantly, regardless of whether it has been used or not.

Similarly the Easyflush valve for WCs saves water by providing a standard 6 l flush of the cistern with an adjustable part-flush giving an effective flush volume of 3 l.

Infra-red sensors to control water usage of taps, urinals and WCs according to need can be a key feature of a water-management strategy.

When an Easyflush valve is combined with an infrared sensor to control the solenoid valve, the hygiene benefits of the washroom are also enhanced. This is because the infrared control removes the need for manual contact with the flush control. The addition of infrared taps, such as the Novatap or Novaspout, further improves the ‘hands-free’ nature of the washroom.

As a category Wat 4 goes further in its demand for not only saving but also accurately controlling water use. Therefore credits under this category are awarded for evidence that demonstrates proximity detection shut off is provided to the water supply for all toilet areas. Cistermiser’s Sensazone takes infrared control one step further. In addition to controlling the flushing of a urinal or WC, or the opening of a tap, this infrared control system also controls the presence of water within the entire washroom environment.

As a user enters the washroom, solenoid valves are opened, allowing water to flow into the washroom system. When no motion is detected the valve will shut off water supply to the area until further movement is detected. This means that there is no risk of uncontrolled water waste, which could otherwise pass undetected for long periods of time (such as weekends and holidays). Such a risk is not only expensive in terms of the cost of water, but also in terms of potential damage.

Also under BREEAM, category Hea 12 addresses the risk of microbial contamination where hot and cold water could mix to potentially create a breeding ground for pathogens. Thermostatic mixing valves can contribute to a high rating under Hea 12; for example the Novatap and Novaspout both provide a periodic hygiene rinse to prevent warm, mixed water stagnating.

A BREEAM rating can be achieved at any stage of a building’s life. It goes without saying that a new build, with a budget that incorporates all the sustainability measures required, is a much easier proposition. However, retrofit measures can also be utilised to good effect in the BREEAM. Ensuring there are clear responsibilities for overseeing the maintenance of washroom water usage within the building-services remit will support water efficiency to the benefit of the overall environmental performance of a buildings.

Bob Blincowe is national sales manager with Cistermiser.

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