The challenge of water efficiency
The need to use less water is becoming increasingly recognised and accepted. The industry is ahead of the public is raising awareness, as Barbara Osborne of Deva and Methven UK explains.
In a year which started with hose-pipe bans and warnings of drought and ended as the wettest in the UK since records began, the need to be water efficient was a challenging concept to communicate to consumers in 2012. Despite our wet weather, the reality is that there is not enough storage water for the UK’s long-term consumption.
Although energy-efficient products have been welcomed by consumers in the kitchen, they have been slower to embrace change in the bathroom, continuing to enjoy high-consuming products and wasting water through long-held habits.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, about 23% of an average home’s energy bills are attributed to heating hot water — or around £160 per year. Water use in the home on average contributes to around a quarter of domestic carbon emissions.
Regardless of this, there is still a common consumer attitude that water is a ‘free’, resource that will always be available in unlimited abundance, no matter how large our population grows or how much process water our society and industry demands.
According to a report conducted by Energy Saving Trust in late 2011, only 8% of the public recognises the link between water efficiency and reduced bills.
Undeniably, the previous appearance of water-efficient bathroom products has not helped the cause. Historically badly designed and unattractive, it’s not surprising that the building industry as a whole has previously found it difficult converting consumers to a water-efficient way of life.
So, how have things changed?
With the Government updating Part G of the Building Regulations in April 2010 and the Water Efficiency Standard setting a new maximum of 125 litres per person per day for all new homes, specifiers and installers are now under pressure to choose more water-efficient products.
Selecting energy-efficient small electrical or domestic appliances is now relatively straightforward; the EU Energy Label is well established and recognisable to consumers — whereas identifying water-efficient products has always been more of a challenge. However, the voluntary Water Label scheme is now gaining ground, providing easy access to a database of bathroom products which when installed and used correctly will use less water, save energy and save money. Products which conform to the standards of the scheme can be found at the first link below.
And, as the eco message moves further up the agenda and energy prices continue to rise, consumers and organisations will inevitably increase demand for good quality bathroom products that are more environmentally friendly and water efficient, meaning they can decrease their water consumption and meet those high expectations.
Members of the Water Label scheme are confident that with increased awareness consumers, specifiers and installers will look out for the distinctive blue label and buy with confidence knowing they have chosen a product that is helping to keep water usage to a minimum.
Continuous improvement is vital and therefore building-service firms that implement energy- and water-conservation schemes, meet and exceed the environmental requirements of projects, and market products that make efficient use of resources, will inevitably lead the market and be at the forefront of water- and energy-efficient building.
As well as signing up to schemes such as the Green Deal, it’s important to follow the Code for Sustainable Homes, working towards a multiple star sustainability rating.
To help meet the minimum standard, Sustainable Code Level 1, builders have to ensure the home is designed to use no more than 120 litres of water per person per day.
Considering that the bathroom accounts for around a third of water in the household, fitting a number of water-efficient bathroom items will improve consumption dramatically.
Recent years have seen a great deal of innovative product development in all areas of the bathroom, particularly in water-efficient low-flow showers and taps. Leaders in the market have developed products that combine both style and impressive green credentials.
With innovative water-saving technologies such as Methven’s Satinjet being incorporated into a range of stylish and contemporary shower collections, water efficiency no longer requires the consumer to make a choice between a positive shower experience and saving water. One visit to the Water Label website will showcase the range of water-efficient products on offer and explode the myth that going green and saving water means compromising on style and experience.
Barbara Osborne is product manager with Deva and Methven UK.