Water management: Why building designs must focus on net-zero concepts

Well-designed green buildings have shown close to 25% to 30% reduction in water requirements

Water is one of the most precious resources on this planet. Across the world, human beings have shifted and moved their entire habitats, based on its availability. It is an essential commodity, as far agriculture and livestock are concerned, along with its utilisation in the current economy-driven world, for all sorts of manufacturing and production needs.

The earth is nearly 70% covered with water. However, only a very small portion of it is freshwater, which is required for the day-to-day needs for all living beings. The natural climatic water cycle through evaporation and rain formation is the primary source for freshwater availability. Hence, it becomes of utmost importance for us to save and conserve this extremely precious resource.

With increasing industrial revolution and technological developments, water has been extensively used in all sorts of industry segments, including manufacturing, pharma, chemicals, real estate development, etc. Water availability across the globe has now become a very burdensome issue. Due to global warming, the average temperature on the planet’s surface has been rising significantly and causing the ice and glaciers in the arctic to melt. This phenomenon is also reducing the overall freshwater available on the planet.


Water consumption in built environments

Nevertheless, technology is advancing. Globally, ways and means are being developed, to save water and conserve the fast depleting water tables. These developments are intended to create a minimum dependency on freshwater, through reduced water-consuming materials and substances used for construction and manufacturing purposes.

Improvements in building designs to conserve water and green building standards like IGBC, serve as significant steps towards water-efficient building designs that ultimately augment water management programs.

The Indian building sector itself contributes to about 10% consumption of water. Hence, it is pertinent for present and future generation buildings to be designed on net-zero concepts, thereby, ensuring that a sustainable environment and habitat are created, without further upstaging the natural environmental cycle. Well-designed green buildings have shown close to 25% to 30% reduction in water requirement.

The net-zero green building standards will also address the national priorities of reducing water demand by enhancing water efficiency, harnessing alternate water sources, promoting water conservation at the national level and taking the national water mission forward.

See also: Sustainability: How facility management companies can contribute towards Net Zero Emissions


Methods that can result in significant water conservation

An operating building can reduce the overall water demand in various segments or areas of usage, like domestic, flushing, landscaping, cooling tower, HVAC makeup requirements, etc.

The following methods will help save a considerable amount of water, through the use of right design, latest available energy-efficient equipment and sanitary/plumbing fixtures and overall building design concepts:

  • Water-efficient faucets and use of the dual flush systems.
  • Sensor-based water-efficient urinal systems.
  • Water-efficient showers, spray systems and kitchen taps.
  • Use of paver block surfaces, instead of concrete outer roads and walkways to harvest rainwater.
  • Having an active rainwater harvesting system.
  • Having an efficient pipe design with fewer and smooth bends, reduces frictional flow losses.
  • Ensuring rooftop water collection and its recycle and reuse.
  • Having an efficient sewage treatment plant to reuse water for secondary purposes.
  • Availability of sump pits in the parking and basement areas to pump out the rainwater collected for reuse.
  • Efficient filtration systems to reuse the water through sand, carbon and softener and ionisation systems, to treat water.
  • Use of native plants in horticulture to save water.
  • Water-efficient drip irrigation system.

See also: Water conservation: Ways in which citizens and housing societies can save water

Other methodologies would require designing the landscape with tolerant/native and less water-consuming plantations to enhance biodiversity and water conservation. Water-efficient sprinkler or irrigation systems can contribute to direct water savings of close to 30% through drip irrigation.

Rainwater harvesting also plays an integral role in the water conservation process. Suitably designed buildings will harness 100% of the water through rain and other sources, consequently ensuring comprehensive utilisation of the same through a filtration channel for secondary usages like flushing, gardening and HVAC systems.

Lastly, a recycling system for the water through an efficient and functioning sewage treatment plant (STP), will also play a significant role in ensuring the water balance. To maintain the water balance at an operating building, we need to ensure that the overall water demand of the building and infrastructure is restricted, without adding additional water requirements and sources to cater to general requirements.

STP plants are now available with the latest technology and monitoring techniques to track and ensure that the correct quantity and quality of the water is treated, in strict compliance with the pollution control board norms.

Water saving and conservation endeavours have to become individual and shared responsibilities, rather than national or global priorities, to ensure that the forthcoming generations and their habitats are sustainable.

See also: Everything you need to know about eco-friendly homes

(Rajesh Shetty is MD, Real Estate Management Services (REMS) India and Imran Khan is associate director, REMS Pune, at Colliers)


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