A sustainable future for water

Glenn Payne from Grohe discusses sustainable solutions for bathrooms as well as the innovations making their way into UK homes

Water – our most natural resource, spans 70 per cent of the planet’s surface. Thanks to nature’s wonderful recycling system, it is a resource that, in the western world, is taken for granted. However, when we take into consideration that there is no more fresh water on earth today than there was a million years ago, and that only 3 per cent of the earth’s water is suitable for human consumption, it becomes clear as to why the topic of sustainability has increased tenfold in recent years. To put it into perspective, the global population, which currently stands at over seven billion people, has to share this 3 per cent of usable water for washing, cooking and sanitisation. Thus there is growing urgency on demand for water, and focus on the need for manufacturers to deliver sustainable solutions for our homes, offices and public buildings to help reduce consumption, and ease the strain on nature’s purest resource. International certification programmes are growing in abundance across the globe. The value that rating systems such as BREEAM and LEED can add to a project is immeasurable. Not only do they help to facilitate the sustainable construction, design or refurbishment of buildings, but they also set a benchmark of excellence, which in turn helps identify areas of improvement and inspiration for the future. The management of water currently only plays a small part in these accreditation systems – 6 per cent reduction required for BREEAM and 10 per cent for LEED – which is much less than the reductions required for energy. Is it time for change, in light of the pressures placed upon this precious resource, and the growing number of intelligent solutions available on the market? In the fields of design and architecture, leading manufacturers are providing innovative, functional and design-centric solutions to both the residential and commercial sectors to try and alleviate some of these issues. When it comes to considering sustainable solutions in residential properties, it is important to find water-reducing products that address the daily activities that cause the biggest deficit. A similar thinking can also be applied to many public and commercial buildings too. Interestingly, a fifth of the daily water used in an average household is consumed in the kitchen, but only 2 per cent of this is for drinking and cooking. A staggering 32 per cent is used for toilet flushing alone, and 36 per cent for washing, bathing and showering. As the three biggest contenders for water consumption, and consequently, wastage, these are the areas that sustainable developments should consider tackling with more eco-friendly solutions.

Water saving solutions for commercial & residential projects

When it comes to the specification of more sustainable systems for water saving in showers, most accreditation systems require shower systems to run between 7.5 l/min – 9 l/min, and this is made feasible thanks to flow restricting ‘mousseurs’, and technology that allows equal dispensation of water from each nozzle in the shower head. This actually reduces water usage while maintaining a high quality shower experience for users. Some thermostats are also fitted with eco buttons that can reduce consumption by up to as much as 50 per cent. In terms of taps, although traditionally associated with commercial interiors such as public toilets, infra-red taps are now being introduced to the residential market. Water is only dispensed when sensor detects movement thus the water-saving results really are tangible. Finally, one of the easiest sustainable specifications in any bathroom is addressing the toilet flush system. It is incredible to think that almost a third of daily water usage is going back down our drains after flushing. Flush systems compliant with BREEAM should have an effective flush volume of 4.5 litres or less, and there are many brands offering these efficient solutions in a range of styles and designs. As we move further into the digital age, new and exciting sustainable innovations are beginning to make their way into the home. The integration of smart water systems will allow consumers to track consumption, detect micro leaks and frost risk, and in case of a detected burst pipe, automatically shut off the water supply. Exciting water saving innovations are entering the market each year, but what does the future hold? Soon we will see the option to pre-programme a bath to fill to a pre-selected level and temperature, with no excess water being wasted trying to find the optimum temperature. On the other hand, shower systems can be paused to temporarily stop the water flow while the user is applying soap or shampoo, before the flow is restarted again at the same volume and temperature. Each of these small steps will make a big difference to the burden we bear on the precious resource of water.

Glenn Payne is head of projects at Grohe