Integrative Design Process
The integrative design process understands that buildings, their components, and their context are interrelated. Whole-building systems observe this principle by involving all stakeholders from project conception through delivery, and beyond. Including all stakeholders allows for the identification of synergies that otherwise would go unnoticed, and as a result, reduces initial and operating costs, and reduces indoor and outdoor water consumption, along with optimizing design for convenience, hygiene, and reliability. An integrative team can conserve not only water but also significantly reduce overall energy consumption and operation costs.
Facility managers have a unique opportunity to dramatically impact water use in existing buildings. By measuring and monitoring water use, evaluating plumbing fixture types, and implementing simple water saving measures, the facility manager can easily improve overall efficiency.
Mechanical engineers should be brought to the integrative process table to give insight as to how to successfully integrate the HVAC components into an overall sustainable water strategy. The quality and quantity of water needed to assist the functionality of mechanical components will need to be consider during the planning and design phases, as well as how to optimize and size mechanical systems to use less water. For example, the mechanical engineer will be able to provide calculations as to how much air handling unit condensate might be available for harvesting.
The owner wants to maximize the project’s return on investment as well as the building’s market value. Implementing cost-effective water conservation strategies can reduce not only the cost to use and dispose of water, but further reduce overall building water costs. A sustainable water system increases the building’s value by reducing operating costs through water and energy savings and reduced equipment repairs.
The behavior and well-being of the intended users of the water system – the occupants – should be considered at the integrative table. Water delivery, especially if redistributed from on-site or through reclaimed sources, must be safe for human interaction. Water temperature and quantity should be adequate for comfort, but heated and delivered as efficiently as possible. Account for human behavior when planning for a high-performance water system, as the occupant’s use of a fixture or other water equipment affects performance tremendously.
The plumbing engineer takes on the responsibility of ensuring that water, whether potable or non-potable, provides its intended benefit throughout the building. Plumbing professionals should work closely with the rest of the integrative team, particularly the mechanical engineer, maintenance professionals, and landscape architect, to optimize pipe, pump, and fixture efficiency and ensure proper functionality of water components both inside and outside the facility.
An aesthetically pleasing landscape is important in creating a pleasant environment for occupants and guests alike. The landscape architect is responsible for creating the desired image while requiring the least amount of supplemental water for irrigation. Knowledge of hydrology, or how rainwater and storm water will flow on site, can be leveraged to create strategies that not only protect the building from potential water hazards but utilizes these natural sources to offset potable water consumption. The landscape architect’s understanding of native or climate-adaptive plants is essential during plant selections. Through xeriscaping and strategic placement of external building features such as ponds or courtyards, the amount of water needed for irrigation can be limited or offset altogether.
Operations and Maintenance
Maintenance personnel are critical in sustaining a successful water system upgrade into the future. The water components need to be commissioned as part of a water maintenance plan. The design and placement of equipment, piping, and access points will be of importance to the maintenance personnel as they seek to prevent, identify, and fix leaks. Grounds crews and custodial staff should also be consulted when developing cleaning plans. Water-saving procedures, such as sweeping sidewalks rather than using a hose, will impact the responsibilities of these teams.
Civil engineers provide engineering expertise for the water related aspects of the building site, including how on-site water is supplied to the building, how it will be stored and controlled, and how it ultimately gets discharged from the site. Civil engineers should work closely with landscape architects in creating a safe and water-efficient external environment that utilizes a combination of control systems, including retention ponds, bio-swales and rain gardens. Similar roles focused on site hydrology strategies to conserve water could include permaculturalist and ecologist professionals.
Officials & Providers
Water consumption is regulated on the State level. Inviting State Officials and local providers to the integrative table is important for creating a compliant, healthy and cost-effective project. Local jurisdictions may have incentive programs promoting water conservation strategies that could significantly reduce the projects upfront financial investment. Local Officials and Water Providers can not only serve as water subject matter experts but also give insight into the big-picture water goals for the community.