When the real estate market began to crumble and the housing bubble burst, it looked like the end for wide-scale adoption of green building standards. Without new commercial projects and residential developments, the market for sustainable structures seemed to be rapidly disappearing. Now, two years later, green building has come back with a vengeance as opportunities in retrofits for existing buildings and government mandates have ignited a second wave of environmentally focused construction and building management.
Case in point: New York City’s (NYC) new set of local laws—most of which will go into effect January 1, 2011—that incorporate water efficiency into the city’s plumbing code (www.nyc.gov/html/dob/html/reference/recent_code.shtml). Based on recommendations made by the NYC Green Codes Task Force in its 2010 report to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, these new laws are designed to dovetail with LEED, in order to promote a consistent set of requirements aimed at reducing the amount of potable water used by buildings throughout the city, while at the same time still satisfying the needs of individual water users.
- Local Law 54: prohibits the use of potable water for once-through cooling systems
- Local Law 55: requires mandatory drinking fountains to use a faucet design so that users can either drink directly from the faucet or fill a water bottle
- Local Law 56: requires alarms and submeters to be installed in facilities operated by major water users so that both the facility operator and the Department of Environmental Protection can be made aware of a potential water leak or equipment malfunction
- Local Law 57: increases water efficiency standards for toilets, showerheads, and other plumbing fixtures
And New York is not alone. New or existing green building standards are being incorporated in building and plumbing codes throughout the country, including Los Angeles and Chicago IL,.
And all this comes at a time when the federal government is also ready to act. Last week, the House of Representatives passed the 2010 Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act (which was passed in the Senate earlier this year). The Act sets an 18-month timeframe for the General Services Administration to “identify the core skills needed to manage a federal building and to develop or identify certification courses designed to meet those skills.” read more... The skill set required of federal building managers includes experience and knowledge in energy management, sustainability, and water efficiency. Additionally, last month the EPA announced a new set of labeling criteria for WaterSense Homes WaterSense Homes. According to the EPA, “The program is helping homebuyers cut their water and energy use while at the same time saving money on utility bills. Four WaterSense-labeled new homes have been built by KB Home in Roseville, California, and will help families save an average of 10,000 gallons of water and at least $100 on utility costs each year.” Homes will be individually and independently inspected and certified that they meet the EPA’s water efficiency criteria. WaterSense-labeled homes should use about 20% less water than typical homes.
So what do you think? Did green building ever really go away, or were we all just suffering a bit of “green fatigue?” Is incorporating and expanding water efficiency standards within a preexisting green building framework (like LEED or ASHRAE) the best way to broaden the reach of smart water resource management? Or should we be working on developing independent water efficiency criteria?