Next stage of green building will be water efficiency

Architecture and engineering firms, contractors and owners report that water efficiency is rapidly becoming a higher priority than other aspects of green building, such as energy efficiency and waste reduction.

New York — Over the next five years, water efficiency and conservation will become critical factors in green design, construction and product selection, according to McGraw-Hill Construction's latest SmartMarket Report, “Water Use in Buildings,” released in June with support from The Chicago Faucet Co. and Sloan Valve Co. Architecture and engineering firms, contractors and owners report that water efficiency is rapidly becoming a higher priority than other aspects of green building, such as energy efficiency and waste reduction.

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, buildings consume 20% of the world's available water, a resource that becomes scarcer each year. Efficient practices and products, such as gray water treatment and low-flow plumbing fixtures, provide significant opportunities for the A/E industry to respond to this trend and build high-tech, low-water-demand projects that will turn the tide on the water crisis and create the conscientious buildings of tomorrow.

“This study sheds light on the shift in what will define a green building,” said Harvey Bernstein, vice president of Industry Analytics, Alliances & Strategic Initiatives, McGraw-Hill Construction. “The results are especially telling — the increasing importance of water issues, the business benefits from water-efficient products and processes, and building owner buy-in all point to how critical it will be for the industry to address responsible water practices in the future.”

“We regard sustainability as an opportunity to travel down new roads with our customers,” said John Fitzgerald, director of marketing, The Chicago Faucet Co. “Sustainability and social responsibility are closely interrelated and are important subjects for Chicago Faucets in thinking and acting in research and development and in production. Sustainability is the foundation of why, ultimately, we sponsored this research.”

“With water being a precious resource, Sloan understands the importance of sustainability by offering water-efficient products that serve the industry,” said Tim Schiffbauer, market research manager, Sloan Valve Co.

The report covers involvement levels and growth opportunities over the next five years, as well as business benefits, motives and obstacles encountered in this advancing market. Highlights include:

  • Industry involvement and the perceived importance of water efficiency are growing dramatically. By 2013, 85% of industry reports that water efficiency will be an extremely important aspect of a green building, up from 69% this year.

  • Owners are especially committed to water-efficient practices, with 42% reporting that more than three-quarters of current projects incorporate water-efficient designs; 50% expect to incorporate water-efficient practices in at least half of their building portfolios by 2013.

  • Business benefits are growth drivers as companies focus on the bottom-line. Primary motivators include reducing energy use (87%) and reducing operating costs (84%). Respondents report that in addition to reduced water use, 10%-11% use less energy, and an 11%-12% reduction in operating costs.

  • Increased government regulation and the desire to lower energy costs are expected to trigger faster adoption of water-efficient products and methods. Seventy-three percent of respondents are motivated by energy cost increases while more than two-thirds expect to respond to regulations on wastewater runoff (69%) and water efficiency (68%).

Contractors, owners, manufacturers and A/E firms can take advantage of this market opportunity by quantifying and explaining to customers how water-efficient practices and products contribute to improved building performance. Brand awareness is strongest for high-efficiency toilets (48% of respondents), water-saving sinks (30%) and waterless urinals (23%).

Water Use in Buildings is the latest green building SmartMarket Report from McGraw-Hill Construction Research & Analytics. Additional information is available at, and sponsor information is available at and

TAGS: Fixtures