Water Efficiency: Tips from the Healthcare and Hospitality Sectors

By Better Buildings Beat Team on May 27, 2022

In a recent peer exchange, Better Buildings partners from the hospitality and healthcare sectors discussed challenges and solutions related to water efficiency, conservation, and safety. The event brought together Better Buildings partners and affiliates, including Hilton, Travel + Leisure, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), Healthcare Realty, Kaiser Permanente, DaVita, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (Erie Medical Center), and the American Hospital and Lodging Association (AHLA).

Partners shared opportunities and best practices for improving water efficiency and conservation (both indoors and landscaping), submetering and data collection, and water safety.

Water Efficiency and Conservation

Healthcare and hospitality partners share common concerns with water conservation, as partners from both sectors often have large footprints and buildings that run 24/7/365. Partners shared success stories, including the Dept. of Veterans Affairs Erie Medical Center’s 52% water savings achieved by replacing water-cooled condensing units with air-cooled ones, which service the walk-in refrigerators and freezers in the facility’s kitchen areas. The representative from the Erie Medical Center encouraged peers on the call to review equipment that’s not on the traditional list of water savings opportunities: in this case, evaluating water-cooled condensing units in addition to the more traditional water-saving choices, such as low-flow toilets and fixtures.

Dept. of Veterans Affairs Erie Medical Center

Submetering and Data Collection

Organizations can use submetering and smart metering to gather data at various levels of granularity, from entire buildings to specific equipment. Partners shared barriers and solutions to metering, from sub- and smart metering for real-time data and leak detection to tracking water usage for landscaping to determine savings from conservation measures. One partner saw upwards of 15% water reduction and savings in costs with submetering and leak detection, including reduced costs for maintenance and repairs.

Water Quality and Safety

Partners in both the hospitality and healthcare sectors closely monitor water safety and legionella growth, a bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease and occurs in water branches that are not regularly used. Especially during the pandemic, certain facilities or buildings were less occupied, allowing water to sit stagnant and creating the potential for problematic water conditions. The standard solution for legionella prevention is hyperchlorination followed by flushing of water lines to reduce chlorine levels for safe consumption. Presented as a large challenge in healthcare, one partner shared that in one healthcare facility alone, this process uses 3.5 million gallons of water a year. Partners brainstormed savings solutions from water flush solenoids to frequent water sampling.

Learn more about water efficiency in the hospitality and healthcare sectors and discover more than 3,000 proven efficiency solutions on the Better Buildings Solution Center.