The water nexus

One of this year’s resonating themes at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo was the energy-water nexus, which the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and its partners have taken on as an extension of its energy savings program.

All partners that sign on to participate in the Better Buildings Water Expansion program commit to a 20% or greater water savings throughout their entire U.S. building portfolio, agree to report building level usage annually, and share best practices with market peers. Currently, there are 23 Better Buildings Challenge partners participating, and several have already achieved significant water savings.

“Tackling water conservation next just makes sense for many of our partners, since they’re able to take their best practices and knowledge acquired from the energy side and applied them to the water expansion program,” said Holly Jamesen Carr of the Energy Department.

At this year’s Greenbuild, The Tower Companies (Tower) and Transwestern were two of the partners that shared the stage with the Energy Department to present the challenges and successes they have experienced thusfar while working toward achieving water savings.

Eugenia Gregorio, Director of Corporate Responsibility at The Tower Companies, explained that the company follows the lead-by-example school of thought when it comes to environmental responsibility and subscribes to sharing sustainable and innovative practices. Tower has implemented real-time data tracking as one method of working towards its efficiency goals and has in turn actualized water savings of 15% and energy savings of 13% to date.

“We have a real-time energy platform that pulls data from buildings and is used to track usage and progress. In order to work towards our water savings goal, this platform was converted to monitor water usage,” said Gregorio.

This solution allowed for three essential aspects of any efficiency program to be put in play – transparency, tracking, and troubleshooting – all of which are necessary to understanding what is being done right and what is being done wrong. In addition to the water monitoring platform, Tower has implemented benchmarking, preventative maintenance, and hardware upgrades, among other efforts, to reduce energy and water use in tenant spaces across its commercial portfolio.

In keeping with the theme of consumption platforms, Rock Ridolfi, commissioning analyst for Transwestern, spoke to the importance of working with owners and operators to ensure that their buildings are working efficiently through a verification program. DROP, an internal tool that uses indoor, irrigation and cooling tower water use data from ENERGY STAR, identifies the level of water consumption from office buildings in Transwestern’s portfolio. The resulting data assists owners and managers in reducing their usage by identifying operational fixes such as sub-metering, vacancy checks, and rainwater capture that could improve their efficiency.

Greenbuild allows for a convening of industry professionals unrivaled in the green building industry. We look forward to hearing about the innovative solutions put into play by both this session’s attendees, as well as our Better Buildings Water Pilot partners, as they apply specific water efficiency methodologies to their own projects, and work to raise awareness of the water-energy nexus among building professionals.