Harvesting LEED Points Using Rainwater

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1 Harvesting LEED Points Using Rainwater A white paper by Watertronics, manufacturer of SkyHarvester water conservation systems. This document will show facility owners, architects, engineers, and others involved in building design and construction projects how rainwater collection, storage, and distribution systems can help achieve over onethird of the points needed for Certified status in the LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations (NC+MR) Green Building Rating System. This document also presents evidence showing how rainwater harvesting systems benefit the urban environment and help new buildings comply with emerging water use legislation. January 2011 LEED Basics The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has formulated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to provide a benchmark for energy- and resource-efficient design and construction of new buildings. The current version, LEED 2009, offers 7 categories of credits, with varying numbers of credits and points per category. Compliance with each credit is determined by the project s fulfillment of The professionals that the intent of each credit, which allows develop the LEED rating those involved in the building design and construction process to pursue one of system influence the potential options for credit socially-conscious changes many achievement. in water-use regulations. The experienced professionals that continue to develop the LEED rating system are the same people whose expertise is influencing socially conscious change in state and local water use regulations. Building owners and others in the construction industry can take steps now to comply with the current LEED rating system in order to ensure a smooth and simple transition to more stringent water use regulation compliance in the future. The LEED rating system gives us a glimpse of these future construction regulations. The following section will serve as a road map showing how to make your project more consistent with a more water-conserving built environment. Page 1

2 LEED 2009 NC+MR Credits to Be Earned Using Rainwater Harvesting Note: The Intent section of each credit was taken directly from the LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations Green Building Rating System document, available online at: Rainwater re-use or recycling is listed as a Potential Technology or Strategy in the rating system document for each of the credits listed below. Sustainable Sites Credit 6.1: Stormwater Design--Quantity Control Intent: To limit disruption of natural hydrology by reducing impervious cover, increasing on-site infiltration, reducing or eliminating pollution from stormwater runoff and eliminating contaminants. Rainwater harvesting reduces peak discharge rate and quantity of stormwater runoff. How rainwater harvesting helps to fulfill the intent: Runoff that would normally immediately leave the site through the storm sewer system can be stored in a rainwater harvesting system. This stored rainwater can then be used in a variety of ways, but is commonly used as a water source for irrigation of on-site landscape features. Rainwater harvesting reduces the pollution from stormwater runoff by drastically reducing the quantity of runoff immediately leaving the site. This stored runoff is more slowly filtered through vegetation and the ground via irrigation--thereby increasing on-site infiltration--or is used to reduce potable water demand in graywater applications. Points possible: 1 point can be achieved by incorporating rainwater harvesting into a project s overall stormwater management plan that reduces post-development peak discharge rate and quantity of stormwater runoff according to the levels required by this credit. Sustainable Sites Credit 6.2: Stormwater Design--Quality Control A rainwater harvesting system reduces the amount of sediment and other pollutants in runoff leaving the site. Intent: To limit disruption and pollution of natural water flows by managing stormwater runoff. How rainwater harvesting helps to fulfill the intent: Runoff detained by a rainwater harvesting system is routed through a filtering system. This filtering system will vary, depending on the intended use of the stored runoff, from a device as simple as a grit screen that segregates the larger sediment particles from the water before it enters the tank, to a more sophisticated device, such as a reverse osmosis filter. Additionally, stored runoff used for irrigation is sent through a more natural filter: the vegetation it waters and the ground that absorbs it. Points possible: 1 point can be achieved by incorporating rainwater harvesting into a project s overall stormwater management plan that reduces the amount of sediment and other pollutants in the stormwater runoff leaving the site according to the levels required by this credit. Page 2 - Harvesting LEED Points Using Rainwater White Paper by Watertronics

3 The chart to the right shows that nearly half of the runoff from a 2-inch rainfall on a 30,000 square foot site could be captured and used by a simple rainwater harvesting system. A system that employs a hydrocarbon filtration system to treat runoff from parking areas could potentially capture significantly more runoff during a majority of storms during the year. Water Efficiency Prerequisite 1 and Credit 3: Water Use Reduction Intent: To (further) increase water efficiency within buildings to reduce the burden on municipal water supply and wastewater systems. How rainwater harvesting helps to fulfill the intent: A rainwater harvesting system can supply treated rainwater to non-potable applications such as custodial uses and toilet and urinal flushing. This system can be an enormous contributor to the fulfillment of this prerequisite and credit by significantly reducing potable water demand for the building. Points possible: No points are possible for the prerequisite of a 20% water use reduction, but the level of reduction is required for any LEED certification. A water use reduction of 30% results in 2 points for Credit 3; 3 points for 35% reduction; and 4 points for 40% reduction. Water Efficiency Credit 1: Water Efficient Landscaping Intent: To limit or eliminate the use of potable water or other natural surface or subsurface water resources available on or near the project site for landscape irrigation. Rainwater harvesting systems reduce potable water demand for buildings. How rainwater harvesting helps to fulfill the intent: The most common use for water collected by rainwater harvesting systems is for irrigation. Used in concert with tolerant and native vegetation in landscaping, an irrigation system that uses harvested rainwater is the embodiment of the intent of this credit. Points possible: 2 points can be achieved by reducing the potable water used for irrigation by 50%. 4 points are possible if the demand for potable water used in irrigation is completely eliminated. This higher point level can be attained by using a storage system dedicated solely to irrigation, without potable water supply supplementation. Water Efficiency Credit 2: Innovative Wastewater Technologies Intent: To reduce wastewater generation and potable water demand while increasing the local aquifer recharge. How rainwater harvesting helps to fulfill the intent: The use of harvested rainwater for urinal and toilet flushing and other non-potable applications reduces the potable water demand for a building. Points possible: 2 points can be attained by reducing the potable water used for building sewage conveyance by 50%. Page 3 - Harvesting LEED Points Using Rainwater White Paper by Watertronics

4 Rainwater harvesting can help earn three additional points for the Innovation in Design Credit. Innovation in Design Credit 1: Innovation in Design Intent: To provide design teams and projects the opportunity to achieve exceptional performance above the requirements set by the LEED Green Building Rating System and/or innovative performance in Green Building categories not specifically addressed by the LEED Green Building Rating System. How rainwater harvesting helps to fulfill the intent: A rainwater harvesting system can help improve the water use efficiency of a project beyond the threshold of 40% listed in WE Credit 3: Water Use Reduction. Points possible: Following the Exemplary Performance path, up to 3 additional points may be earned by achieving the next incremental percentage thresholds of WE Credit 3: Water Use Reduction. (e.g. 45% reduction = 1 additional point; 50% reduction = 2 points; 55+% reduction = 3 points.) Unparalleled LEED Efficiency A rainwater harvesting system is an efficient, effective tool that can be used to help harvest an impressive one-third of points needed for LEED certification, as is shown in the chart at right. There are many mechanical and plumbing systems that can be incorporated into a building design that will help garner LEED points, but none equal the potential multi-credit range and depth of a rainwater harvesting system. No other single mechanical or plumbing system equals the potential multi-credit range and depth that rainwater harvesting offers. The only other opportunity for one type of building system to contribute towards such a large number of LEED credits is in Energy and Atmosphere Credit 1: Optimize Energy Performance. Although there are 19 points available in this credit, a very unique, complex, and expensive combination of building efficiency measures would be needed to achieve the same number that rainwater harvesting can help achieve. Such a complex combination could include the following: geothermal well condensers/evaporators, ultra-high R-value wall and ceiling insulation, partial or entirely underground walls, an energy recovery ventilator, fully automated daylighting control system, ultra-efficient windows, several multi-zone climate controls, ultra-efficient water heater, solar thermal water heating, passive ventilation, and a solar photovoltaic array. No single one of these 11 systems can help achieve more than 5 or 6 points in this credit individually. Page 4 - Harvesting LEED Points Using Rainwater White Paper by Watertronics

5 Beyond LEED Certification Humans benefit greatly from vegetation that is incorporated into the urban built environment [Akbari, et al 2001]. Using excess rainwater to support this vegetation, rather than sending it directly to surface waters, shouldn t seem like a novel idea. Yet incorporating a rainwater harvesting system into a project is still a foreign concept in areas of the United States where ample potable water supply is taken for granted. News of dwindling aquifers serving metropolitan areas [Andren] should be the wake-up call Midwesterners need to realize how traditional myopic development practices are short-circuiting our environment, and consequently, our society. Rainwater harvesting addresses the present concerns and future demands of entities that can enforce more stringent water use regulations. Rainwater harvesting addresses many of the present concerns and future demands of the local, state, and federal entities that can enforce more stringent water use regulations. In the state of Wisconsin, new rules are being considered that will require a cost-effectiveness analysis of water supply alternatives and conservation measures [Behm 2010]. In other words, these rules could give the state of Wisconsin more leverage to influence local water use regulations in order to ensure more consistent water conservation efforts statewide. Many states and municipalities have started to require rainwater harvesting or incentivize it. Santa Fe County, New Mexico, requires passive rainwater catchment for smaller homes and active rainwater harvesting systems for larger homes [Santa Fe County Website]. The state of Arizona offers tax incentives to individuals and corporate entities for water conservation systems [Arizona Dept. of Revenue Website]. The state of Texas has enacted a state sales tax exemption on the purchasing of water conservation equipment [Texas Water Development Board Website]. The community that stands out as the leader in rainwater harvesting regulations is Tuscon, Arizona, where all new commercial development...shall include a rainwater harvesting system and 50% of the estimated yearly landscape water budget shall be provided by rainwater harvested on-site [Tuscon Ordinance]. A Typical Application There are many possible configurations of a rainwater reuse system: a complex system that collects and treats roof and pavement runoff down to potable water levels using a reverse osmosis filtering system; or a simple system that collects only roof runoff to be used for irrigation only. One very common type of system (depicted in the drawing included as an appendix to this paper) routes runoff from the rooftop down through a sediment filter, to an underground storage tank. A submersible pump inside the storage tank then sends it through the enclosed outdoor control panel and to the distribution system an irrigation or non-potable application re-use system, or both. Page 5 - Harvesting LEED Points Using Rainwater White Paper by Watertronics

6 More Information About Rainwater Harvesting SkyHarvester systems harness the forces of nature to create a more natural built environment. Watertronics SkyHarvester rainwater conservation systems are designed and constructed to meet a project s specific needs. Whether these needs include obtaining LEED certification or compliance with stringent water use regulations, SkyHarvester systems harness the forces of nature to create a more natural built environment. Visit to learn how a rainwater harvesting system can become an integral part of your next LEED certified and/or waterefficient building project. References Akbari, H., Pomerantz, M., and Taha, H. Cool surfaces and shade trees to reduce energy use and improve air quality in urban areas, Solar Energy, Volume 70, Issue 3, Urban Environment, 2001, Pages , ISSN X, DOI: /S X(00)00089-X. Available online at: F/2/1f03c91bf9d08127e425ad2f6ab91beb Andren, Anders W. Groundwater Drawdown, University of Wisconsin Water Resources Fact Sheet. Available online at: aqua.wisc.edu/publications/pdfs/groundwaterdrawdown.pdf Arizona Dept. of Revenue Website ( ): Behm, Don, New state rules regulating public water use, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel News and Opinion Blog, Dec. 6, 2010: Santa Fe County Website ( ): References Santa Fe County Ordinance No , Available online at: s_and_programs Texas Water Development Board Website ( ): dedition.pdf Tuscon Ordinance No , October 14, Available online at: Page 6 - Harvesting LEED Points Using Rainwater White Paper by Watertronics

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