Water conservation is key element in achieving effective green building

Florida water issues

Column contributed by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC)

Water plays a big role in our local communities. Without water there would be no local business or industry. Fire fighting, municipal parks, and public swimming pools all need a reliable supply of water. In addition, water is used for agriculture, manufacturing, energy production, and outdoor recreation.

Almost every facet of life in Florida is closely associated with water. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the average Floridian uses 133 gallons of water each day. Slightly less than half is used inside the home. The rest is used outdoors, primarily for landscape irrigation.

As our population grows and the demand for drinking water increases, Florida must build on its water conservation initiatives and expand the use of reclaimed water to extend groundwater supplies. In many areas, utilities will need to develop alternative sources of water to bolster traditional drinking water sources.

This increasing demand on our state’s water resources necessitates that sustainable building be a cornerstone of Florida’s future.

To that end, the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) develops and administers the “Florida Green” green building certification standards designed to increase the sustainability of Florida’s built environment.

Land developments requiring green home certification such as Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County, Oakland Park in Orange County, and Alys Beach in Walton County are key drivers for advancing sustainability among the building industry. And the builders embracing this trend such as Neal Communities, Lennar, Pulte, Mattamy Homes, Taylor Morrison, William Ryan Homes, Southern Crafted Homes, and Premier Construction & Development are capturing a large portion of the new home sales market across the state. That type of participation has helped FGBC reach a new milestone of over 14,000 “Florida Green” certified projects.

Water conserving strategies both inside the building and out in the landscape play a primary role in green building and are a main category in the certification process. Approaches include low-flow plumbing fixtures, greywater reuse, rainwater harvesting, reclaimed water reuse, proper plant selection for landscapes, and properly installed irrigation systems.

With many regions of Florida facing public water supply constraints, building homes and commercial projects to use less water by way of high-efficiency components only makes sense.

The Florida Water Star program is a voluntary water conservation certification program for new residential and commercial construction and existing home renovation that works in partnership with comprehensive green building certification. The program encourages water efficiency in appliances, plumbing fixtures, irrigation systems and landscapes, as well as water quality benefits from best management practices in landscapes. Based on estimates, an average Florida Water Star homeowner can save up to 20 percent of water use annually.

With site appropriate plants, increased shade and reduced areas of irrigated turf grass, an irrigation system can be set to run for much shorter periods — and in some cases, an irrigation system is not necessary at all.

Looking to the future, and Florida’s continued water resource constraints, it will become even more critical that water conservation be a part of every aspect within Florida’s economy.

Agricultural water users will need to upgrade to more efficient irrigation systems and implement best management practices. Golf courses must reduce the amount of acreage irrigated, install irrigation systems that reduce the volume of water used, and install soil moisture and rain sensors.

Builders will need to incorporate green building programs such as FGBC Florida Green and Florida Water Star into their construction process. The advantages of green building are abundant: less impact on our natural resources, healthier indoor environments, increased worker productivity, reduced operating costs, and increased market value.

With a concerted effort, Florida can alter its pending water crisis by engaging the many different disciplines of the building industry in adopting water conservation strategies.

For information about green building practices, visit the Florida Green Building Coalition website at: www.floridagreenbuilding.org. Florida Water StarSM information is available at: http://floridawaterstar.com.


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