Water Works: Builders Work Ways to Conserve Water

Posted by MultiFamily Executive on August 6, 2013 by Lindsay Machak.

More than 70 percent of the nation is susceptible to a water shortage. In fact, 36 U.S. states are at risk for water shortages even without the threat of drought, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So when the team at NorSouth Constructs got together with the Decatur Housing Authority to reconstruct a public housing complex, they decided water efficiency was a must, says Colin Edelstein.

Edelstein, a director at NorSouth Constructs, said a rainwater harvesting system was built into the structure of the Oliver House, an 88-unit affordable housing senior building. The water that is collected is used not only for outdoor irrigation but also for toilet flushes. And not a drop is wasted: Hundreds of gallons of water are also collected from the air conditioning units through condensation.

“Sensible water efforts can have a meaningful impact to the owners, the residents and the region,” says Edelstein.

Developers at the Jonathan Rose Companies share the same philosophy. Jonathan Metz, a senior architect with Perkins Eastman Architects, said although Connecticut is not a desert area, water conservation is still just as important as in the drier regions of the country.

The impact of climate change is causing unforeseen weather patterns and altering how people live, and water is one resource apartment owners have concerns about, he said.

The Metro Green Residences community in Stamford, Conn. was built to LEED Gold standards and also harvests rainwater into two underground tanks, much like the ones being used in Decatur. But, unlike the Decatur project, the harvested water is used in the central laundry room to cut down on using municipal water, says Metz.

According to the EPA, a family of four can use up to 400 gallons of water each day. Metz believes multifamily developers can make a huge impact on that number by making small changes.The community’s garage, which is under construction, will also harvest rainwater.

Texas Hold ‘Em
While harvesting rainwater is becoming more commonplace, AMLI Residential has a different purpose for the rainwater harvested from the AMLI at Escena property in Irving, Texas.

Instead of using the water for residential needs, it is filtered through a natural runoff system designed to hold the water longer for maximum absorption into the ground, says Erin Hatcher, a sustainability coordinator at AMLI.

“We collect rainwater from our parking lots and allow there to be a natural filtration of the rainwater before releasing it into the stormwater system,” she says.

She said this is one of the most successful green initiatives the company has been able to utilize and residents are impressed once they learn what exactly is being done. The team also continues to research and evaluate what will work in new AMLI communities as they are being developed.

“This is creating some new opportunities for us,” she says. “And who knows where we can go from here. That’s in our future. I’m excited to see if we can come up with some new strategies and what more we can do.”