Water efficiency expert Mike Orlando from T&S Brass shares tips with Valerie Dennis Craven on how to be green and efficient with water use. He shares some eye-opening stats about water usage and what each building can do to help sustain this crucial-to-life natural resource.

Listen to their conversation here:

Rather read an article on this topic? Conserve Water, Save Money with an Efficiency Plan

You can also read the transcript below.

[Start transcript]

Valerie Dennis Craven: Hello, everybody. Welcome to another BUILDINGS Podcast. I’m Valerie Dennis Craven and I’m here with Mike Orlando, who’s director of sales for food service at T&S Brass. And he loves talking about water audits and efficiency.

Today, we will be talking about water conservation, sharing tips and how to be green for water efficiency. Welcome, Mike.

Mike Orlando: Thank you, Valerie. I appreciate you being on the call today.

Valerie: Definitely. So, let’s just jump right in. Why should organizations be paying attention to their water use?

Mike: Well, one of the things that we find when we’re out in the field is that most people don’t really understand that there’s only a certain amount of water to go around to the entire planet. The earth is really made up of about 70% water. 97% of it is saltwater, 3% is fresh water, but only 1% of that is accessible.

You really don’t get more water. It’s done on what they call a hydrologic cycle. So, there’s a finite amount. And the water on Earth is used over and over again.

The continuous movement of water from the oceans to the air and the land and back to the ocean is a cyclic pattern. And you just don’t get any more.

So, as the world’s population increases, the availability of the water per person decreases, which is why we start looking at different ways that we can move water and use it.

“You want some new lighting? Well, use the operational savings to pay for new lighting or new seating or new décor, whatever it happens to be.” – Mike Orlando

It’s not just the water you drink, but it’s the water you wash your clothes with, it’s the water you use to spray down the sidewalk and water your lawn, and the water that’s used in all the products that you buy, whether you buy a brand new bedsheet or a shirt or whatever, water is being used.

And so, the statistics are quite astounding because most people don’t understand how that adds all up.

But the US is the highest user of water per capita and so, the more that we understand about water conservation and how we can create impact to that, the better off we all are.

Valerie: Absolutely. So, how can people go about measuring their water use?

Mike: There are a number of ways. You can actually purchase a flow meter and put in on the incoming water source. And any building that’s got a mainline coming in, you know you have a water meter. The local water utility is actually measuring that, that’s how they send you a bill every single month.

But there’s also point of use flow meters. So, if you have that option, you can attach a flow meter to the incoming water supply of any given faucet or any appliance that uses water.

Out in the field in the food service industry, we have a water audit process. And that process allows us to go into an establishment and actually measure the flow at the point of use.

So, if you just take something as simple as a hand sink, we can actually go up to the hand sink, measure the flow and then determine what the best option is for that particular faucet. Whether or not we change the faucet or change the aerator, there are certain things that we can do to make that faucet more efficient.

[On topic: Denver Water Sets an Example for Water Conservation]

Valerie: So, people should really just be gathering information then and work with somebody to do an audit? What are the next steps once people have that information?

Mike: Really, once you get the information, and I’ll just use the audit that T&S does, it’s a proprietary process that allows us to give some very good examples of how we would change things around. A lot of times engineers and architects will put a product in place, and they assume it’s for one use, but it may or may not be used for that in the field.

People find a way to get things done. So, the more that we know about what they’re doing, the easier it is for us to come up with recommendations. And those recommendations will look at specific items and maybe additions to some of the faucets that you’re currently using, so that we can create a more efficient product for that particular use.

Handwashing is a great example. Everybody has to wash their hands. Doesn’t matter what industry it is. We’re big proponents of handwashing because it prevents the spread of disease.

Download this handwashing signage and post around your facility.

Most hand sinks are set up with a 2.2 gallon per minute aerator. You don’t normally need 2.2 gallons per minute to wash your hands. Washing your hands is done in a couple of simple steps. And whether you’re in food service or hospitality or healthcare, it’s kind of the same story.

You turn the water on, you put your hands under the water stream to wet your hands. You take your hands out of the water stream, two pumps of the soap, you rub your hands together, singing “Happy Birthday” twice. You put your hands back under the water stream to rinse the dirt and debris down the drain. You then grab a paper towel to dry your hands, and using that same paper towel, you use that paper towel to turn off the water. That’s the proper procedure.

The only problem is the water’s been running the whole time.

And so, if you understand that, you understand what a tremendous waste that can be. You don’t really need 2.2 gallons per minute to wash your hands. You really only need about a half a gallon to a gallon of water per minute to wash your hands.

You’re only wetting your hands to start with. And at the end of the process, you’re actually using a little bit of water to rinse that dirt and debris and soap down the drain.

So, moving from a 2.2 gallon per minute aerator down to a 1 gallon per minute or even half a gallon per minute, saves water, saves the energy to keep the water, and it saves the sewer costs. And sometimes that sewer cost is more than what the water will cost you.

But the big saver is energy. You have to heat the water. And so, whether it’s gas or electric, you’re extending a certain amount of energy to heat the water that you’re going to use to wash your hands.

And so, we don’t want all that water going down the drain. So, we can make changes to the faucet itself, we can add ceramic cartridges, which might limit the flow, we can add aerators, which will actually limit the flow.

Or you can move to a sensor faucet. A sensor faucet, or sometimes called an electronic faucet, only has the water running when your hands are actually under the stream. So, it saves about a gallon of water every time you use it.

And again, it’s not just the water. It’s the water, the energy to heat the water, and the sewer costs.

Valerie: That’s a good thing to keep in mind too, you know, yeah. We’re talking about water, but really it is more than just the water.

Mike: It is. There’s a tremendous amount of energy used because in most operations, most buildings, you are spending a lot of money to heat that water.

Valerie: Are there any other small tweaks and things people can do or look at that can make a significant impact?

Mike: Oh, sure. Along the same lines, low flow faucets, low flow shower heads, these are all things which limit the flow. So, the same principle applies. It’s kind of a challenge.

You need to go out and actually understand how the water is being used and determine what’s really right for you.

In the food service industry, we always talk about the different between spray heads. The same thing with showers in a university or a hospital.

Do we need high flow showers every single place that you’re putting a shower? So, in patient rooms, in dormitories, or whatever, you probably don’t because really, you don’t need that much water.

Valerie: Great. How can people know if they need an audit or how much water they’re using?

Mike: Well, again, if you looked on any of these products, they normally have the flow stenciled, stapled or engraved into the front of the product. So, you can look at that and then all these companies that are making low flow devices, they’re making them because everybody understands that saving water is a good thing. And so, you really don’t have to be too much of a genius to figure this out.

And changing a shower head, for example, is a pretty easy process. You take the wrench and about two minutes, you can replace a high flow shower head with a low flow.

Valerie: Great. Are there other benefits for this besides saving money, saving water—for example, a lot of our listeners are into building certifications.

Mike: Right. A lot of companies are using water conservation in order to build LEED points. If you’re designing to LEED standards, you can use water conservation devices to achieve some of those goals.

Whether you’re actually looking for certification, LEED certification, or whether or not you’re just building to the standards, it’s really a good way to go.

[Related: LEED Certification Tips: Water Efficiency]

Valerie: Great. So, speaking of, how can somebody design with efficiency and conservation in mind?

Mike: It’s interesting, because of all the products that are out there, and we’ve seen new products advertised all the time, you’re seeing a lot more at this time. It’s becoming very mainstream to look at water conservation, sustainability efforts, that kind of thing.

So, there’s a flood of information. What I will say is that we’ve come a long way in that regard.

The products you’re seeing introduced to the market today are all looking at ways to reduce energy, ways to reduce water consumption—so there’s a plethora of choices. It’s up to you to do a little bit of research, determine how those choices will impact your operation.

If you look at all the low flow devices that are out there today, you have to understand whether or not that’s right for your business. It may only be right for half of your business.

If you need a lot of water and a lot of force behind that water, a low flow device is not going to help you. I’ll give you a great example of that.

If you have a 20-gallon tank, you have to fill up. Filling it up slower is actually the wrong way to go because if you put an aerator on the device that requires you to fill a 20-gallon tank, if you fill it slower, you’re actually expending more energy than you’re saving. Because you still have to fill the tank to 20 gallons.

[Read also: Water Conservation for Your Landscaping]

So, it’s understanding the operation and the impact that each product is going to have. And most of your engineers and architects, they understand that these days. So, it’s a matter of talking to those professionals and having them understand what your goals are.

Valerie: Right. Sounds good. That makes sense. Good example there with the 20-gallon. That made sense. Any last tips or takeaways for listeners?

Mike: Yeah. I think it’s good to talk some of this stuff out. When you are creating a design for an efficient building, water is often overlooked as a source of reduction of energy. But you can actually use water conservation to reduce your operational costs.

And again, you go back to the hand sink example. Less water means you’re not paying for the water, you’re not paying for the energy to heat the water and you’re not paying the sewer costs.

Those operational savings are going to be had year after year after year, as long as those low flow devices are in place. So, it’s free money. It’s up to you to take advantage of that, but you can use that money to pay for other things.

You want some new lighting? Well, use the operational savings to pay for new lighting or new seating or new décor, whatever it happens to be.

Valerie: We like that. Definitely. Yeah. Thanks. All good tips and great things to think about, Mike. Thank you for joining us and sharing your insights and information with us.

Mike: Well, thank you for having me, Valerie.

Valerie: And thank you listeners for tuning into another BUILDINGS Podcast.

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