How to conserve water and pick a toilet for your LEED project

I’ve focused a lot on energy conservation in the thinkspace blog, now it’s time to address water conservation. When setting goals for our project, I originally was thinking about how can I conserve the maximum amount of water in my project. According to various articles that I have read, toilets consume the most water in a building — usually between 25 percent and 33 percent. I started to compare standard toilets to waterfree urinals. The metric that stood out the most was each urinal flushes down 40,000 gallons of water each year. My plan was to save 40,000 gallons of water for each urinal. I started to research customer satisfaction of these waterfree units and talking with people that worked in buildings that used these. The response I got from them was “whatever you do, don’t install those waterfree urinals, they smell bad, they are hard to maintain, it’s just not worth it”. The maintenance issue is also a tough one to deal with as I hear it’s not cheap to keep those filters serviced and if you don’t do a good job servicing them, that’s when the smell gets pretty bad. That’s too bad that I kept hearing these kinds of comments from various people, as I was pretty excited to be possibly saving so much water.

The next thing that I started to look at was the Toto Aquia dual-flush toilet. These types of toilet use less water than a traditional toilet. It’s not a toilet that flushes either once or twice, but rather it has two buttons on top of the tank that release either 0.9 gallons or 1.6 gallons depending on whether it’s a #1 or a #2 (I guess since this is blog, it’s safe to talk about this as this does not reflect the official view of the company, LOL). I spent a bunch of time talking with my rep at Keller Supply about water conserving toilets and she said these kinds of toilets are much better than the smaller tank toilets that were used in the past because those toilets seemed to get clogged all the time or people would have to physically flush the toilets twice, thus, not really saving any water at all. I didn’t want to have a sign in our bathrooms that say “flush toilet twice”.

The next toilet that I started to look at was the Sloan Ecos Dual-Flush Electronic Flushometer. Now this really was an interesting looking toilet. It is a hands-free, state-of-the-art, and dual-flush water saving toilet. Their marketing material states it’s “the ultimate in water savings and hygiene”. It sounded great to me as I don’t know who really likes touching the flush handle of a toilet. The Sloan Ecos releases 1.1 gallons for a #1 and 1.6 gallons for a #2. The water savings is not as good with this unit when compared to the dual-flush Toto Aquia. The question that everyone is always dying to ask is how does this know whether it’s a #1 or #2? Based on what I’ve read, the Sloan Ecos uses “Smart Sense Technology(tm)” that automatically selects how much water to release based on how long a user remains in the sensor range. Basically, the time interval is as follows: a person that stays in range for less than a minute is categorized as doing a #1, otherwise, the toilet is thinking it’s a #2.

We looked into what it would take to install a Sloan Ecos and it is a wall mount toilet. Meaning its water supply comes off the wall. Due to the location of where the toilet was being installed, I would have had to build out the thickness of the wall and run the plumbing inside the wall rather than having the plumbing under the floor. Since this is a commercial tenant improvement on an existing building and would have cost me a lot more I had to make a business decision and go with the Toto Aquia instead as that is more like standard toilet installation. While it doesn’t have the smart technology, it a less expensive and a more water conserving solution! Of course, this also earns us LEED points toward our LEED certification!  The price of the Toto Aquia is also priced reasonably (approximately $370) and I will definitely consider it using it again in my next project.