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Sustainable Buildings: Challenges and Solutions for Water Management

Sustainable Buildings: Challenges and Solutions for Water Management

The conservation of water within the construction industry and our society is of critical importance, especially as many of our regions face increased drought conditions, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. According to research by the CNRS, nearly 20% of terrestrial surfaces are at risk of desertification, affecting various countries such as Australia, Chile, Greece, and Spain. In France, households consume 23% of water resources, while the energy sector uses 22%. The consumption of water and energy in the field of construction are closely linked, highlighting the need to adopt more sustainable and innovative strategies.

The Challenges of Sustainable Water Management

The availability of fresh water is a major concern globally. With only 2.5% of water on Earth being fresh, and an even smaller fraction being accessible for human use, efficient management of this resource is crucial. In the residential sector, domestic water consumption accounts for 11% of the total global water consumption according to the IGB. This proportion has remained relatively stable since 2014 despite an increase in GDP, indicating that energy efficiency gains in buildings are beginning to have an impact. This suggests that energy consumption, which is closely linked to water consumption, particularly for heating and hot water production, is an area where improvements can be made to reduce overall water consumption in buildings.

Furthermore, excessive water use in buildings can lead to a range of environmental problems, such as the depletion of groundwater, degradation of aquatic ecosystems, and exacerbation of drought. By reducing water demand, buildings can decrease their impact on local natural resources and contribute to a healthier and more sustainable environment.

Reducing water consumption in buildings can also lead to significant operational cost savings. Water efficiency strategies, such as low-flow devices and smart water management systems, can significantly reduce water-related operating costs. For example, EPA studies have shown that measures such as upgrading sanitary appliances can lead to savings of up to 11% of total water operating costs in commercial buildings.

These facts clearly illustrate the importance of adopting water management efficiency measures in the construction sector, not only for the conservation of water resources but also for reducing operational costs and mitigating environmental impact. With climate change and the expected variations in rainfall patterns, water will become even more precious. Buildings designed today with efficient water management are better prepared to face future challenges, such as water shortages and price increases. This ensures their viability and resilience in the long term, while providing a comfortable and sustainable environment for occupants.

Water Conservation Strategies

To justify water conservation solutions with real improvement data, let's consider the significant benefits of installing low-flow appliances and devices in the construction sector:

Low-Flow Fixtures and Installations: Low-flow appliances, such as toilets, shower heads, and faucets, can lead to significant water savings (Duravit products, Jaquar, ...). For example, standard shower heads use about 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), while low-flow ones use 2.0 gpm or less, saving approximately 2,700 gallons of water per year for an average family. Standard faucets consume about 2.2 gpm, while water-saving ones use only 1.5 gpm or lower, representing a 30% reduction and saving up to 700 gallons per year. For toilets, high-efficiency toilets (HET) use about 1.28 gallons per flush compared to traditional models that can use up to 6 gallons. Choosing these appliances and installing them is crucial in the design of buildings regardless of their use to ensure sustainable water consumption management. Furthermore, according to Project Drawdown, increased adoption of low-flow devices from 2020 to 2050 can lead to an average water saving of 15.8%.