Green home building focus turning to water conservation

Green home building focus turning to water conservation

As kitchen and bath trends develop, plumbing fixtures and equipment evolve to deliver style while saving water.

Homebuilders are looking at water efficiency as well as energy efficiency, at least in some parts of the country. According to recent projections from the Energy Information Agency and USA Today, by 2025 Americans will see their water bills double and potentially triple in major metro areas. This threat to the wallets of homeowners across the country is adding to speculation that pressure to the U.S. infrastructure, already desperate for solutions to a water shortage in California, is headed toward a significant issue in water access. 

For instance, the KB Home Double ZeroHouse 3.0 was designed to achieve net-zero energy usage as well as net zero fresh water usage in some cases.

The WaterSense-labeled house is equipped with an integrated home water and energy recycling system called the "eWater Recycler," by Nexus eWater. Warm grey water, which studies have indicated may account for two out of every three gallons of indoor water, is normally treated as waste and sent straight to the sewer. The eWater Recycler recycles the energy in this warm water and treats the water on-site for reuse in non-potable applications. In the case of the Double ZeroHouse 3.0, the eWater Recycler will supply recycled drainwater to all of the home's toilets, meaning they will use zero freshwater in a household of four or more, and recycled energy to heat the home's fresh water.

Combined with the home's other water-conserving features — including a hot water recirculation pump, a first-of-its-kind KitchenAid Architect Series II water-recycling dishwasher, WaterSense labeled fixtures, and a touchless kitchen faucet — KB Home estimates that the Double ZeroHouse 3.0 can conserve as much as 70 percent of the freshwater that would traditionally be used in a typical resale home.

The ReNEWW demonstration home at Purdue University is also pursuing net-zero water use.

Whirlpool Corporation and Kohler Co. are researching ways to achieve net-zero water at the ReNEWW House, a retrofitted research home located near Purdue University campus.

Through their products, Whirlpool Corporation, a major home appliance manufacturer, and Kohler Co., a leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products, make up nearly all of the indoor water usage in the residential home. 

Hot water circulation pumps are playing a large role in water and energy conservation programs. These pumps circulate hot water through the plumbing system, all but eliminating the wait for hot water at a faucet. That saves water and energy that typically flows down the drain.

The pumps are being used in a variety of projects, from high-dollar custom homes to Habitat for Humanity homes. For over 15 years, Habitat for Humanity Homes in Southern California has been installing the ACT D’MAND KONTROL® Systems circulation pump for the efficient water conservation and energy saving measures it provides. 

Many people think only large homes use enough water to consider such conservation practices but in the case of a 1,200-1,400 square foot home, such as the average Habitat Home, the loss of water waiting for hot water averages close to 7,000 gallons annually.

A large home with poorly designed hot water plumbing can waste up to 12,000 gallons a year waiting for the hot water to reach the faucet.  

The easily installed system saves the average homeowner $300 per year on costs associated with water, energy needed to heat it, and waste treatment, at an annual an operating cost of only $1 per year.

The patented system electronically controls a re-circulatory pump system designed to return the ambient water sitting idle in the hot water lines back to the hot water heater. This innovation eliminates the need to run the hot water for several minutes to receive hot water. The immediate benefit for the homeowner is that hot water is at the point-of-use within seconds with the push of an button instead of waiting several minutes.

Kitchen & Bath Trends

Even with a focus on resource efficiency, style remains a major factor in kitchen and bath design.

Contemporary, zen-like retreats have strengthened their hold on North American bathroom design, according to the 2015 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends report from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA).

Contemporary and transitional are by far the most common bathroom styles, outpacing the third most popular style—traditional—by more than 15 percentage points. Nearly half of NKBA designers surveyed expect to see more contemporary in 2015.

Here are the top 10 overall bathroom design trends NKBA expects for 2015:

  • Clean, white, contemporary designs.
  • Floating vanities.
  • Open-shelving.
  • Electric heated floors.
  • Purple haze.
  • Trough sinks.
  • User experience (easy of use and maintenance) and accessibility.
  • Amenities.
  • Innovative storage.
  • Showers and freestanding tubs.

White and gray are the dominant colors for bathrooms, specified by more than 70 percent of respondents in 2014. Half expect to see gray growing in 2015. Intriguingly, several comments referenced purple, lavender and lilac tones for the bath. White fixtures were the choice of 84 percent of designers in 2014, maintaining its long-standing dominance in the top spot. Beige fixture colors are a distant third and declining in popularity.

Almost all amenities for the bathroom are on the increase. NKBA designers cited steam showers, electric heated floors, anti-fog mirrors, lighted showers and shower seats.

“I see a lot more interest in steam showers,” said Sofeeka Hasiuk, CKD of Creative Minimalism near Philadelphia, PA.

“One of our more unusual requests this year was installing an iPhone compatible music source and charging station for family bath,” said Madeleine Baker of MH Baker, LLC in Greenwich, CT.

Other respondents mentioned coffee and bar areas in the bathroom, separate water closets, and drawer pullouts and rollouts for hair styling equipment and oral care appliances.

While bathrooms continue to have more walk-in showers and fewer built-in tubs, tubs still have legions of fans. More than two-thirds of NKBA designers reported that they specified a free standing soaking tub for master bathrooms last year, and more than three-quarters installed a standard tub and shower surround for guest bathrooms.

Jetted tubs, whether whirlpool or air are considerably less popular. “People are moving away from jetted tubs to more classic soaking tubs,” said Bill Donohoe, Donohoe Design Works in the Los Angeles, CA area.

Undermount sinks, already the number one style used by 90 percent of designers in 2014, are predicted to grow strongly in 2015. Vessel sinks, at a distant number two, are expected to decline, although they held steady in 2014 in spite of an anticipated decline. In a new twist on the old side-by-side vanity sinks, several commenters noted that they had installed single large trough sinks in master bathrooms, with two faucets.

NKBA members specialize in full bathroom projects, both remodels and new construction. More than half do bathroom projects in the $10,000 - $29,000 price range while another nearly 30 percent report that their average bathroom price is more than $30,000 for design, materials, and labor.

“This report is so valuable because NKBA members are on the cutting edge of kitchen and bathroom design,” said Maria Stapperfenne, CKD CBD, 2015 NKBA president. “It gives us the point-of-view from the specialists who are on the front lines creating beautiful and beautifully functional bathrooms every day.”

The National Kitchen and Bath Association has tracked kitchen and bath design trends throughout its 52-year existence. A version of this NKBA Design Trends Survey has been in existence since the 1980s and this iteration has tracked trends since 2010. More than 400 designers participated in this study conducted online in late 2014.

Read more about water saving devices.

Topics: Bathroom, Building Green, Kitchen, Plumbing & Fixtures, Sinks & Toilets, Water Saving Devices, WaterSense

Companies: TOTO, Kohler, Whirlpool Corporation, ACT D'MAND Systems

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