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Water efficiency changes for LEED 2012


The USGBC LEED rating system is a guideline for building teams wanting to design, build and operate sustainable buildings that reduce energy and water consumption when compared to “average” buildings through the use of sustainable site, materials and resources practices. The LEED rating system offers a checklist of sustainable elements, called credits, which can be used in a building. The more credits that a building team earns, the higher the sustainable rating is for the building.

Later this year the LEED rating system will be updated for 2012. I am a member of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) responsible for the revision. We have worked for several years to develop the new water-efficiency prerequisites and credits that will be included in LEED 2012. During our first meetings, we discussed what future sustainable buildings would look like to determine what the rating system should require.

We debated initiatives such as the 2030 Challenge, which aims for all new buildings to be net zero energy or carbon neutral by the year 2030. At what point in the future should LEED Platinum-rated buildings be required to be net zero energy? Is net zero energy the ultimate goal of sustainable buildings? What about beyond net zero? Current thinking is that a truly sustainable building should go beyond net zero energy and be regenerative or be able to produce enough energy on site to supply surrounding buildings.

Energy use is an important consideration, but what about water? In the future, buildings could be net zero water and even regenerative water. Future buildings could be self-sufficient, with few or no connections to the municipal water system. Similar to energy systems, a water-regenerative system could collect, filter and monitor water inside the building as well as supply other buildings around it to help them be net zero water.

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