Darren Crane, Rainwater Harvesting national sales manager at Polypipe Terrain, examines how new innovations in rainwater capture and re-use are assisting architects, contractors, and developers in improving their environmental credentials and significantly reducing a building’s water usage.
Unpredictable weather patterns, combined with government standards, have focused attention in an unprecedented way on the need to maximise rainwater re-use with new and innovative water-saving systems.
Water is often referred to as a scarce resource, and this was certainly highlighted when the Environment Agency declared much of the United Kingdom officially in drought earlier this year.
The Government’s 2011 white paper, Water for Life, warned that up to ten times more droughts could hit the UK by 2100, and while that date is still a long way off, initial preparations for a dramatic change in climate are already underway through environmental and legislative standards.
Standards such as the Code for Sustainable Homes (CfSH) and the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) already call for a reduction in mains water consumption when combined with other “green” technologies.
Rainwater harvesting is increasingly being used by architects, general contractors, and developers to meet these standards.
In addition to receiving environmental credentials for new buildings, in some areas where flooding and drought are issues, they may see a more sympathetic handling of planning applications that incorporate rainwater re-use, as there is a growing emphasis placed on future proofing buildings.
Rainwater harvesting system sales are said to have increased by more than 850 percent in the last five years. However, it’s not just environmental goals and erratic weather patterns that have fueled such a surge in popularity.
Because of the numerous applications for rainwater re-use, significant savings in water bills and usage can be realised in residential, commercial, and public sector buildings.
For example, rainwater is ideal for toilet and urinal flushing, which is frequently the largest consumer of water in commercial and public sector buildings. Water consumption can be reduced by up to 80% by using rainwater for this purpose.
Domestic users can save up to 50% of their annual potable water consumption by reusing rainwater.
This, combined with the fact that rainwater systems can also be used for laundry, vehicle washing, commercial wash down, and a variety of agricultural and horticultural applications, means that savings can be substantial.
On buildings with large roofs and high nonpotable water demand, the payback period can be as short as three years.
We see a potential uptake of rainwater re-use systems in horticulture as an effective means of supplying internal watering systems to crops within glass houses, reducing demands on mains water and thus water bills.
Rainwater harvesting systems are now much more in line with modern construction methods thanks to continuous product development and new technological innovations from leading manufacturers.
Rainstream RXL, one of the most recent advancements in rainwater re-use technology, is an advanced rainwater harvesting system with optional built-in microbial technology.
This high volume water storage solution from Polypipe Terrain provides all of the benefits of traditional GRP sub-surface systems while reducing the cost and complications associated with traditional GRP product lines.
Its custom, modular design and construction allow for any storage capacity and burial depth, whether below the water table or in heavily trafficked areas, without the need for costly over-engineering. Rainstream RXL tanks can be installed without a concrete back fill in many cases, depending on ground conditions, and do not need to be filled with water during the installation process.
Rainstream RXL Tanks are available with Biomaster antimicrobial lining, a proven effective method of reducing bacteria growth on the internal surface of the tank, allowing specifiers, contractors, and engineers to provide customers with an additional level of protection if needed.
The current feast and famine of rainwater conditions in the UK only emphasises the importance of addressing water usage.
A growing number of construction industry professionals recognise the benefits and necessity of rainwater re-use systems, as well as the role manufacturers can play if involved early in the design process to value engineer the most effective solution for their individual projects.
After all, it’s free to seek manufacturer advice, so it makes sense to tap into their product knowledge and experience with similar projects.