Module 3: Water Efficiency

Module 3: Water Efficiency

Authored by EcoRise

Essential questions: 
What is water scarcity, and what is the difference between physical and economic water scarcity?
How do our personal habits and building practices related to water matter in terms of a larger ecology?
What is the difference between potable water, nonpotable water, graywater, and blackwater?
How can calculating a baseline water demand and full-time equivalency help reduce water use?
What are some benefits of using water meters to manage water consumption?
How efficient are common indoor water-consumption fixtures and appliances?
What are some innovations for reducing indoor water consumption?
How could we reduce the school’s indoor water consumption to achieve given baselines?
How can the use of submetering and zoning improve irrigation systems?
What are some key strategies for reducing outdoor water demand?
How might a maintenance plan be used to enhance the sustainability of a site and reduce the overall water demand?
What are some examples of sustainable water solutions within buildings?
How can sustainable water solutions within a building enhance an entire community?

LESSON 3.1: Water: A Limited Resource
(Estimated time needed: One 55-minute session)
The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand why Earth is considered the “water planet” and then analyze how much of that water humans can actually use for life-sustaining purposes. Students explore the concept of water scarcity in both physical and economic terms. They also investigate three major categories of human water consumption: agricultural, industrial, and domestic. They explore global water-related issues and ways we can address those issues on a personal level and as a proponent of green building.

LESSON 3.2: What Is Water Quality?
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students examine how the drinking water standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide guidance for assessing water quality. They evaluate sources and potential impacts of graywater and blackwater and consider social and environmental concerns related to poorly treated water. Students then conduct independent and group research and develop key discussion points on water quality standards and related concerns.

LESSON 3.3: Water Inside and Out
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students evaluate a variety of ways water is used inside and outside a building and how these uses impact the balance of water in an ecosystem. They focus on the three categories for water usage listed in the LEED Green Associate Knowledge Domain for Water Efficiency: indoor water use, outdoor water use, and water performance management. They learn the LEED efficiency-first approach to water conservation and how baselines set by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992 have improved water efficiency. Then they have an opportunity to act as LEED Green Associates by auditing school bathrooms and applying what they learned about baselines and full-time equivalencies to analyze and gain perspective on their findings.

LESSON 3.4: Indoor Fixtures and Appliances
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students explore innovations that reduce the gallons (liters) per flush and gallons (liters) per minute of indoor water fixtures and appliances. They evaluate ways that water is commonly wasted in buildings and propose strategies for reducing water consumption. Working in groups, students then research specific appliances and fixtures to determine why older models of water fixtures and appliances are often less efficient than newer models and to review innovations that make newer models more sustainable. Finally, students use their research findings and the data they gathered in Lesson 3.3 to make recommendations to school officials for ways to meet LEED Water Efficiency baseline standard prerequisites and credit requirements for indoor water use on campus.

LESSON 3.5: Outdoor Overhaul
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students explore strategies for reducing outdoor water use. Then they evaluate how landscape design and irrigation systems contribute to inefficient water use at their school. Students integrate their understanding of water-wise landscape design, irrigation systems, water reclamation, and submetering to propose ways that school officials can meet LEED Water Efficiency standard prerequisites and credit requirements for outdoor water use reduction on campus. Students use the EPA WaterSense Water Budget Tool to calculate the reduction in outdoor water use from the baseline outdoor water use for their proposed landscape design.

LESSON 3.6: Innovative Water Solutions
(Estimated time needed: One 55-minute session)
In this lesson, students explore examples of actual water-use problems around the world that have been addressed with sustainable solutions. They investigate and discuss the specifics of each situation. Then students create an architectural sketch integrating solutions they’ve learned about in this module or their own innovations to design a sustainable solution for a given set of circumstances. As students explore different types of innovations for different regions of the world, they also remember the critical need to protect water resources for all.

Supplementary References
Every LEED Prep lesson includes references in the Assess section to the GBES LEED v4 Green Associate Exam Preparation Study Guide (when relevant), the LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook (for Task and Knowledge Domains), and LEED Impact Categories. Those resources are included here, along with other references students may find helpful in preparing for the LEED Green Associate Exam.