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water management in intelligent buildings

Why Water Management Will Take Smart Buildings to the Next Level

water management in intelligent buildingsWater is increasingly affecting companies’ bottom lines, making water management no longer a choice for environmental managers.

An Ecova survey of more than 700 energy, facility, finance and sustainability professionals across North America found water conservation is a business imperative. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents reported that they have implemented multiple measures to reduce water consumption.

While water conservation and efficiency measures such as low- and no-flow fixtures and toilets and drought-tolerant landscaping are the low-hanging fruit for environmental and facility managers looking to save water and money on utility bills, water reuse is growing in popularity as well. Ford’s new Dearborn, Michigan campuses, for example, won’t use any potable water for manufacturing processes.

The next step is incorporating smart water technologies into facilities management. According to a report from Navigant Research, that’s where we are headed.

Global investment in water management technologies and services is expected to grow from $2.0 billion in 2016 to $2.8 billion in 2025 as water management becomes more integrated into smart buildings, the report says. As corporate sustainability initiatives and energy efficiency become more important, smart building technology vendors are beginning to showcase more comprehensive tools, including some created especially for water conservation and management.

“The global outlook on intelligent building water management is just emerging,” says Casey Talon, principal research analyst with Navigant Research.

Talon told Environmental Leader that while energy has traditionally been the focus for smart building customers seeking rapid payback and direct bottom line impacts, the landscape for water management technologies in intelligent buildings is changing.

“Major corporations are feeling greater pressure from shareholders and customers to demonstrate action on sustainability,” Talon says. “Customers are taking the opportunity to manage water consumption with specific steps that make good economic sense, because today the bottom line is still the major driver in business investment. Water-efficient plumbing, irrigation management and monitoring software are three technology areas gaining traction.”

In addition to providing savings on water and energy bills, water management and conservation technologies also help companies meet customers and other shareholders’ demands. There is a growing interest among institutional investors in water-related risk and disclosure, according to CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project). Last year CDP found 617 institutional investors asked 1,073 of the world’s largest publicly listed companies across industry sectors to disclose how they are adapting and responding to worsening water security. That’s more than four times the number of investors to do so in 2010.

“The sustainability impact of water management investments is important as more companies look to provide transparency around operations to meet the demands of shareholders and customers,” Talon says. “Investment in water management solutions is a strong long-term strategy to help hedge the risks of water scarcity and aging infrastructure while demonstrating near term progress toward sustainability commitments.”

The Navigant report finds a lack of regulation and the imbalance between the real cost versus the price of water are two major barriers to implementation. “Low utility rates, limited regulatory signals of resource constraint, and complications in accessing data about consumption have hindered adoption of water management solutions in commercial building,” Talon explains. “Customers simply don’t feel immediate pressure on water supply because of the lack of price signals and limitations in most markets.”

But as water risk and stricter water regulations affect a growing number of companies and their supply chains, expect more environmental and facility managers to follow these early movers’ leads and adopt smart water management technologies.

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