Built Green Canada’s Partnership with Green Builder® Coalition Brings First Performance-Based Water Rating to Canada

Built Green CanadaBuilt Green Canada has partnered with the Green Builder® Coalition to bring performance-based water efficiency to Canada through its third-party certification programs’ water conservation section.

Though parts of Canada, and the world, are increasingly experiencing droughts, and freshwater ecosystems are shown to be under stress, water conservation in the residential building industry has not received the attention energy efficiency has, though they are both connected and significant; in this respect, the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)® is a step forward.

WERS is based on measurable parameters, along with a scoring scale of zero to 100, zero being the most desirable. Indoor water use considers the main plumbing fixtures of toilets, showers, lavatory and kitchen sinks, clothes washers and structural waste. Those who run the shower for a while before getting hot water are familiar with structural waste: it refers to the amount of water wasted before usable hot water arrives at the furthest hot-water using fixture.

Meanwhile, WERS includes the ability to account for all outdoor water use, as well as reuse via rainwater, greywater and blackwater catchment calculations. Depending on the verified filtration methods for rainwater and greywater, they can be used to offset indoor water use. Additionally, any remaining unused rainwater, greywater and/or blackwater (if applicable) can be credited to potential outdoor use.

“Industry and all orders of government increasingly are focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and in the residential building sector, the emphasis is on improving the energy performance of buildings,” says Built Green Canada’s chief executive officer Jenifer Christenson. “While energy efficiency is an essential component of sustainable building practices—and our programs—we want to broaden the conversation and shine a light on a more balanced approach that also includes indoor air quality, waste management, and water conservation—some of the key areas of our programs. Despite Canada’s water endowment, we are not immune to water shortages and periods of drought. Moreover, reductions in water usage will save energy, further contributing to the decrease in GHGs.”

Built Green Canada recognizes the pressure on municipalities to supply water to households: managing water demand and financing, building and repairing water infrastructure is a priority. The reduction in water usage can help lessen a number of challenges, including water shortages and increased energy consumption to pump and treat water, pollutants in water bodies, and the expansion of water and wastewater infrastructure. A focus on water conservation helps reduce the load on civic infrastructure: a reduction that can result in a significant financial savings while supporting climate mitigation targets.

WERS logo“Water shortages and droughts don’t adhere to boundaries, so taking WERS beyond the borders of the United States is a natural progression for the program,” said Mike Collignon, executive director of the Green Builder® Coalition. “I’ve long felt that the policies and incentives that can be linked to WERS are equally applicable, and potentially more essential, outside the United States. We’re excited to partner with Built Green Canada on this journey.”

The WERS tool will be Canadianized in the coming months, verifier training will occur in the spring, and Built Green is encouraging trials through 2019. Builders will earn points toward their BUILT GREEN® home certification, while being able to understand the overall performance of their projects’ water use and make smart choices on the products they incorporate into their builds—and pass along the associated benefits to their customers.

The BUILT GREEN® Single Family and Renovation programs already utilize Natural Resources Canada’s EnerGuide label, which calculates the build’s energy efficiency and helps builders and homeowners understand how the home’s energy is being used—much like WERS does for water usage.

Built Green Canada is an industry-driven, national, non-profit organization offering third-party certified programs for single family, renovations, and high density projects. Since its inception, builders have worked with Built Green to complete over 31,280 certified homes represented in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario—including the units in multi-story projects, the total is over 34,135.

Santa Barbara Eyes WERS for Administering Code Compliance

On August 14th, 2018, Santa Barbara (CA) City Council adopted an ordinance modifying water metering regulations and incentivizing ultra-high water use efficiency projects. To help assess the efficiency of multifamily projects, the City is looking to enlist the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)® as a path to administer compliance.

City of Santa Barbara sealUnder the new ordinance, developers would have more flexible water metering options by verifying their project meets ultra-high water use efficiency standards through an independent rating institution. The Public Works Director is finalizing an administrative policy for implementation of the ordinance, including standards for ultra-high water use efficiency and approval of independent rating institutions. Madeline Wood, Water Conservation Supervisor for the City of Santa Barbara, said, “We worked with local industry stakeholders to formulate a path to code compliance that both met the City’s need for conservation and the practical needs of the design/build community. After much consideration, we think this will be a good fit for all parties.”

The Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)® is an independent rating system that evaluates water usage and conservation. Since it is a performance-based program, it would allow the City to simultaneously enforce existing conservation requirements while incentivizing new efficiency measures. At the same time, there is a certain level of flexibility for the design/build community within the program in order to help meet client needs.

“The City of Santa Barbara’s innovative spirit should be commended,” stated Mike Collignon, Chair of the WERS Development Group. “They are the first municipality to incorporate performance-based water conservation into their multifamily regulations.” Collignon also lauded the collaborative efforts of Santa Fe, NM. At the request of Santa Barbara staff, Santa Fe shared their codification experience with WERS. The City of Santa Fe has used WERS as a code requirement for single-family properties since March 2017.

The ordinance does not take effect until September 13, 2018.

Water Rating Index Added to 2018 National Green Building Standard Draft

The Consensus Committee developing the next version of the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) approved the Water Rating Index (WRI), as recommended by the Water Task Group. The WRI will go out for public comment as part of the draft NGBS. If approved, the National Green Building Standard will include the WRI methodology as an appendix and will use the WRI as one option for meeting the water efficiency requirements of the NGBS.

“The zero to 100 rating system, patterned after the Energy Rating Index (ERI) already in code, is a simple metric that consumers and water planners can understand and something builders will use to differentiate themselves from competition. It will drive greater efficiency in water conservation just as the ERI has for energy conservation”, said Kim Shanahan, Executive Officer of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.

“In many areas, water is becoming the new energy,” said Craig Conner, founder of Building Quality. “The WRI is a single number representing the water efficiency of a home, including both the inside and outside water use. I expect the WRI to be used where water availability is limiting construction. The WRI can also be used to compare the costs of achieving water efficiency in homes with the cost of expanding the water supply infrastructure. In many cases, new-home water efficiency will be much less expensive than expanding the water supply and treatment infrastructure.”

The WRI proposal passed overwhelmingly, receiving a 90% majority approval from the Committee. It calls for the creation of an alternative compliance path, whereby builders receive credit for four levels of achievement in the water efficiency chapter depending on the outcome of their water rating. On a scale of 0-100, where lower is better, the following table was approved:

WRI NGBS Level
70 Bronze
60 Silver
50 Gold
40 Emerald

“This is great news for both water-efficient builders and water-conscious communities,” said Mike Collignon, Executive Director of the Green Builder® Coalition and Chair of the WERS Development Group. “Builders who utilize the NGBS would be able to get the credit they deserve for their water-efficient practices, and municipalities that need to ensure their water future would have an ANSI standard to employ.”

WERS Educational Sessions at Industry Conferences

Here is the list of upcoming WERS educational sessions:

  • Getting to Zero National Forum – 4:00pm on April 18, 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2018 Home Performance Coalition National Conference
    • Energy Codes from 2009 to 2018: A Multi-State Look at Compliance Verification Service Opportunities – 10:30am on April 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, PA
    • Water Ratings in Santa Fe: A Look Back at Year 1 – 1:30pm on April 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Next Generation Water Summit
    • WERS: Train the Trainer – 9:00am on April 29, 2018 in Santa Fe, NM
    • WERS Workshop for Builders, Developers and Designers – 3:00pm on April 29, 2018 in Santa Fe, NM
  • American Water Works Association Annual Conference & Expo (ACE) – 8:30am on June 13, 2018 in Las Vegas, NV

WERS Consultant Designation Created

A new designation has been created that better serves those who want a deeper understanding of water ratings, but don’t necessarily want to become an in-the-field verifier or rater. A WERS Consultant would attend a course that has much of the same information as the WERS Verifier course, but would not include the field training or exam. The curriculum reduction means that the entire WERS Consultant course would only take 2 days to complete.

“We think this is an ideal opportunity for builders, architects and designers to learn more about a performance-based water efficiency program that can be very beneficial to their business,” said Mike Collignon, Chair of the WERS Development Group. “In addition to information about the WERS Tool, students will also be exposed to a wealth of technical material and information on relevant industry standards.”

The WERS Consultant designation would require CEUs in order to retain the moniker, but those requirements will be nominal and many will be low-to-no cost. “We’re responding to a market need with this new designation,” Collignon continued. “We’re not trying to overburden people with CEU requirements. Instead, the CEUs simply ensure that the Consultants stay current with us as we continue to learn about the many nuances across this great country. It also keeps an open dialogue with the WERS community, which is something we really value.”

The first opportunity to take this course will be in late October at the Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, NM. The nature of the WERS Consultant course also makes it easier to offer online, and those details are currently being addressed by the WERS Development Group.

Green Builder® Coalition Selects Triconic to Expand WERS Program

The Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA) recently announced their sponsorship of a new Certified Ratings Program; offering single-family homebuilders access to independent energy and water ratings based on Florida’s Energy Code and Water Star℠ owned by the St. Johns River Water Management District. For the Program, Triconic created a partnership between Water Star℠, the FHBA, UL and Intertek. The partnership gives home builders a program to get energy and water ratings from the same professionals.

The Green Builder® Coalition has also selected Triconic to administer the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)® and therefore is taking steps to further its support of Water Star℠ objectives and offer certified WERS ratings. WERS provides a performance-based water efficiency rating and complements the prescriptive-based Water Star℠ Program.

“Builders love the flexibility, and with WERS, they’ll have the choice of a prescriptive water rating through Florida Water Star℠, or a performance-based water rating with WERS,” said Green Builder® Coalition and WERS Development Group Chair Mike Collignon.

“The Certified Ratings Program is the first to establish itself among state home builder associations, but with the support and scale of UL and Intertek, it is anticipated that other states will push expansion of similar programs beyond Florida starting late in 2017 and into 2018”, says Darrell Lehman, President of Triconic. Lehman continues, “There is such tremendous support for comprehensive energy and water rating options. So Triconic will continue fostering partnerships to bring builders more options like bringing WERS to Florida.”

Kim Shanahan, Coalition Board Chair, agreed. “The partnership Triconic assembled sets an exciting precedent that can and should be replicated with HBAs across the nation that seek to provide performance-based choices for rating energy and water usage in homes built by their members. The Green Builder® Coalition is eager to assist Triconic as it expands its outreach to other state HBAs.”

“This is a partnership we’ve been working on for quite some time,” said Collignon. “We always knew we would need assistance meeting demand from across the country. With the partners involved, we can take a program that originated in Santa Fe, NM and elevate it to the national (and potentially international) stage. The Coalition’s Board of Directors and the WERS Development Group are excited for the expansion of WERS.”

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About the St. Johns River Water Management District & Florida Water Star SM
St. Johns River Water Management District staff are committed to ensuring the sustainable use and protection of water resources for the benefit of the people of the district and the state of Florida. The St. Johns River Water Management District is one of five districts in Florida managing groundwater and surface water supplies in the state. The district encompasses all or part of 18 northeast and east-central Florida counties. District headquarters are in Palatka, and staff also are available to serve the public at service centers in Maitland, Jacksonville and Palm Bay. Connect with us on Twitter at @SJRWMD, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. For more information about the district, please visit www.sjrwmd.com.

About Triconic
Triconic designs, builds and operates certification programs for certification program sponsors. Triconic’s team has decades of experience in the Testing Inspection Certification (TIC) industry and can adapt a program to any certification area. Triconic provides a user-friendly certification experience, complete with software based certification tools, so clients can obtain their certifications quickly and easily. To learn more, please visit www.triconic.com.

About Intertek
Intertek is a leading Total Quality Assurance provider to industries worldwide. Through our network of more than 1,000 laboratories and offices and over 42,000 people in more than 100 countries, the Group is re-defining the industry with our Total Quality Assurance proposition. We go beyond physical quality control to provide total peace of mind through our innovative and bespoke Assurance, Testing, Inspection and Certification solutions for our customers’ operations and supply chains. Intertek Total Quality Assurance expertise, delivered consistently, with precision, pace and passion, enabling our customers to power ahead safely. www.intertek.com

About UL
UL fosters safe living and working conditions for people everywhere through the application of science to solve safety, security and sustainability challenges. The UL Mark engenders trust enabling the safe adoption of innovative new products and technologies. Everyone at UL shares a passion to make the world a safer place. We test, inspect, audit, certify, validate, verify, advise and train and we support these efforts with software solutions for safety and sustainability. To learn more, please visit ul.com.

About Green Builder® Coalition
The Green Builder® Coalition is the program sponsor for the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)®. On a broader scale, The Coalition is a not-for-profit association dedicated to amplifying the voice of green builders and professionals to drive advocacy, information and education for more sustainable home building practices. We are an action-oriented community of green builders and professionals dedicated to uniting and growing our joint expertise, values and voice to create stronger standards for sustainable, more environmentally responsible home building. For more information, visit www.greenbuildercoalition.org.

LEED Platinum & GreenStar Gold Home Gets an Assist From WERS

There are net-zero energy homes, and then there are homes that go even further. The following project made sure it went a step beyond.

LEED Platinum & GreenStar Gold Home in MN (Photo courtesy of Corey Gaffer)
LEED Platinum & GreenStar Gold Home in MN (Photo courtesy of Corey Gaffer)

The homeowners wanted to build a home in the Minneapolis area that produced as much energy as both the house and their cars used over the span of a year. They hired Marc Sloot of SALA Architects and Kerry Hage of Hage Homes to lead the design and construction Design team. For best value and to ensure production from the solar panels could at least match consumption, they sought ways to reduce consumption as much as possible first. Thick insulation, passive solar tempering with triple pane windows, geothermal heat pumps, a high efficiency fresh air exchanger and ENERGY STAR-rated lights and appliances were all employed in the process.

This house was about more than just energy, though. The homeowners also gave preference to companies/manufacturers that used recycled content in their products, used renewable energy for their manufacturing and/or transportation and produced products without using toxic or harmful components such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

LEED Platinum & GreenStar Gold Home in MN (Photo courtesy of Corey Gaffer)
LEED Platinum & GreenStar Gold Home in MN (Photo courtesy of Corey Gaffer)

They also took a sustainable approach to their water usage. Interestingly, their motivation was not due to supply concerns. Instead, they wanted to reduce their total energy footprint, which included the energy devoted to water. Indoors, this meant utilizing low-flow fixtures in the showers and bathroom sinks. On the exterior, drought-tolerant turfgrass, in addition to xeriscape techniques, will greatly minimize the outdoor water demands. This property also contains 4 rain gardens that will be fed by either onsite rainfall or stormwater runoff from the street channeled onto the property via curb cuts. Finally, the project has four, fifty-gallon rain barrels. 200 gallons might not seem like a lot of capacity, but the landscaping is designed to require no more than average rainfall, and Minneapolis receives approximately 2.5 feet of rain per year.

LEED Platinum & GreenStar Gold Home in MN (Photo courtesy of Corey Gaffer)
LEED Platinum & GreenStar Gold Home in MN (Photo courtesy of Corey Gaffer)

“One of the reasons this project has scored Platinum in LEED v4 is the dedication to water reduction. While LEED for Homes pulls from the EPA WaterSense tool for outdoors and uses the LEED water performance spreadsheet for indoors, there is no uniform, agreed-upon tool to track or predict stormwater, rain water, black water or greywater use,” commented Brett Little, Executive Director for the Green Home Institute. “We were excited to use the WERS tool as a way to measure more accurately the rain barrel catchment for this project, which could be used to populate the rain/grey water section in the LEED Water Performance Pathway. Moreover, the WERS could theoretically be used to meet all of the water performance items asked for in LEED through 1 tool, rather than relying on 2 or 3 different tools which always allows for more error. We recommend contacting the USGBC to voice your opinion if you want to see WERS adopted as a substitute.”

“The great thing about building a comprehensive tool like WERS is that people can use it for a variety of purposes,” said Mike Collignon, Chair of the WERS Development Group. “We believe this precedent shows WERS can lend assistance to LEED projects and, hopefully, will open the door to its expanded usage within the LEED process.”

You can see this fascinating project by registering for the Green Home Institute’s Facebook Live tour, which is going on now. The coverage for this project is scheduled to air on Monday, July 24, 2017 at 12:00pm CT.

WERS Program in the News

The Next Generation Water Summit garnered a lot of media coverage in New Mexico. Here is a rundown of the radio interviews, as well as a recap of the event from the Green Fire Times:

KVSF The Voice 101.5 FM – May 25, 2017 – Richard Eeds interviews Mike Collignon, Executive Director of the Green Builder® Coalition and Co-Chair of the Next Generation Water Summit: https://santafe.com/thevoice/podcasts/mike-collignon-green-builder-coalition-next-generation-water-summit

KSFR News 101.1 FM – June 2, 2017 – Katherine Mast interviews Collignon: http://traffic.libsyn.com/ksfrnews/km-watersummit.mp3

KSFR News 101.1 FM – June 14, 2017 – Katherine Mast interviews Collignon: http://traffic.libsyn.com/ksfrnews/km-postwatersummit.mp3

“Report on the First Annual Next Generation Water Summit” by Nancy Grace of the Green Fire Times. July 6, 2017. http://greenfiretimes.com/2017/07/report-on-the-first-annual-next-generation-water-summit/