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.”

City of Santa Fe to Require WERS Starting March 1

City of Santa FeBeginning on March 1, 2017, the City of Santa Fe will require all new single-family residential projects to provide a preliminary Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)® of 70 or less when applying for a permit. The same project will then need to supply a final WERS of 70 or less in order to receive a certificate of occupancy.

“This is a landmark decision by the City of Santa Fe, as no other jurisdiction has ever adopted a performance-based water efficiency requirement”, stated Green Builder® Coalition Executive Director Mike Collignon. “With the support of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, the Water Conservation Committee and others, the City was able to craft and implement a forward-thinking policy that preserves design freedom and product choice, while ensuring the City moves in a water-efficient direction.”

In order to help the City execute this initiative, local building analysts are stepping up. Steve Vollstedt of HERS-NM, LLC attended the inaugural WERS Verifier course in March 2016. After passing the written and field exams, and performing his probationary verifications, he became the first accredited WERS Verifier.

Vollstedt is no stranger to a jobsite. He has conducted hundreds of HERS ratings and has reviewed over 1,000 certification submissions on behalf of the Build Green New Mexico program. Vollstedt is also a National Green Building Standard-accredited Green Verifier. When the opportunity to add water analysis presented itself, he felt it was a service offering that would be vital to his community. “Water conservation and efficiency is arguably more critical to our environment than energy efficiency”, Vollstedt asserted. “We can create electrical energy with cost-effective, clean energy-producing systems, such as photovoltaics and wind generators. There is no practical or cost-effective way to produce or replace water resources that we are rapidly depleting and polluting.”

Vollstedt is the first in a line of WERS Verifiers ready to assist the City. In the coming weeks, we’ll feature more Santa Fe building professionals working to ensure the sustainability of their City.