July Forum Recap – Water, Water Everywhere

September 9, 2012

Courtesy of recovergreenroofs.com

Public School 118 in Queens, NY (Photo courtesy of Recover Green Roofs)

On July 18th GreenHomeNYC held its Green Building Monthly Forum on Water Efficiency at the TOTO Showroom. The forum was moderated by Gunnar Baldwin, a Water Efficiency Specialist at TOTO USA. Panelists included Joe Schaffer, a professional engineer of Green Environmental Associates, who presented on reducing storm water runoff, Brendan Shea of Recover Green Roofs, who presented on green roofing, and James Moore of Water Management Inc, who presented on water conservation. Joe Schaffer, LEED Accredited Professional Engineer of Green Environmental Associates, highlighted ways to improve the efficiency and sustainable nature of New York City’s storm water control system. Mr. Schaffer asserted that the primary issue is how heavy rainfalls overwhelm the City’s ancient combined sewer system, resulting in raw sewage flowing into the City’s rivers. So how should we mere humans effectively tame nature’s power? Schaffer identified two basic approaches to combat the issue: 1) increase the system’s capacity to handle runoff, or 2) find ways to reduce the amount of runoff. Schaffer declared that storm water is a resource, not a menace, and it can be harnessed and used productively before it reaches the sewer system. As Mother Nature bestows us with clouds engorged with this valuable resource, it’s our duty to harvest that resource and use it constructively!  To reduce runoff, Schaffer implored us to create more green spaces, such as green rooftops, that absorb rainwater and help reduce atmospheric carbon. Innovations such as these have spawned from disasters that have exposed their need, such as hurricanes and nor’easters. We must alter our thinking now in order to avoid combined sewage overflow later.  It’s a simple decision: embrace the green solution or pay the “green”. For more information, visit: Green City Challenge Brendan Shea, LEED accredited professional of Recover Green Roofs, enlightened the audience about the structure and benefits of green roofing. A green roof is composed of a system of levels that cover a waterproofing membrane. It is a living system where storm water replenishes the soil to raise plant life, while absorbing potential runoff. Shea highlighted the benefits of green roofs including storm water management, urban heat island reduction, urban agriculture, improvement of air quality, and reduction of temperature fluctuations. Shea pointed out another benefit of green roofs, plants make us feel good!  In fact, studies in hospitals indicate that patients situated near plant life showed decreased medical recovery time.  If plants can help us get out of the hospital bed earlier, why not give them the top bunk! James Moore, of Water Management Inc., presented on “Water Conservation for Residential & Multi Family Buildings”.  WMI’s inspiring mission statement,  “We All Live Downstream!”emphasizes the importance of water management.  Moore characterized our incredible water as “the oil of the 21st century.” He explained that the U.S. population is expected to grow by 20 million in the next 25 years with a simultaneous 50% increase in electricity and water usage. This would logically lead to a rise in water prices. Curbing these effects will require conservation measures, including reducing water loss, minimizing outdoor water use and waste, and maximizing in-house efficiency.  Individuals and families can develop their own water conservation plans that collectively can add up to a significant water conservation impact.  After all, there’s strength in numbers. For an individual user, the first step in creating a water conservation plan is to conduct a water survey to determine the usage in individual units. Put simply, the difference between measured water usage in gallons and the gallons paid for on the water or sewage bill equals the waste due to leakage.  Plug those leaks!  They can account for as much as 20% of annual water and sewer charges.  “Drip drip everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” Think! To help achieve this goal, Moore introduced the audience to leak detection tools and methods, including those for finding leaks that are not audible or visible.  “What you see is not all there is.” Thank you to Joe Schaffer, Brendan Shea, and James Moore for your enlightening presentations, and to Gunnar Baldwin for moderating this forum.