Santa Barbara, CA

University of California Santa Barbara

Water-efficient plumbing helps university secure LEED® Platinum certification at Bren Hall and goes a long way toward meeting its sustainability objectives.
For buildings and facilities with an eye on improving their plumbing systems, LEED® is the guide for becoming more water- and/or energy-efficient even though it may not be the end-all project objective.

For example, achieving LEED certification was not the initial goal for Donald Bren Hall, home of the School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), even though environmental issues were a priority for the building project team. After discovering that many planned building features were eligible for LEED credits, the project team was able to secure the modest additional funding needed to purchase remaining building features for officially securing LEED certification.

Bren Hall achieved the LEED Platinum designation in 2002 and has been recognized as the greenest laboratory facility in the U.S. Since then, there has been a campus-wide push to have all buildings attain higher standards for sustainability. UCSB is using LEED as the benchmark for its sustainability projects to reap the other monetary and environmental benefits that come with compliance

According to the campus sustainability manager, UCSB’s intent was to surpass Title 24 (California Building Standards Code) by 20%. The university’s push for campus-wide sustainability coincides with how the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is “upping the ante” by strengthening LEED standards and measures. In essence, the USGBC and the university agree that improvements in sustainability will come by continuously challenging and raising the goals for its achievement.

Pay Little More Now, Gain Even More Later: Although even five years ago, purchasing environmentally sound building components for meeting LEED compliance standards could add upward of 10% to the total building cost, architects and other specifiers are now finding that they can adopt higher sustainability standards without necessarily spending anything extra. As with any purchase, however, staying within budget is a matter of doing upfront research to determine the value-add and payoff of specifying different systems and technologies.

In the case of many plumbing systems, low-consumption or low-flow fixtures cost little, if any, more than higher-consumption fixtures at initial purchase. The real value proposition comes from slashing long-term operating costs, including water and wastewater utility bills, plus the energy it takes to heat water for faucets and showerheads, for example.

That made specifying Sloan plumbing products and systems a natural decision. Sloan’s low-consumption Flushometers, which utilize as little as a pint of water for urinal models or 1.28 gpf for water closet models, are priced no differently than models flushing with more water. Without compromising performance or reliability, facilities such as Bren Hall can significantly reduce their water usage.

Although sensor-activated faucets are pricier than typical commercial-grade manual models, their savings are realized over time. UCSB has installed Sloan sensor-activated faucets with 0.5-gpm aerators, which save as much as 1 gallon per use compared to manual faucets that are usually left running during lathering.

UCSB is now replicating its success at Bren Hall in various ways and with different technology combinations elsewhere on campus. In Girvetz Hall, for example, which achieved LEED-EB Silver certification in 2006, the university has installed Sloan’s UPPERCUT® manual dual-flush Flushometers.

UPPERCUT, the first commercially available dual-flush flushometer, gives users the option of pushing down the manual flush valve handle for a full flush or pulling it up for a reduced flush. Although it’s too early for the university to tell how much water the dual-flush Flushometers are saving, the student body and faculty are very supportive of technologies that further UCSB’s commitment to sustainability.