Advice and Opinion

Practical and tangible measures to reduce water use in commercial property sector

Water Shortage Generic

The City of Cape Town has put several increasingly stringent measures in place to stem the flow of water being used due to the severity of the drought – not only in residential households but also in commercial buildings. Commercial properties are expected to reduce their overall water consumption by 20% compared to the previous year, or face strict penalties.

Sean Paul, Executive Director of Spire Property Management says that it can be challenging to speedily change water use behaviours amongst employees in an office building because they are not directly singled out in the total water usage figures for that building as they are in their own homes. Even more so are the habits of customers through a retail space – which may have hundreds of feet through its doors every day.

“Because of this, landlords need to implement water saving methods that take the onus out of the employees or customers hands and imposes water saving as an unavoidable culture within that building.”

Paul unpacks the Water Saving Toolkit that Spire has developed which provides a list of the practical and tangible options available to landlords in order to slow the flow of water within a commercial building.

Immediate Interventions

“I would term all of the below as ‘low hanging fruit’ that can be easily and cost-effectively implemented within a commercial property,” advises Paul. “Before even looking at the complex and costly technology that can be employed to reduce water consumption.”

These are some of the measures that Spire as property managers are rolling out on behalf of their clients:

  • Turn off or limit the irrigation of gardens or replace landscaping for succulents and other water wise wise plants and install synthetic lawn.
  • Adjust the flush valves to reduced flow in toilets.
  • Adjust the water flow duration and pressure from the basin taps if the taps are automated.
  • Turn off all water features and fountains.
  • Install aerators on the bathroom taps.
  • Consider turning off the water to the hand basins and provide waterless hand sanitiser.
  • Convert urinals to ones that are waterless.
  • Place locks on all the external taps to avoid abuse.
  • When draining fire protection systems (sprinklers) water must be redirected into tanks or inflatable storage then pumped back into the system afterwards or used in other applications.
  • Make use of contractors who use harvested rain water for window cleaning or other cleaning.
  • Communications can be sent to all tenants informing them of mandatory water saving measures that they must adopt whilst at the work place.
  • Install pre-paid water metres for tenants that are high water users – such as a car washes, gyms, restaurants, hair salons etc.

Going a step further from these above mentioned ideas, Paul offers further options for landlords willing to incur additional costs for a water secure building.

Further water saving measures – level of capex required

  • Install rain water harvesting initiatives
  • Redirect the sump water from underground basements to be used in the buildings
  • Install grey water solutions to facilitate a re-use of all available grey waterless
  • Have boreholes installed at the property
  • Amendments can be made to air conditioning and HVAC systems in order to harvest the water generated through these technologies

Although the above comes with larger costs to the landlord, they do in turn future proof the building, bringing it in line with global trends towards increased sustainability in the built environment and improving the overall value and desirability of the building as an asset.

Tenants too are increasingly seeking out “greener” buildings that are not only more environmentally friendly but also more cost efficient for the tenant.

“The drought will come to an end, however the benefits of employing the above water saving measures will have a far reaching beneficial effect for years to come, and Spire have been strongly urging all of our clients to consider implementing as many water saving measures as possible. In addition – saving water is the right thing to do and we all have to take responsibility where we can in this crisis situation,” concludes Paul