2010 The Year When Water Efficiency Takes Off

27/09/2010 | Speaking at a recent major UK conference, Yvonne Orgill, CEO of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, talked about water efficiency, sustainability, and consumer choice and explained to the audience of industry leaders why she believed that "2010 will be the year when water efficiency in the bathroom really takes off". She explained how members of the BMA were now hitting the headlines with very stylish and attractive bathroom products which are more water efficient than ever before. She believed that they were now producing the intelligent solutions - the innovative products - which will really did contribute to the drive for water efficiency and sustainability. "Bathroom professionals and their customers and are responding to the UK's increasing awareness of sustainability issues. There are signs that we are all beginning to change our 'habits' and are becoming increasingly eco-aware. Eco-sensitive products are freely available. Now it's all about choice and behavioral change." Rising to the eco-challenge There is more choice than ever before. The last couple of years have seen a rapid growth in the availability of eco-friendly bathroom and washroom products. Manufacturers are racing to get their products to market and there is a genuine drive to design gorgeous looking 'kit', which is easy to install and thoroughly enjoyable to use. Bright, new, contemporary style bathrooms which use less water and less energy and save on those ever increasing utility bills are appearing at all the major interior design exhibitions. Designers have risen to the market's increasing demand for eco-friendly bathroom products. Eco WC suites and bath tubs Until relatively recently the average flush of a new dual flush WC was about 4.5 litres. Today that average has been reduced by clever design and improved manufacturing technology. An average flush of 3 litres is now becoming the norm and these WCs, compared with the UK average WC of 9 litres, save huge amounts of water over a year. Using government figures, it has been estimated that an average household could save as much as 50,000 litres of water annually just by changing its old water guzzler for a new eco pan. Not so long ago the average bath in a new dwelling was being filled with around 200 litres and the average shower may have been consuming around 12 or more litres a minute. Today, an eco-warrior can find baths with a capacity of just 130 litres. And thanks to major changes in shower head design, and advances in digital technology, a good satisfying and drenching shower can readily be found on the showroom shelves at 6 litres per minute. Recycling on the up Designers have created innovative rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling products. These systems are increasingly common. Technically advanced systems for storing rainwater from the roof, or greywater from the bath, are available to developers who are quickly taking up these devices to meet the requirements of the latest regulations. In-room recycling has also arrived with Washbasin/WC combos. These stylish suites are designed to maximize space and conserve water and are a genuine step change in water reuse. Waste water from the washbasin is filtered and stored before being used to flush the WC. What has influenced change? Legislation has played a major part in persuading manufacturers to go back to the drawing board. The launch of the Code for Sustainable Homes had a major influence on product design. Housing developers are keen to be seen leading the eco-pack and have been striving to build houses with as close to the maximum level in the Code (Level 6 - zero carbon) as they can get. The revised Building Regulations Approved Document G has had influence, too. Members of the BMA now have specific products to supply builders who are required, by law, to construct homes which consume no more than 125 litres of water per person per day. Architects, installers and consumers have also influenced manufacturers. Architects want to be able to choose bathroom and washroom products which not only look great but actually perform as claimed. Installers want to know that the products they are using are legal and easy and quick to install. They also want to know that they won't be called back to rectify manufacturing defects or poor performance. And consumers want the very best in style and the very best bathing experience whilst still meeting their eco-sensitive demands. It's all about choice But how do architects, developers and consumers choose the very best bathrooms to suit their needs? "This is where the BMA's Water Efficient Product Labelling Scheme (WEPLS) comes into its own," says Orgill "We honestly believe that 2010 will be the year when water efficiency really takes off and good clear reliable product labelling is its cornerstone. There is a growing momentum behind it and merchants, retailers and big DIY stores are seeing the value in providing the potential purchaser with sufficient product detail to make an informed and intelligent choice." WEPLS, which is entirely web-based, has been on line for a couple of years but was recently upgraded with a whole new look. It is now easier to use, and lists over 800 of the very best eco-friendly bathrooms currently available in the UK. In recognition of the importance of the scheme it recently won a major eco award. Qualifying products are listed in the easily accessible database. The scheme covers categories such as WCs, showers, taps and recycling products amongst others, and visitors to the site can search through the lists provided. They may then create a shopping list and then search for their local stockist. Downloadable fact sheets and an on-line water consumption calculator enhance the scheme's usability. Links to manufacturers' websites, scheme partners and government sites add to the knowledge base which the website creates. The key to the scheme is the product label itself which is similar in design to the familiar energy label found on white goods. It clearly shows the volume of water that the product will consume if installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. Consumers have more choice than ever before and those with eco-tendencies will obviously home in on those goods with the best rating. Bathroom professionals will play an important part in helping with their selection, giving advice and leading the push for sustainability. "WEPLS is now recognised by the major government departments of DEFRA, CLG, and the Environment Agency," says Orgill. "It is also highly regarded by The Energy Saving Trust, Water Wise and CC WATER." She went on to say "modern bathroom suites have come a long way in recent years and the latest designs have water and energy efficiency built in. This scheme shows only products which meet the strict eco-criteria laid down by industry experts." The illustrated database can be browsed at www.water-efficiencylabel.org.uk/ WEPLS is managed by the BMA which represents around 75 of the most well known bathroom brands in the UK. More details from http://www.bathroom-association.org/

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