The determined and relentless drive for water efficiency

01/02/2011 | The determined and relentless drive for water efficiency seems to be hitting home. More and more people are becoming aware of the need to conserve our precious resources. The man in the street is realising that water is not as cheap as it once was. Nor is gas or electricity. Energy costs have rocketed and since a significant part of the household spend is in producing hot water the consumer is actively searching for ways to reduce utility bills. Water saving is being recognised. The media has played a major part in driving home the message that although there does seem an awful lot of water sloshing about our small patch of the world it is of the wrong type and in the wrong place. News stories highlighting the drive for water efficiency are more common and the messages issued from organisations such as ours, the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, are finding more column inches. Bathroom manufacturers are responding vigorously to the drive for water and energy efficiency and they are playing an increasingly important role in designing and developing eco-friendly products. Their drawing boards are full of ideas and virtually every new product brought to market during 2010 had water efficiency embedded into its ‘DNA’. 2010 was a particularly good year for break-through thinking. It’s safe to say we are making progress and the inevitable resistors to change are beginning to weaken. Bathroom manufacturers, trade and associate members of the BMA, are leading the drive for water efficiency both in their development of products and the creation of water efficiency ‘tools’. PRODUCTS We have seen some interesting and quite major breakthroughs recently and many of the products installed in today’s bathroom have been affected. WCs, with super-efficient flush, are now common place. They no longer grace only the portfolios of a select few top-end manufacturers. They are now more widespread, and reliable branded products, which conform with the regulations and are guaranteed to actually work, are here to stay. Effective average flush volumes of 3 litres are available at realistic prices and are no longer ‘special.’ At least one product has been launched in the last twelve months which combines the function of the washbasin with the WC. Waste from the basin is diverted and stored in the cistern prior to being used to flush the toilet. This type of breakthrough thinking is both surprising and effective. Taps with built in eco-click and thermo regulating valves are freely available. These not only save water but save energy and are ultra-safe in the family bathroom. Eco-friendly shower controls and shower heads have enjoyed massive growth over the last few years. These, like click-taps, show huge savings in both water and energy consumption. The technology used to develop and manufacture these excellent devices is advancing fast. It was not so long back when the average new bath was filled with around 200 litres. Today, without much effort, a consumer can find a really comfortable bath with a capacity of just 130 litres. It’s all in the design. TOOLS But how would a prospective bathroom buyer, whether a trade professional or a man in the street, choose the very best bathroom to suit their requirements? “They need the tools to do the job,” says Yvonne Orgill, chief executive of the BMA. “Our staff, who are now based in new low carbon offices at Keele Innovation Centre, have worked hard recently to develop the Water Efficient Product Labelling Scheme (WEPLS) and the new Water Calculator.” WEPLS has grown rapidly from a germ of an idea to a benchmark scheme which is now being copied in Europe and wider afield. The web-enabled database holds the details of over 1000 water efficient bathroom products which, by default, have the lowest carbon footprint. The scheme is increasingly recognised by consumers and professionals alike and from the Government’s point of view it is an important tool in their drive to meet the Green Agenda. Over 1000 stockists have registered their details with the scheme. www.water-efficiencylabel.org.uk/ The key to WEPLS 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. In a recent statement Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, praised and supported the scheme. He said “Water is an invaluable resource which needs to be managed responsibly. Whilst Government and industry can help make it easier to save water, taking personal responsibility is at the heart of water conservation. People need access to clear advice on how they can save water so I am pleased to support the Bathroom Manufacturers Association in their work to develop a labelling scheme which provides people with an easy means to identify water efficient products.” The statement from the DEFRA Minister shows that he and his department fully support the work of the BMA in driving the quest for water and energy efficient bathroom products. The product data stored in the database has now been put to good use in the new Water Calculator which is designed to make it easier for developers and builders to meet the new water-efficiency requirements of Part G of the Building Regulations and the Code for Sustainable Homes. The calculator was designed and developed by the BMA in association with Waterwise East. The Water Calculator at www.thewatercalculator.org.uk is the first of its kind and includes water-consumption information so that builders and developers can simply select from a drop-down menu of products to calculate the water consumption of a property. The tool auto-completes the calculations enabling quick and easy specification without the hassle of gathering data from product manufacturers. The results can then be printed off to give to Building Control inspectors and others involved in the assessment process. “Our members are encouraged by the very positive reaction to their work in developing these tools” says Orgill. “The bathroom industry is playing its part in driving for a more sustainable future.”

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