Landlords who invest in measures to save precious resource will reap instant and long-term benefits
The current water crisis in the Western Cape is foremost in local residents’ minds, and concern over “D-Day” or “Day Zero” is growing.
But it is not just households that need to do their part to conserve water.
The City of Cape Town has introduced increasingly stringent measures to stem the flow of water used.
Commercial buildings have been told to reduce their overall water consumption by 20% compared to the previous year. Failure to do so will not only put water supply under increased pressure, but will see companies penalised.
It can, however, be a challenge to quickly change water use behaviours among employees in office buildings, says Sean Paul, executive director of Spire Property Management.
This is 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 difficult to change are the habits of customers in a retail space, which may have hundreds of feet through its doors every day.
“Landlords need to implement water saving methods that take the onus out of the hands of employees and customers and impose water-saving as an unavoidable culture within that building.”
This is also the reason behind Spire’s Water Saving Toolkit, which provides a list of the practical options available to landlords to slow water flow within commercial buildings.
Immediate interventions are needed, and Paul calls these as “low hanging fruit” that can be easily and cost-effectively implemented in commercial properties – “before even looking at the complex and costly technology that can be employed to reduce water consumption”.
Measures that Spire as property managers are rolling out on behalf of their clients include:
Install synthetic lawns, turn off or limit garden irrigation, or replace landscaping with succulents and other wate- wise plants.
Adjust flush valves to reduce flow in toilets.
Adjust water flow duration and pressure from basin taps if taps are automated.
Turn off all water features and fountains.
Install aerators on bathroom taps.
Consider turning off water to hand basins and provide waterless hand sanitiser.
Convert urinals to waterless ones.
Place locks on all external taps to avoid abuse.
When draining fire sprinkler systems, water must be redirected into tanks or inflatable storage then pumped back into the system afterwards or used in other applications.
Use contractors who use harvested rain water for windows and other cleaning.
Write to all tenants informing them of the mandatory water saving measures they must adopt while at the workplace.
Install pre-paid water metres for tenants who are high water users – such as a car washes, gyms, restaurants and hair salons.
Paul says landlords who are willing to incur extra costs in return for water-wise buildings can implement long-term water saving measures.
Install rain-water harvesting systems.
Redirect sump water from underground basements to be used in buildings.
Install grey-water solutions to facilitate re-use of all available grey water.
Have boreholes installed at the property.
Amend air-conditioning and HVAC systems to harvest water generated through these technologies.
Although such measures will inevitably cost landlords, Paul says they will benefit because their buildings will be equipped for the future, and brought in line with global trends towards increased sustainability in the built environment. The measures will also improve the overall value and desirability of the building as an asset.
Tenants are also looking for “greener” buildings that are more environmentally friendly and more cost-efficient for the tenant, he adds.
“The drought will end, but the benefits of water-saving measures will have far-reaching effects for years.
“Saving water is the right thing to do and we all have to take responsibility in this crisis.”