Category Archives: Water

There’s gold in your gray water

An inside look at the rainwater capture system's holding tank

An inside look at the rainwater capture system’s holding tank

Along with a new age of sustainability comes new interest in gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems.  These systems capture water from your house’s bathroom sinks, showers and rainfall then reuse it to irrigate the lawn and flush the toilets.

The engineering behind the effort can be tricky, but in the simplest terms it goes like this: water from the “gray water sources” gravity-flows into a collection basin. A pump in the basin then pushes the water through a filter and disinfection array and into a storage tank.  The water in the storage tank is periodically circulated to keep it clear and bacteria-free. Finally, a pressure controlled pump automatically delivers recycled water to your irrigation system when your irrigation timer activates. It’s simplistically complex.

Whether on a household level or a commercial level, many have decided to invest in the water conservation effort.  Gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems can save 50 to 70 percent of a family’s monthly water usage. You’ll save that same 50 to 70 percent on your water bill.

How much does it cost to install? Do-it-yourself systems start at $3,500.  Systems for average sized homes start at $11,000.

To learn more, visit

A small, home-installed system

A small, home-installed system



A 10,000 gallon holding tank for a rainwater capture system being buried underground at the Santa Monica Library


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Here’s a tool to help green roofs grow

The following post is by Oregon BEST:

A unique modeling tool developed at Portland State University with support from Oregon BEST is helping local green roof manufacturer Columbia Green Technologies speed adoption of green roofs to meet legislation aimed at reducing combined sewer overflows during heavy rains and thereby grow the Portland based start-up’s national market share.

The new tool is the result of a research project funded by Oregon BEST and led by Graig Spolek, a PSU professor and director of the Green Roof Design and Test Lab. Columbia Green uses the tool when working with civil engineers and architects who need accurate, quantitative data about how much stormwater a green roof in a specific geographical location will both retain and detain.

A green roof sits atop the new Apple store in downtown Portland.

“This new tool has been very helpful; it’s helped us open doors to some of the best engineering and architecture firms in the country,” said Elaine Kearney, Technical Director at Columbia Green. “Being able to generate this kind of data bolsters our reputation as being innovative and technologically very forward looking.”

Eric Zickler, an associate principal at Aecom, one of largest engineering firms in the world, said his firm uses many different tools to measure performance of their stormwater management infrastructure designs, but the Columbia Green tool stands out.

“Generally the calculators and modeling modules are generic and do not provide a high level of confidence in predicted performance,” Zickler said. “The green roof stormwater management tool developed by Columbia Green is specific to green roofs and developed using both theory and empirical data for multiple geographies across varying storm intensities, making it a valuable resource in building our confidence in the stormwater management benefits of green roofs.”

The new tool, which can generate data specific to geographic areas and weather patterns, gives Columbia Green a competitive advantage when the company interacts with potential clients.

“The ability to quantify our performance with this degree of accuracy is unique, so it’s a significant advantage for us,” said Robin Schneider, marketing director at Columbia Green.

This strategic funding exemplifies how Oregon BEST, a state-funded organization that fosters technology-based economic development, helps clean-technology companies collaborate with universities to advance and commercialize products to grow Oregon’s green economy.

“It’s been very rewarding to see Columbia Green leverage our investment in research and transform that into expanded distribution and sales opportunities,” said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST.

Green roofs and other green infrastructure approaches are gaining visibility at all levels of government, both in the United States and abroad, as officials try to implement policies to address aging public infrastructure.

Two years ago, Vanessa Keitges, CEO of Columbia Green, was selected to sit on the President’s Export Council at the White House.

“We greatly appreciate the Oregon BEST support that allowed us to take advantage of the PSU rain lab and develop a tool that’s helping us succeed,” Keitges said. “Local cooperation between industries and academia is recognized as a model for innovation to solve global problems.”

Oregon BEST is a state agency that nurtures clean technology innovation by transforming new ideas, research, and products into green-collar jobs, greater sustainability, and economic prosperity for Oregon.


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Lush landscaping without all the water

The following post is by Jasmine McDermott:

Z Living Systems installed a water-saving, living wall crafted of 6,000 individual plants on a new resident activity club in Los Angeles. The building, which implements a number of sustainable features, achieving LEED Platinum, ultimately creates an “oasis in the middle of a city.” The 1,200 sq. ft. living wall, featured both indoors and outdoors, stretches the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool while only requiring less than half the amount of water an individual would use showering in one week.

This living wall in Los Angeles is the length of an Olympic swimming pool.

In response to California’s severe drought, Governor Brown’s office released regulations surrounding water conservation and is encouraging a number of water conservation practices. Z Living Systems incorporates a number of these practices into their living walls creating a sustainable alternative for landscaping.

Z Living Systems’ proprietary system takes plants, hardy drought-tolerant native species, which are first transplanted into the company’s living wall pots from their original nursery pots, delivers them onsite, and then hangs them onto a prefabricated structure. The system allows for first day, full coverage of vegetation. Following the installation, the company utilizes an irrigation controller that allows the control of irrigation remotely in response to weather conditions. In collaboration with Rios Clementi Hale Studios, there was an effort to blur the lines of indoor and outdoor by continuing the living wall through the exterior and interior of the building.

Firms involved

  • Architect- Rios Clementi Hale Studios
  • Contractor- Fassberg
  • Builder- Brookfield Residential

Water Conservation Practices Utilized by Z Living Systems Living Wall

  • Smart irrigation controller
  • Drip irrigation
  • Drought tolerant or native plants
  • Mulch
  • Watering once a week
  • Preventing runoff

Jasmine McDermott is a co-founder of Z Living Systems, a living-wall provider based in San Luis Obispo, California.

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Do rain gardens work at industrial sites?

The following post is by the Washington Environmental Council:

Rand Lymangrover thought he had tried everything. His company, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), was failing to meet benchmarks for their general stormwater permit for the runoff from their Port of Tacoma facility. The main problems were zinc and copper: two metals in abundant supply at an industrial terminal with lots of galvanized fencing and heavy vehicle traffic.

Before the rain gardens were installed.

After failing to get below benchmarks by cleaning up and installing stormwater vault filters, Lymangrover turned to rain gardens. If it worked, he reasoned, the company would save money: at $24,000, it would cost about 10 percent of a more traditional, industrial-scale filtering system.

The contractor was David Hymel with Rain Dog Designs. The rain gardens were installed with the help of Stewardship Partners, which is working with Washington StateUniversity to install 12,000 rain gardens in the Puget Sound region.

Three years later, the rain gardens are working perfectly and are a regularly visited by other industrial businesses, city council members and many others.

After the rain gardens were installed.

“In addition to getting us below the benchmark, the rain gardens have really improved how things look down here and show that this green infrastructure feature works at an industrial level,” Lymangrover said. “You can always find a place to do a rain garden.”

During heavy rainfall, the TOTE rain gardens can handle over 160 gallons of runoff per minute.

Lymangrover invites other industrial businesses that are looking for solutions to their stormwater issues to consider a rain garden – and visit the ones at TOTE. His ultimate goal: to eliminate all stormwater runoff from the terminal.

Washington Environmental Council is a nonprofit, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to protect, restore and sustain Washington’s environment.



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How green is the future? Yudelson’s 2014 predictions

The following post is by DJC staff:

Sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson, has released his annual list of the top 10 green building trends and says he expects this year will see a rapid increase in energy retrofits on existing buildings, a new focus on water conservation, and a switch to cloud-based systems for monitoring and managing energy use.

Jerry Yudelson

He says the expansion will be global thanks to the economic recovery in most of Europe and North America. “There is no doubt that we are seeing more agencies, architectural firms, development organizations and companies building green each year,” he writes, “and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its constituent elements.”

By the way, Yudelson also announced he is the new president of Green Building Initiative, the organization responsible for the Green Globes green building rating and certification system that he says is increasingly competing with LEED.

Yudelson Associates’ Top 10 Green Building MegaTrends for 2014

  1. Green building in North America continue its strong growth in 2014, with the ongoing expansion of commercial real estate construction together with government, university, nonprofit and school construction. This will build on the fact that in 2013 green building project registrations in new construction accounted for about 30% of all new projects.
  2. In 2014, there will be rapid uptake of energy-efficiency green building retrofits.. Note: this trend will be strongest in corporate and commercial real estate, along with the “MUSH” market (Municipal, University, School and Hospital) projects, given the availability of cheap financing and the rise of numerous new players in the building energy retrofit market. Yudelson says absolute building performance, and resultant operating cost, (vs. the relative improvement approach still enshrined in most rating systems) is going to be an increasing focus for building owners.
  3. Zero-net-energy buildings are become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors. LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications and labels have become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage among building owners. Developers of speculative commercial buildings have also begun to showcase Zero Net Energy designs in order to gain marketplace advantages. Systems such as the Net-Zero Certification of the International Living Building Institute are driving this trend, but it has been growing steadily for about five years.
  4. LEED will see enhanced competition from Green Globes. This trend is supported by the fact that the Federal government has released its “once every five years” assessment of rating systems and has now put the two systems on an equal footing for government projects. More importantly, LEED will struggle to convince owners, designers and consultants in all sectors that LEED v4 represents more value than hassle.
  5. The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from certifying new building design and construction to full greening of existing buildings. This trend has been in place since 2010, and we expect it to accelerate in 2014.
  6. Green Buildings will increasingly be managed by information technologies, especially those in the “Cloud.” This trend is reflected by the large number of new entrants and new products in fields of building automation, facility management, wireless controls and building services information management over the last three years. In fact, we are calling 2014, “The Year of the Cloud” for how quickly this trend will become fully established.
  7. Green Building Performance Disclosure will continue as a major trend. This is highlighted by disclosure requirements enacted in 2013 by more than 30 major cities around the country, laws that require commercial building owners to disclose actual green building performance to all new tenants and buyers and, in some places, to the public. This trend will spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor reductions in carbon emissions from commercial and governmental buildings.
  8. Healthy Building Products, Product Disclosure Declarations, along with various “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern to healthy building advocates, will become increasingly contentious. This trend has manifested through such tools as the Health Product Declaration and the inclusion of points for avoiding certain chemicals contained in LEEDv4, currently scheduled for full implementation in 2015. We predict that building product manufacturers will increasingly try to gain or maintain market share based on open disclosure of chemicals of concerns. We also foresee that industry-developed disclosure systems will begin to compete with systems offered by dozens of third-party rating agencies.
  9. Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow, especially because of the prospect of increasing focus on implementing aggressive state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2020 and the move toward zero-net-energy buildings. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for larger rooftop systems on low-rise commercial buildings, parking garages, warehouses and retail stores, as well as on homes.
  10. Awareness of the coming crisis in fresh water supply, both globally and in the U.S., will increase as global climate change affects rainfall and water supply systems worldwide. Leading building designers, owners and managers will be moved to take further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings by using more conserving fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new onsite water technologies.


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