IMPACT BY DESIGN 2020
GENSLER RESEARCH INSTITUTE
STRATEGIES FOR WATER
Managing water is crucial to mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change — from minimizing water use to designing for sea level rise.

Installing fixtures and design solutions that lower water consumption.

Reusing captured or recycled water for non-potable water requirements.

Limiting human impact on existing ecosystems and aquatic habitats.

Capturing rainwater on-site for use in building systems.

Designing for potential flooding or water impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

An increasing amount of the world’s population lives under what’s called, “water stress,” as the demand for water exceeds the quantity or quality of their supply. The World Resources Institute estimates that 37 countries currently live with high levels of water stress as climate change has made — and will continue to make — many regions drier. Additionally, increases in runoff, flooding, or sea levels are undermining water quality and damaging infrastructure and livability.

Using less water is essential, and recycling water is even more vital. A large amount of energy is required to source, clean, move, heat, and cool water. According to the EPA, wastewater management and drinking water treatment plants are the largest consumers of energy in many American cities — accounting for 30 to 40% of total energy consumed and adding over 45 million tons of greenhouse gases every year. In the U.S., large commercial buildings alone use nearly a billion gallons of water a day. In all commercial buildings, 95% of water demands are for nondrinkable uses, yet potable water tends to be used for these purposes.

Utilizing an innovative wastewater treatment and reuse system in a commercial building.
The City of Austin Planning and Development Center is the first public building in Texas with a blackwater/reclaimed water system, which can treat 5,000 gallons of water per day and decreases the building’s potable water by 60%.
According to the EPA, wastewater management and drinking water treatment plants are the largest consumers of energy in many American cities — accounting for 30 to 40% of total energy consumed and adding over 45 million tons of greenhouse gases every year.

Buildings can employ closed-loop systems to use, treat, and reuse water completely on-site. Graywater, or wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other appliances and equipment, can be used for many nondrinking purposes, such as irrigation and industrial processes. While treating and reusing blackwater, or waste from toilets, is still relatively uncommon and isn’t allowed in some areas, the technology to do so is becoming more readily available.

IMPACT BY DESIGN 2020
GENSLER RESEARCH INSTITUTE

In Impact by Design 2020 we introduce Strategies for Climate Resilience: a collection of six major areas that have the greatest potential for positive climate impact in the coming years.