When Brookfield Residential officials set out to explore water-conserving technologies such as rainwater harvesting and graywater recycling, they learned a thing or two about plumbing codes, local regulations, and what consumers want in a green home. Their lessons learned are on display at the company’s PureBlue Home in Bristow, Va., an innovative concept home that opened this spring.
Since graywater and rainwater recycling is still rare, it was up to Brookfield employees to explain to local jurisdictions how the systems work and adhere to building and water codes, says vice president of sales and marketing Gregg Hughes. In some cases, the firm had to look outside of its typical vendors to find companies willing to work with the products.
“There were definitely challenges; it was a big education experience, not just for us but for our vendors and the municipality,” he adds. But the team rose to the occasion and successfully incorporated rainwater storage and graywater recycling systems into the home's infrastructure.
“We have all of the rainspouts tied into tanks called Rainwater HOGs that are underneath the deck behind the home,” Hughes says. “All the water from the bathroom sinks, showers, and washing machines goes through a filtration system and then is stored in those same tanks.”
Water from the storage tanks is piped through an underground drip irrigation system to reach native landscaping at the roots, which uses up to 50% less water than traditional sprinklers. The house also uses high-efficiency faucets, toilets, and appliances.
Despite how far they’ve come, Brookfield executives still want to learn more. They hope the home will produce insight on which green initiatives should be adopted as buyer options.
“We’re testing out all these things and making sure that they all work appropriately and give the proper benefit and ROI so that we can decide … which of the different components would translate well to a consumer,” Hughes explains. “It really is an experiment to figure out if these are things people find value in and are things that people are willing to pay for.”
While products like hybrid hot water heaters and water-saving faucets have been a hit, more advanced options such as graywater recycling won’t immediately be available to consumers because of code restrictions and costs, though he’s optimistic they will be as the technologies become more common.
Water efficiency isn’t as in demand as energy efficiency, but with historic water shortages in Western states, many in the industry—including Hughes—think that could change.
“People ask a lot about it and are really excited about it,” Hughes says. “There’s definitely a positive trend for everybody to be more conscious of the environment and how we affect it, and this is a good place to start."