Oct 12, 2007
Commercial buildings require water as part of their essential services, yet the amount of water a typical commercial building needs to provide such services as restrooms and cooling systems is highly variable. It depends on a number of factors, including the technology employed in water-using devices, system maintenance, and the intensity of building use. Commercial-building owners have many options to improve water-use efficiency. For example, they can replace or retrofit water-using devices, such as toilets and urinals, with new models that use significantly less water than did their predecessors.
Unfortunately, not all efficiency investments will make financial sense to a building owner, especially given the substantial uncertainties about the future costs and benefits of such options. In particular, the cost of water, wastewater services, and energy will affect efficiency-investment performance. Owners need an effective way to weigh decisions about whether and how much to invest in new technologies, retrofits, or repairs to improve water efficiency.
In work sponsored by the Jane and Marc Nathanson Family Foundation, RAND Corporation researchers developed an analytical framework and an easy-to-use, spreadsheet-based tool—the Building Water Efficiency Analysis Model, or BEAM—to help building managers, consultants, and efficiency service representatives make sensible water-use efficiency investments. After laying out the approach, the study illustrated how it works using a case study based on the RAND Corporation headquarters building to examine the potential to improve restroom efficiency.
The study concluded that the framework and tool provide users with a convenient way to consider the potential value of water-efficiency investments under price uncertainty without collecting extensive data or hiring a consultant.