Green Builder Coalition

The Torch – April 30, 2020

The Torch Offical Publication of Green Builder Coalition


It’s Official: Water Rating Index Added to 2020 National Green Building Standard

After two years of work with the water efficiency task group for the 2020 National Green Building Standard (NGBS), the water rating index is now officially included in the recently published 2020 NGBS. The WRI appears in two separate locations: Chapter 8, as “a new water efficiency performance path that demonstrates compliance using an index that generates a score relative to a standard baseline home”[1], and Appendix D, which jurisdictions can cite directly if they are looking for ANSI-based water efficiency language.

“All of this would not have been possible without the guidance and hard work of Kim Shanahan, Craig Conner and Laureen Blissard,” said Green Builder® Coalition Executive Director Mike Collignon. “They put in numerous hours on drafting language, meetings with the task group, exchanging ideas via phone and e-mail… I consider myself fortunate I was able to witness their efforts.”

2020 NGBSKim Shanahan, sustainability consultant for the built environment and co-creator of the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)®, stated, “The American west is in a millennial mega drought, primarily human caused, with no end in sight. Like energy, we must be on a path to net-zero water to sustain the inevitable growth of the region. The WRI is a tool that jurisdictions can adopt to measure and enforce its progress on that path.”

“As municipalities/regions compete for water, it becomes more and more apparent that sending such a precious resource down the drain is an abject travesty. Instead of seeking out new ground or surface water sources, wouldn’t it be better to recycle the water we use?”, asked Laureen Blissard, Green Builder® Coalition Technical Director. “The WRI provides the opportunity to offset water use with rainwater, greywater, or blackwater and can potentially provide the information that increases the intrinsic value of water.”

“Water is becoming the new energy. It already constrains construction in some areas,” said Craig Conner, owner of Building Quality. The WRI calculates overall water efficiency, since indoor and outdoor water use is included, but is flexible in how that water efficiency is implemented. The WRI also allows programs to specify water efficiency as a single number.”

To download a complimentary PDF copy, simply visit and click on “Free Download” in the first box in the right column.

WERS, which is the basis for the WRI, is now allowed in two municipal building codes (Santa Fe, NM and Santa Barbara, CA), cited in a New Mexico state-level tax credit, and is on track to be incorporated as a compliance path in Built Green Canada, the Vermont energy code and WaterSense for Homes 2.0.

2020 Next Generation Water Summit Canceled

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on nearly all facets of society, and in-person events are no exception. Therefore, it is with much sadness that the Next Generation Water Summit’s organizing committee has decided to cancel the 2020 Summit, originally scheduled for June 12-13, 2020.

“As we all are making adjustments and working our way through new rules for conducting business and our lives, we realized that a gathering of the size of the Summit was not going to be possible,” stated Glenn Schiffbauer of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce. “Disappointed as we are, we also are excited about the prospects of what innovations will come out of this pause in life. This extra time will also give our group of water professionals the space to create more of the next generation technologies and policy.”

Next Generation Water Summit Logo

The committee continues to weigh its options on the next iteration of the Summit. One option is to postpone for 1 year, while another is to hold a fully virtual event. “There are very few easy decisions these days,” said Summit Co-Chair Mike Collignon. “We would really like to spend time with our Summit family again, but we know that’s not the safest course of action right now.”

Hosts of the Next Generation Water Summit continue to be the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce; Green Builder® Coalition; City of Santa Fe; and KUELWater. Promotional partners include the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Santa Fe Community College is the official education sponsor, and Green Builder® Media is the national media partner.

About the Next Generation Water Summit
The Next Generation Water Summit brings together the building and development community, water reuse professionals and water policymakers in a collaborative setting to share best practices and learn about innovative water conservation and water reuse techniques that can be used to comply with water conservation restrictions spreading across the southwest.

Train of Thought

Train of ThoughtWith all the ways the world has changed recently, I felt now was as good a time as any to fire up the old train of thought again. It’s certainly been a while since this column has made an appearance.

The world has changed significantly in 2020. For those of us in the United States, it’s really been the last 2 months that have transformed nearly all our lives. While you might not personally know anyone who became sick (or even worse, passed away) from COVID-19, you probably do know a nurse, doctor, retail worker, delivery driver or other essential worker* that has to continue their job in these dangerous times. These are the people that are risking illness and possible death so we can all continue to get basic goods like food, medicine, energy, water, etc.

Compounding the public health and safety concerns is the economic impact of sheltering in place. Tens of millions have lost their jobs in the United States alone. Many others are working reduced hours, which means reduced pay. Thankfully, many states have adopted “no eviction” policies, and other measures have been implemented that prevent public services (power and water) from being shut off due to non-payment. Even with stimulus funding from the federal government, the reality is some businesses will be greatly affected (at best) and, at worst, might never open their doors again.

With so much morbidity and negativity in the world these days, where are the silver linings? If you look closely, I think you’ll see them. People with families are spending more time together than they probably ever have. One can make a joke that nerves are getting frayed because of that, but my hope is that families are taking advantage of the opportunity to grow closer. (Of course, it’s no joke if there are family members stuck in situations with abusive or alcoholic relatives.) All those “rainy day” domestic projects you never had time for? Guess what? No excuses! You’ve got the time for them now.

Whether it be for work or school, we’re probably collectively spending even more time on screens than usual (despite the lack of live sports, which is a significant percentage of TV viewing). Once we start to resume normal activities, will we more easily forego screens to enjoy nature? Maybe people are already gravitating towards books in their free time, where they might otherwise have turned on a TV or monitor. From a business perspective, might we decide that on-screen meetings are nearly as productive (and way more economical) than flying halfway across the country to hold an in-person meeting?

When it comes to the environment, it’s no surprise that I’m very happy to see the reports of drastically improved air quality in nearly all of our planet’s major cities. Sadly, it still doesn’t fix the overall problem with our climate, but it is giving our planet (and our lungs) a small breather. What I’ve found interesting is the effect this has had on overall electricity consumption. According to research that is in line with analysis from both the U.S. Energy Information Administration and from regional electricity providers, electricity demand fell between 12-14% in very short order. This phenomenon is not confined to the U.S.; it’s been observed in Europe, too.

There is certainly a mental toll this disease is taking on everyone, but will this ultimately lead to longer lives for those who are physically unaffected by COVID-19? With all the unexpected free time, people are finding time to take walks/runs, ride bikes, and engage in physical activity they might not have otherwise made time for. While some people are getting less sleep while they worry about how they’ll pay their bills, others are getting more sleep as a result of fewer extracurricular options. In turn, that lack of activities might be reducing overall stress levels. I know for my family, spring is always a very busy time consisting of soccer, dance and baseball practices, with work trips interspersed for both my wife and I. Now, none of that is happening.

I also wonder if this will lead to larger societal changes. Will we collectively dial back from our hustle & bustle lifestyles? Will telecommuting become a preferred choice for many office staff? Conversely, will medium and large companies encourage (or possible require) their employees to telecommute as a way to reduce overhead? Will restaurant workers become more appreciated? Will more people refrain from shopping in stores and elect to have groceries and other goods delivered? On a larger scale, will we see an overhaul of the medical system in the United States? Given most of us have been living in a very light form of imprisonment, will a newfound level of sympathy be injected into the criminal justice system? How will this affect all the art (paintings, music, plays and cinema) produced over the next 5 years?

There’s no question there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its short and long-term effects. From a governmental standpoint, I hope we don’t spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing what all went wrong, but instead focus on how to improve our fundamental systems. Let’s honor the memory of those who have lost their lives to this disease, by learning from our mistakes, holding on to the positives and doing everything we can to make this world a better place.

*Yes, I recognize that the construction industry has been classified as essential in most regions. However, I’m referring to those workers who need to interact with dozens of people each shift. Thanks to careful and deliberate scheduling, plus sometimes spacious project sites, most in the construction industry can greatly reduce their risk. Other essential workers don’t have that luxury.

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