Water Efficiency

The built environment is a major consumer of water resources.  

Water is utilised throughout the construction life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to make products, through manufacturing, the construction process and in the use phase of buildings for bathing, cooking, cleaning, heating, etc., and at end of life water may be used during the demolition process especially to suppress dust.

Most water use occurs during the in-use phase of buildings; i.e., the water we use in our homes, offices, schools, hospitals, shops, hotels, etc. This is called “operational water” and has been increasing per capita over the past few decades.  The other main water impact is in the manufacture of construction products. This is the water used in the manufacturing process and thus embodied within construction products; hence it is called “embodied water”.

Manufacturers of construction products rely on water for a wide variety of purposes. Water can serve as a lubricant, a cleaning agent, a sealant, a heat transfer medium, a solvent, an air pollution control medium plus an array of other uses depending on the material and products being produced. Water must of course also be supplied for staff welfare purposes on any industrial or commercial site; i.e., via the provision of toilets, showers, basin taps and kitchen facilities.

Although water remains a comparatively low cost resource in the UK, many manufacturers have sought to improve the efficiency of water use in their manufacturing processes as part of general efficiency gains. In addition, those manufacturing water related products, such as taps, baths or drainage and soakaway products, are responding to regulatory and market drivers to provide the new products to enable householders, commercial building owners and others to manage their water resources better.

Potential water scarcity issues in parts of the UK is also of growing concern to manufacturers and there is increasing awareness of the business risk posed by possible water restrictions.

All of these issues are described in detail in the CPA’s report: Water Efficiency – the Contribution of Construction Products.

For more information, please contact Jane Thornback.