Managing water use is becoming increasingly important to commercial property owners, contractors, architects and engineers, and more than half say that water efficiency is an extremely important aspect of green building design, construction and related products, according to a recent survey by McGraw-Hill Construction

Sixty-nine percent of those queried in the survey currently rate water efficiency as being extremely important, and by 2013 that figure is expected to increase to 85 percent, a report on the survey said. It added that the gap is closing among energy efficiency, water management and the reduction of construction waste as contenders for top priority in greening buildings.

Energy efficiency is now considered very important by 91 percent, a perception that is expected to reach 96 percent in 2013. The relative importance of construction waste management, which now stands at 64 percent, is expected to reach 73 percent in four years.

"This finding is evidence of a fundamental shift in the understanding of the composition of green buildings," said the "SmartMarket Report, Water Use in Buildings."

"No longer is the industry equating a green building with just being an energy efficient building," the report said. "There is an increased understanding that saving water can save costs and energy and can reduce impact on climate change."

McGraw-Hill Construction released highlights on Monday of the study that was conducted with support from The Chicago Faucet Company and Sloan Valve Company. Industry professionals representing 180 firms were asked in November about their perceptions and practices regarding water efficiency over a time horizon that stretched to 2013.

The study found that:

• Among building owners, 42 percent said that more than three-quarters of their current projects incorporate water-efficient designs; 50 percent said they expect to incorporate water-efficient practices in at least half of their building portfolios by 2013.

• Primary motivators include reducing energy use (87 percent) and reducing operating costs (84 percent).

• Respondents said on average, applying water-efficient designs and products result in 15 percent less water use, 10 percent to 11 percent less energy use, and an 11 percent to 12 percent reduction in operating costs.

• Increased government regulation and the desire to lower energy costs are expected to spur adoption of water-efficient products and methods.

• 73 percent of respondents are motivated to be more water efficient by energy cost increases, while more than two-thirds said they expect to respond to regulations on wastewater runoff (69 percent) and water efficiency (68 percent).

• Architecture and engineering firms, contractors, owners and product manufacturers can take advantage of the market opportunity with customers by focusing on how water-efficient practices and products can contribute to improved building performance. Current brand awareness is strongest for high-efficiency toilets (cited by 48 percent of respondents), water-saving sinks (30 percent), and waterless urinals (23 percent).

Concerns about "water becoming the new carbon" or "the oil of the 21st century" have already spurred some water-dependent firms -- such Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola -- to pursue new strategies for managing the resource so that business can grow while water use remains flat.

The 40-page study on water use is available from McGraw-Hill Construction for $189. More information and a summary of the report and its tabie of contents are available here.

Image courtesy of McGraw-Hill Construction.