Saving water has long been a fact of life in California, and is becoming increasingly important in other parts of the Country. In the realm of decorative plumbing, efforts to save water continue to focus on toilets, faucets and showers.
As of January 2011 California has adopted a new Green Building Code referred to as “Calgreen”. This code is designed to conserve energy and water by making efficient building mandatory. This includes limiting the use of water in showers (max 2.0 gpm total), faucets (max 1.8 for the kitchen and 1.5 gpm for bathroom faucets) and toilets (1.28 gpm). In addition, some municipalities, like the City of Napa, are adopting even more stringent requirements for energy conservation.
There has been some concern in the decorative plumbing industry regarding Calgreen and the remodeling industry. At this time it appears that Calgreen will apply only to new construction; so you can still add a multi-outlet shower to your master bath remodel. Water usage in toilets however, will be determined by a different requirement.
California AB 715 was signed into law in 2007 and requires all toilets installed in California to be 1.28 gallons per flush by 2014. This is accomplished by requiring manufacturers selling toilets in California to offer an increasing percentage of 1.28 gallon models. Currently 67% of all the toilets a manufacturer sells in California must be 1.28gpf (by January 2014 it will be 100%). What this has meant for our showroom is that there are now certain models of Toto and American Standard (to name the two biggest) that are no longer available for shipment to California.
Both Toto and American Standard have upgraded most of their models to 1.28 gpf although there are a few exceptions to that. I have seen some concern about the functionality of 1.28 gpf models but I do not think there is reason to worry. We have for the last two years had a Toto Drake II 1.28gpf toilet installed in one of our public restrooms and it has been trouble free and easy to maintain. Some cities in Napa, Marin, Solano and Sonoma counties have offered rebates to encourage the replacement of 3.5gpm + toilets with 1.28 GPF models (see a list here).
Resistance to the use of water saving products is understandable. Low quality devices do often offer substandard performance; but it is not true that all water saving products are a drag to use. Manufacturers like Toto, Porcher, Hansgrohe, Grohe and others have invested heavily in engineering and design to produce effective products. Hansgrohe’s various air technologies result in low water shower heads that feel like much more water than is actually being used. Toto’s new Double Cyclone flush not only flushes well but has an action that results in a clean bowl; one of the greatest challenges for a low flush toilet. Grohe has designed their signature pullout kitchen faucets to meet low water standards while providing the performance Grohe is known for.
California has always been a leader in green building and what has started here is likely to spread across the country. Water saving is here to stay and we are fortunate to have so many ways to meet the new requirements without giving up performance.