N.C. Home Meets WaterSense Specs; EPA Seeks Comment

The first WaterSense-labeled new home in Chapel Hill, N.C. has met the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's draft specification, including water-efficient products inside and water-saving features and landscaping on the outside, and incorporating design features that save water, according to a Nov. 25 press release.

"Through the WaterSense New Homes Pilot Program, we can lay a strong foundation for environmental progress," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "As the program encourages installation of products that save water and money, homeowners are realizing first hand the benefits of efficient water use."

Vanguard Homes, one of seven builders participating in the WaterSense New Homes Pilot Program, finished the home to meet EPA's draft new homes criteria for water efficiency and performance. WaterSense released a draft specification for water-efficient, single family new homes in May 2008. As EPA refines its draft specification for WaterSense labeled new homes, the agency has been working with seven pilot builders to construct homes that meet EPA's water-efficiency criteria and developing tools to help builders across the country participate when the specification becomes final in 2009.

Homes built to the WaterSense draft specification are designed to use about 20 percent less water than conventional homes by including WaterSense-labeled products and Energy Star-qualified appliances, and using water-efficient features and practices. In turn, homeowners can reduce their water usage by more than 10,000 gallons per year and save on their energy bills.

EPA has also developed and is currently soliciting public comments on a water budget tool to help builders, landscape designers, and irrigation consultants determine ways to design attractive, water-efficient landscapes. Many comments have been received on various aspects of the draft specification, including the landscape design criteria. EPA included the following two options to ensure water savings outside a WaterSense-labeled new home:

• Turf cannot exceed 40 percent of the landscapable area; or

• Builders can incorporate a water budget approach, which is a site-specific method of calculating the allowable amount of water to be used when designing a landscape.

EPA's landscape water budget tool will help builders and their landscape designers determine:

• The amount of water the landscape of new home is allowed to use, based on EPA criteria, and still earn the WaterSense label.

• How much water the designed landscape requires based on climate, precipitation, plant type, and irrigation system efficiency.

• Whether the designed landscape meets the budgeted amount.

This approach offers flexibility in landscape design, and EPA hopes this tool and the detailed guidance provided on how to use it will make it easier for builders and their landscaping consultants to determine water budgets and design landscapes to meet them. EPA is collecting public comments on the tool until Dec. 19; interested parties should email their comments to watersense-newhomes@erg.com.

WaterSense will be issuing two additional documents for public comment in the near future:

• Draft WaterSense New Home Certification Protocol should be posted in December 2008 for public comment.

• A second draft of the Water-Efficient Single Family New Home Specification is expected in early 2009.

At that time, WaterSense will also post responses to comments on the first draft of the specification.

To try the water budget tool or learn more about WaterSense, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/specs/homes/htm.

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