I am a big fan of Caroma toilets, and, to be honest, it’s not the water saving feature I admire most — that’s a prerequisite for any toilet I look at. What really stands out about Caroma toilets is the lack of a need for a plunger. Because of the way these toilets work — using a method called the flush down system — trapways are almost double the size what what we usually see, allowing more waste through and therefore, rarely clogging. In fact I spoke to a Caroma rep. at Greenbuild in 2011, who told me the story of a large hotel chain that was initially resistant to put in any low flow toilet; the hotel’s maintenance team already spent enough time fixing clogged toilets without the additional problems associated with most low flow toilets. Caroma finally convinced them to try one of their toilets in one room for a week. After the week, the hotel management asked how quickly they could install them — the Caroma toilet not only saved significant amounts of water, but it freed up precious maintenance time because people didn’t have to unclog toilets all the time.
Caroma’s toilets have always been designed to be a 6 liter/3 liter dual flush, but now they’ve introduced a new one on the scene: the Sydney Smart Point 8 which uses 3.8 liters and 2.7 liters for its dual flush, decreasing its water use even further.
To give you an idea about what kind of water savings you can count on, according to Caroma:
A standard 12 liter toilet uses about 58031 liters of water annually.
A 6 liter toilet uses about 26,528 liters annually
A Sydney Smart 8 toilet uses just 13, 265 liters annually.
The Sydney Smart Point 8 is available with either a round or elongated bowl and is easily cleanable.
Australians have been harvesting rainwater, using low flow water fixtures and dual flush toilets for years. In fact, dual flush toilets were developed by Caroma, an Australian company in the 1990s. You may or may not have seen a dual flush toilet before, but they are becoming more common in public venues such as sports arenas, shopping mall washrooms, and office towers. One side of the flusher will have a symbol of one water droplet, meaning flushes using 3 litres of water, while the other side will have 2 droplets, meaning it uses 4.8 litres to flush; ie: 1 means #1, and 2 means #2. Pretty easy! As Caroma points out on its website, toilet use in residences accounts for the most significant portion of residential water use, and an average family of four could cuts its water use by up to 72% just by installing and using dual flush toilets (and using them properly of course).
One of the best features of Caroma’s toilet, however, seems to be the fabulously generous drainage hole — known as a trapway in toilet speak. Unlike North American low flow toilets, where the trapway is typically 2 1/8″ in diameter, the Caroma dual flush toilet’s trapway is 4″. What does that mean exactly? Well, when I was at Greenbuild in October, the Caroma people were demonstrating what their toilet could do, and they were flushing whole oranges without any problem whatsoever. Caroma uses a different flush technology than the North American standard, which has given Caroma dual flush toilets the reputation for rarely clogging. Caroma explains their technology best on their website:
North American toilets most commonly utilize siphon jet technology. Most of the water in the tank is used to create a vacuum or siphon effect in the trapway of the toilet bowl, which then pulls the waste out after the water. In the past, several North American toilets have been subject to clogging due to the lower volumes of water used in ultra low flow toilets. The trapways of the bowls had to be reduced to allow the vacuum to be created.
Washdown toilets do not use this flushing mechanism. When flushed, the water is released very quickly from the tank and into the bowl through an open rim bowl design. The water very effectively and efficiently pushes the waste out of the bowl, which is then followed by the water. The flush is fast and allows for superior movement down the sewage drains, as the water is following the waste. Because washdown toilets do not rely on creating a siphon effect in the trapway, the size of the trapway does not have to be reduced. Caroma toilets feature a massive 4 inch trapway, virtually eliminating the possibility of clogging!
Design: One of the latest trends in toilets is the “invisible tank,” where the tank is hidden behind the wall. While this practice is common in commercial settings, it hasn’t been available to residential use due to building design. However, in recent years, strides have been made in design and invisible tank toilets are the latest thing. If you’re like me and you’re hesitant about how you’d access the tank in the event that anything back there broke, the flush mechanism is accessible through the dual flush toilet plate, and the tank itself is guaranteed to be leak proof. Installing the tank and toilet separately also gives you the advantage of adjusting the height of the toilet, or even moving the flush plate to an adjacent wall.
Two one-piece designs were recently launched on the North American market as well. One piece toilet and tank designs make cleaning easier.
Finally, the last toilet is the Somerton Smart 270, a two piece dual flush toilet and a fully skirted bowl.
One final note about low flow toilets, the California Urban Water Conservation Council in partnership with the Canadian Waste Water Association, has tested hundreds of low flow toilets for their maximum performance levels (MaP levels). In other words, how much stuff you can flush down the toilet, and Caroma has listed the results for each model right on its website. http://www.caromausa.com/resources/index/articles21
While at GreenBuild in October 2011, I had the opportunity to speak with Heidi Vassalotti, Architectural Sales Representative for Crossville Inc. regarding Crossville’s waste reduction efforts, sustainability efforts and new products containing recycled material.
First a little bit about porcelain tile: The difference between porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles is that porcelain tiles are fired at around 2200 F, whereas ceramic tiles are fired at around 1200 F. In truth, porcelain tiles are also part of the ceramic family, but they’ve been distinguished from ceramic tiles over the years because of the increased firing temperature and the way the raw material is processed. The material from which porcelain tile is made is a fine powdered dust derived from a mixture of minerals, clay and other materials. It is compressed together and then kiln-fired at around 2200 F. Because it’s fired at a higher temperature than ceramic, it is less porous, meaning that it is stain and water resistant and highly durable. It can also be used in exterior applications because it is frost resistant. Generally, when colour is added to porcelain tiles it is added to both the body and surface meaning that if it were ever to chip, it would be relatively unnoticeable. Ceramic tile, on the other hand, is more prone to chipping than porcelain tile, and often colour is only added to the surface layer, meaning that chips are noticeable. Porcelain tile is an excellent product for mudrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. It cleans easily and is incredibly durable with a 50+ year lifespan.
Over the past few years Crossville Tile has been tackling waste reduction in its manufacturing processes. Throughout the firing process there is a lot of waste by-product produced, including the residue waste that is the result of the firing, and tiles that are fired but either break during the process or don’t fire properly so they can’t be sold. In the past all of this material was bound for landfill. Now however, it is being reused in the process of making new tiles. These tile lines are part of Crossville Tile’s Eco-Cycle porcelain tiles and contain 15-50% pre-consumer waste. As part of Crossville’s ongoing sustainability plan, incorporating this fired waste and filtrate material into its manufacturing processes prevents 12 million tons of waste from going to landfill every year.
But further to its finding a use for all of its own waste, Crossville has entered into an agreement with TOTO to take all of its products that didn’t survive the firing process to use as raw material. It means that now all of Crossville Tile’s porcelain lines contain 4% recycled waste. I know 4% doesn’t seem like a lot, but the results are actually significant. It’s the same kind of thinking as having all North Americans change out one incandescent light bulb for a CFL versus one or two of us becoming “No Impact Man.” In Crossville’s manufacturing processes, a little recycled matter is more significant across an entire system than one or two recycled lines out of 100 different products. (Note: this is not to say that either the efforts to create recycled product lines or “No Impact Man” aren’t worthwhile — they are, it’s rather to emphasize that a little recycled material across the board can make a big difference overall.)
Crossville Tile has also established a “Tile Take Back” program, whereby if you don’t want to see your old shower tiles end up in landfill, you can send them to Crossville and they’ll be crushed down into dust and reused in new tile manufacturing. Granted, this makes sense for commercial renovators more than individual home renovators, but you never know if some sort of co-op can’t be developed to handle this kind of program.
The result of these waste reduction efforts is that Crossville is now a netimporter of waste products; it actually uses more waste than it produces in its manufacturing process. What this also means is that fewer natural resources are being used to produce its product lines — and not just one of its lines, but every single one.
In addition to its waste reduction efforts, Crossville Tile also tackled water use. Whereas water used to be used once and sent into the local city sewer system for treatment, a new system is now in place where water is 99.98% is reused. The final 0.02% that does leave their plant is treated before leaving while the leftover sludge that used to go to landfill is now a raw material for some of its tile lines.
Third Party Certification: In order to demonstrate that its recycling systems were as they claimed, they brought in Scientific Certification Systems, an independent third party, to audit its processes in manufacturing and water use. Under SCS’ Floor Score auditing arm, it also certified Crossville’s final products for Indoor Air Quality.
While Heidi was telling me about the waste reduction efforts at Crossville Tile, I wondered if it was possible for it to partner with municipalities for a similar program to its Tile Take Back program for old ceramic toilets, sinks and tubs. For instance, the city of Toronto used to have a toilet rebate system whereby if you replaced your old toilet with a more efficient model you’d get a rebate of $60-75 for new, water efficient toilets. It meant a lot of that porcelain was going into landfill. Heidi told me that yes, it would be possible, assuming they tested the older products for other materials such as lead and biohazardous waste. In the meantime Crossville has just ventured into a project with the city of Chicago which is renovating one of its municipal buildings. All of the old porcelain tile within the building is being shipped to Crossville’s factory, ground down into the raw dust material, and then being reused in new tiles to be put back into the renovated building. I love hearing stories about forward-thinking businesses and governments working together, it is so inspiring.
Delta Shower Heads with H2Okinetic Technology, 1.5 gpm flow rate
I spoke with Karen Marshall of Delta Faucets when I was at Greenbuild and we talked about where consumers can make the biggest difference in water consumption. Not surprisingly (particularly if you have teenagers), it’s in the shower. The average shower time is around 8 minutes. Most standard shower heads provide 2.5 gallons per minute of water (9.5 litres per minute). So, let’s do a little math here to see how much water our family of 5 uses per year. If each of us showers for 8 minutes we’re using 20 gallons or 76 litres of water each with a 2.5 gpm shower head. Now multiply that by the number of people in our family (5) which comes out to 100 gallons or 380 litres of water every morning. If we shower 365 days/year, that translates into 36,500 gallons or 138,700 litres per year for five people. That is a lot of shower water! Not to mention the energy that goes into heating the water, and the amount of energy used at the water treatment plant.
Needless to say, cutting your shower time will help immensely. If you can take a 5 minute shower, you’re already reducing water consumption by 3 minutes or 12.6 gpm instead of 20 gallons. Yes, I’m perfectly aware that convincing your teenager to take a shorter shower is a Herculean task. Now, in addition to that shorter shower, add a low flow shower head so you’re only using 1.5 gpm. Suddenly you’re making a significant difference in water consumption. A 1.5 gpm shower for five minutes uses only 7.5 gallons/28 litres of water, about 37% of a standard showerhead used for 8 minutes.
But, there’s a catch — or at least there has been. If you remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer’s and Jerry’s showerheads are replaced by low-flow showerheads, then you’re perfectly aware of their flaws. Old low-flow technology used water flow restrictors to reduce the amount of water coming out of the shower head, which meant no water pressure. Rinsing thoroughly was a challenge resulting in a soapy film and not-so-flattering hairdos.
The technology over the years since that Seinfeld episode has greatly improved. For instance, Delta uses a completely different technology which they call H2Okinetic Technology to make a 1.5 gpm shower feel like a full 2.5 gpm shower. Water is funneled through the showerhead in such a way that the individual droplets coming out of the shower are larger and retain their heat longer. When a low-flow shower head incorporates this technology, a shower with a flow rate of 1.5 gpm will feel like a standard shower that uses 2.5 gpm shower while giving you a water savings of almost 40%.
Models: There are plenty of design options available using both the H2Okinetic technology that are Water Sense approved. It’s important to note that not all H2Okinectic technology showerheads are Water Sense approved or low-flow, so if you’re looking at an H2okinetic shower head showerhead make sure you also note its flow rate.
Delta Faucet’s website allows you to see what models are available by the features you’re interested in. For instance, in “showerheads” category I selected the “Water Sense” and “H2okinetic technology” filters and was given a wide selection of models that meet both these criteria. The selection also came back with one “jet shower” which is the body spray type installed on shower walls. It may be Water Sense approved, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that any body spray shower is eco-friendly, Water Sense approved or not.
Delta Faucets are widely available at the big box stores (Home Depot, Rona and Lowes, etc.) as well as plumbing stores throughout North America.
Nexterra and LivingHomes have partnered to build 4 luxury eco-homes in a quiet setting on a ravine, close to the subway, restaurants and amenities. These homes are greener than your ordinary homes and if you’d like to read more, see an earlier post I wrote about the project.
Nexterra has been working tirelessly to find more suppliers for these wonderful homes. When I was at the Interior Design Show 2011, Nexterra invited a few of us on a tour of five new partners recently added to their list of suppliers. Nexterra has two requirements when selecting suppliers: that the products are designed with high style, and that they help preserve the environment whether that be by avoiding off-gassing of harmful chemicals into the built home, conserving water and/or energy, or choosing materials that have a lower impact on the environment than their traditional counterparts.
Be Collection -- Sink
WETSTYLE: A Montreal-based company, makes beautiful sinks and tubs by hand. Each tub takes about 6 hours to finish and almost all the work in manufacturing the products is done by hand. All work takes place in the factory in Montreal. In addition to the lower energy use, the factory boasts a waste and scrap rate of less than 1%. Bath furnishings come from the Cube Collection, Be Collection and M Collection. (Note: for a list of retailers for WetStyle, see their website.)
Hey Joe Faucet by Aquabrass
Aqua Brass: Italian-designed faucets and shower heads that anyone would be proud to put in their homes. These faucets are beautiful contemporary pieces that belie their functionality. The Bridge Collection of faucets will be used in the powder room and second floor main bathroom, while the Hey Joe Collection will be used for the master bathroom. The faucets use 1.6 gallons per minute versus a standard flow rate faucet of 2.2 to 3.8 gpm. To find a dealer near you, visit their website.
Natura Paint by Benjamin Moore. Zero VOC
Benjamin Moore:Natura is a line of zero VOC paints, even when colour tints are added. This last part is important because some paint retailers boast zero VOC paints — but only when the paints aren’t tinted. Natura 100% acrylic paints are water-based, fade resistant, have good coverage and come in finishes of flat, eggshell and semi-gloss. (To find a retailer near you, visit their website.)
Quartz Reflections by CaesarStone
CaesarStone: Quartz is the lowest maintenance, most durable of all the stone surfaces. The surface being used for the kitchen island, side gables and countertops also has recycled content which includes crushed quartz, post consumer mirror and windshield glass all of which is being diverted from landfill and reused in this product. Product is Quartz Reflections, #7141. To find a Caesarstone dealer near you visit their website.
AEG Steam Oven
Euroline Appliances: Euroline is providing all of the kitchen and laundry appliances for the homes.
AEG is supplying a cooking tower that includes: A 24″ oven, steam oven, microwave and warming drawer, induction cooktop (induction boils water in under a minute) and dishwasher. The washer and dryer (Lavamat and Lavatherm) are also AEG appliances.
Liebherr is supplying 24″ (each) refrigerator and freezer which stand side by side. Liebherr is one of the first companies to completely eliminate hazardous chemicals from its manufacturing process.
Franke: A Swiss company providing the sink and faucet.
Euroline is located at 2278 Speers Road in Oakville, ON.
For the most part we rely on third party organizations to determine what is and isn't a "green building material." The only time we might not is when products are locally produced or no third party green designation is available for the product.