Graywater technology might not be as sparkly as brass faucets, but saving water is smart.
Buyers at KB Home’s new Sea Cliff development in San Diego, Calif. are more than aware of the scarcity and cost of water these days. “Our latest technology is graywater recycling. People like the idea of paying once and using the water twice,” says Jacob Atalla, vice president of sustainability for KB Home.
California’s water woes are front-page news everywhere in the country. Using potable water to irrigate lawns is not cool on the left coast. As water becomes scares, the price of water will go up.
Graywater technology lets people do good by conserving water and feel good by cutting monthly utility bills.
The Nexus eWater graywater recycling system captures about two-thirds of the waste water from a home and uses it to irrigate lawns or for applications like toilet flushing. KB Home first rolled out graywater technology in Lancaster, Calif. and Sacramento, Calif. projects. However, there it was only on a demonstration basis at model homes.
Sea Cliff is different. Every buyer of the 2,900 to 4,000-square-foot homes will have graywater technology included in the price point of their new home.
Homes start at $900,000. In addition, these WaterSense® labeled homes feature advanced plumbing, drought-tolerant landscaping, smart irrigation and the graywater recycling system.
The Nexus eWater smartphone app lets users of the NEXtreater and NEXheater see system status and usage information. They can check localized data in comparison to other homes in the area and review their investment via a personalized calculation of savings based on connection to utilities.
KB’s Focus and Future with Water Conservation
Atalla says KB’s focus on water conservation rides on top of the company’s commitment to energy efficiency in many other areas. Outdoors, up to 67,000 gallons can be saved by following WaterSense design guidelines for landscaping and irrigation systems, as well as by using treated and recycled graywater for landscape watering needs, KB Home figures.
Few people walk into a sales office and have graywater at the top of their wish list. “As people become more educated, these technologies will become a no-brainer,” Atalla figures. He notes that other technology, like solar panels and smart thermostats, once were challenging sells. Today, buyers know what to do to reduce their monthly utility bills.
Atalla, who is on the TecHome advisory committee, says KB constantly monitors technology to fill its desire to provide the best value for the customer. Water conservation starts with efficient fixtures in the home and continues outdoors with drought-tolerant plantings.
“Our gray water systems are for the customer to explore the technology and to use their water twice,” Atalla says.
Working with the Wow! Factor
At Sea Cliff, the graywater technology is part of the purchase price. Atalla notes that the sale of any technology depends on where that technology is in its overall lifecycle.
“With really new technology, there is more of a Wow! factor,” he says. Customers are suddenly aware that there is a money-saving technology available to them. Later, as the savvy customer becomes aware of a technology—like automatic thermostats or even solar panels—the gee-whiz factor fades.
“Graywater is an emerging technology. It has the Wow, surprise! factor,” Atalla says. “Yet,” he adds, “It is a technology that is needed in California to help conserve water.”
Down the road, Atalla hopes to see technology that will expand on the basic graywater systems available today.
“Systems will get better in terms of efficiency and cost,” he predicts. He also anticipates the coming of a meaningful user interface that will allow homeowners to track their water use and water savings.
“I’d like to see a good app for tracking money savings that will integrate with real-time water metering,” Atalla says. “It’s all about integration, and that doesn’t stop with graywater. It’s the whole house—monitoring every faucet, every toilet so homeowners can track their water usage.”
Curt Harler is a Cleveland-based freelance writer specializing in physical and data networking security, technology and environmental issues. Harler’s articles are widely read and respected for their leadership and insight.