Step 1: Collect data and set a baseline. As with energy efficiency planning, a typical starting point involves compiling historic performance data to establish a baseline and understand trends over time.
However, be prepared for less robust datasets and more complexity in normalizing data when it comes to water and waste, both of which can limit the availability of meaningful benchmarks for comparisons across facilities.
Even without the ability to benchmark across facilities, this initial performance data analysis is a critical aspect of understanding areas of opportunity and gauging the effectiveness of implemented measures.
Step 2: Assess opportunities for improvement. Once a baseline is established, a waste or water efficiency walk-through assessment can be used to generate a list of potential initiatives to improve performance.
In the realm of water efficiency, an assessment protocol might mimic the process that the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends for energy efficiency audits, though focused on water-using equipment and operational procedures.
Waste assessments might include a physical sort of waste materials to characterize the amount and type of materials generated by facility operations and how well they are managed, paired with a walk-through of back-of-house and regularly occupied spaces to evaluate waste collection infrastructure, signage effectiveness, and the procedures and infrastructure for moving materials through the building. In particular, waste management improvement may seem daunting because of the importance of occupant behavior in achieving high performance.
In reality, the design of collection equipment and processes, along with procurement decisions and hauler arrangements, contribute significantly to optimizing waste management.
Step 3: Prioritize improvement opportunities. In terms of costs and savings, water and waste efficiency may not reach the same level of return on investment as energy efficiency improvements, though performance improvement measures can certainly generate financial benefits.
The assessment processes for both water and waste should involve establishing the capital or operational costs of each potential initiative, as well as the expected savings—similar to the financial analysis typical to energy audits.
Bundling efficiency planning and implementation across energy, water and waste impact areas is one way to put together a comprehensive building performance improvement plan, which can allow the overall costs and savings to be financially attractive even if individual tactics may not pencil out on their own.