Q+A with KB Home on Creating More Water-Efficient Houses
For the 11th consecutive year, KB Home has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its commitment to building water-efficient homes. This year, the builder was one of nine winners that received the WaterSense Sustained Excellence Award, the highest level of recognition given by EPA’s WaterSense program.
To learn more about KB Home’s water conservation efforts in single-family homes, BUILDER spoke with Dan Bridleman, senior vice president of sustainability, technology, and strategic sourcing at KB Home. He gave a little history on how the builder has approached water conservation in the past, through the last 11 years, and plans for the future.
BUILDER: How does KB Home approach water conservation in single-family homes?
Bridleman: Water conservation is an imperative part of our sustainability efforts and remains a top priority for the company. As a home builder, we have worked hard to reduce water consumption at our jobsites and in our homes. We understand that we need to conserve this precious natural resource, and, by doing so, we can also help our homeowners save money on their utility bills.
KB Home has been an industry leader in elevating the conversation about water. We integrate high-efficiency water products into our homes and were the first builder to participate in the EPA’s WaterSense program. We also helped expand the WaterSense Labeled Homes program, version 2.0, released in February 2021, which requires homes to be at least 30% more water efficient than a typical new home. As a leader in the industry, we continue to push the limits on how we can save water.
BUILDER: KB was just recognized by the EPA for the 11th consecutive year. How did the company approach water conservation in the beginning, and how has it changed?
Bridleman: We first partnered with the EPA over a decade ago. At that time, building with WaterSense labeled plumbing products was not common. We started by leveraging our relationships and trade partners to create change in the industry. We were able to use our strong supplier relationships to make these products available across all divisions at cost-effective prices. In turn, EPA was able to show how a builder like KB Home was able achieve these results, which was a great example for the industry.
Today, KB Home continues to champion the important role EPA’s WaterSense program plays in helping to both lower its buyers’ monthly utility costs and minimize their carbon footprint and energy usage. To date, KB Home has built over 17,000 WaterSense labeled and water smart homes and installed over 800,000 WaterSense labeled fixtures, which helps to conserve approximately 1.6 billion gallons of water annually. These efforts add up. For example, in a recent pilot program in Las Vegas the EPA found that on average KB Home’s WaterSense labeled homes use just 41,000 gallons of water per year compared to the 100,000 or more gallons used by typical homes in the region.
BUILDER: What are the main focus areas within a home for conserving water? How does the EPA measure water efficiency?
Bridleman: We focus on building new homes that are water efficient inside and out. This includes installing WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures like faucets, showerheads, and toilets inside and drought-tolerant and water-efficient landscaping outside. We feel our approach requires equal attention, as in some climate zones the water utilized outside of the home can be more than used inside.
KB Home became the first builder to certify homes using EPA’s new WaterSense Labeled Homes program, version 2.0, and RESNET’s HERSH20 water rating system. The program was piloted in the Las Vegas area, and preliminary field data collected by EPA confirms that homeowners are seeing significant savings.
The beauty of these types of rating systems is twofold: It provides us with the flexibility on how we can achieve efficiency while also offering home buyers the ability to assess the water efficiency of their home with numbers that make sense to them, which is savings on their utility bills.
BUILDER: What products come standard in a KB Home to help reduce water usage?
- Energy Star-certified dishwashers, which save water and energy;
- WaterSense labeled faucets, showerheads, and toilets, which save water without sacrificing performance; and
- Water-efficient landscaping.
BUILDER: What’s the biggest challenge to water conservation in homes?
Bridleman: These days, water conservation is not as much as a challenge as when we first started building water-efficient homes. EPA has managed the fixtures labeling process very prudently, and, today, water-efficient fixtures are readily available and easily deliver water savings to our customers without sacrificing convenience or performance.
Also, while water prices have dramatically increased in the past 10 years, the cost of WaterSense labeled fixtures reached affordable levels thanks to increased production levels. In the future, many established communities will need to raise their water and sewer rates in order to generate enough revenue to repair or replace aging infrastructure. Similar to energy efficiency, building homes with WaterSense labeled fixtures and other water-efficient features is a tool for us to create long-term affordability and help keep household utility bills manageable.
BUILDER: What advice would you give to other builders looking to incorporate water-saving methods?
Bridleman: Water conservation methods should not be a secondary priority. Work with the EPA and plan for saving water in your homes from the beginning of any project.