“This could change the way we think about construction in the future.” —Ruffin Gray
A Lakeland business saved thousands of gallons of water and paid less for utilities its first year by constructing its new headquarters to Florida Water StarSM standards.
Kyra InfoTech, an information technology consulting business headquartered in Lakeland, used 70 percent less water than a comparable business in the area, according to Ruffin Gray, environmental coordinator with the City of Lakeland Water Utilities Administration.
“This could change the way we think about construction in the future,” said Gray. “We can encourage more businesses to start up, creating more jobs, with lower impacts on our water resources.”
The Kyra InfoTech building is designed to be more energy efficient and water conserving. Water saving fixtures are used indoors, and landscaping and irrigation outdoors are designed to use as little water as possible. One innovative feature of the project is its aerobic septic system, which allows the use of treated wastewater for irrigation.
In the building’s first year of operation, Kyra InfoTech averaged about 800 gallons of billed water use per month, compared to 3,000 gallons per month by the comparable information technology company.
“Building to the Florida Water StarSM standard can really improve a business owner’s bottom line,” said Susan Douglas, the District’s Florida Water StarSM program coordinator. “Lower utility bills reduce a business’s overhead, leaving more operating capital for expansion. Even an investor who builds and leases properties can benefit. A building with lower operating expenses can help attract tenants.”
The District recently certified one of the buildings on the Tampa Service Office campus to the standard, making it the second commercial building in the District’s region to be certified. The Kyra InfoTech building was the first commercial property in the District to receive the certification, and the second in the state. “The St. Johns River Water Management District certified a gas station in Jacksonville first,” said Douglas. “It realized a 64 percent savings in water use during its first year.”
Gray said that in addition to savings in operating costs, builders can reap start-up cost savings.
“A traditional building of this size would require a larger water meter, which would result in a higher impact fee,” said Gray. “Lower projected water use requires a smaller meter, which translates to lower impact fees and a better base rate on the monthly water bill.”
Gray also noted the improved curb appeal of the Kyra InfoTech building. “Like many small commercial buildings, the comparable business has very simple landscaping — just some turf with no inground irrigation,” he said. “Kyra InfoTech has a variety of landscape beds with drip irrigation, and it looks much nicer. Yet it used only a fraction of the water the comparable business used.”
Piyush Patel, Kyra InfoTech’s owner, said he became more aware of water conservation issues as his company began doing business with the District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“It’s important to understand a client’s business and mission in order to do a better job providing technology services,” said Patel. “I had to attend a lot of District Governing Board meetings for business purposes, and I began to realize the importance of saving Florida’s water. First I was convinced, then I was converted.”
Once he decided that saving water was the right thing to do, he began looking for ways to use some of the new technologies, “to save water for ourselves,” said Patel.
“This really was a slam-dunk for us,” said Patel. “The landscaping looks beautiful, and nobody can tell that it uses 70 percent less water. We’re saving money, and we’re doing something to benefit our future generations.”
“The cheapest water supply source that’s available to us is water conservation,” said Douglas. “With conservation, there are no water plants to build, reservoirs to dig or piping systems to run. The infrastructure is already in place. The more water we conserve, fewer new water sources will need to be developed in the future.”
Florida Water StarSM is a voluntary certification program that encourages water efficiency in appliances, plumbing fixtures, irrigation systems and landscapes. For more information, contact Susan Douglas, Florida Water StarSM program coordinator, (352) 796-7211, ext. 4752, or visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/fwsg/.