Bathrooms are one of the sanctuaries of our homes, but unfortunately they can also be one of the most water and energy consuming and mold prone areas of the house. When looking to green your bathroom it can be helpful to look to one of building's greenest guides, LEED. Below the jump we'll take you through all the major points in the LEED system that can help you get a healthier and more peaceful bathroom.
Indoor Environmental Quality
- Exhaust: Design and install all bathrooms to have either natural (via a window) or mechanical ventilation &mdash both of which should be exhausted to the outdoors. This will help draw humid, moist air out of the room to prevent mold and exhaust stale air. If you are using mechanical ventilation, such as an exhaust fan, aim to provide around 1cfm of exhaust per 1-square-foot of space &mdash or a minimum of 50cfm exhaust. When looking for exhaust fans get an Energy Star labeled fan and use one of the following strategies to control the unit: a) An occupancy sensor, b) An automatic humidistat controller, or c) A timer switch to operate in intervals.
- Use water-resistant flooring: Do not install carpet and instead use materials such as recycled content tile or finished concrete that can withstand consistent water contact without deteriorating or causing mold to form.
- Use nonpaper-faced backer board under tile to prevent mold growth.
- Gray Water: Use gray water (from sinks, showers, clothes washers &mdash not the toilet) to supply water for toilets and to irrigate landscaping. Gray water can come from other several in the house, even as close at the sink in the bathroom. Check with your local code for gray water use restrictions.
- Efficient Hot Water Distribution: If you are building new or renovating, locate all of your bathrooms, kitchen, laundry and mechanical rooms as close together as possible. Try to design the floor plan so that plumbing walls are shared and are as close to the water heater as possible. This will reduce the amount of energy required to create and transport hot water. Inclusion of a recirculating pump will provide more consistent hot water availability, particularly for fixtures furthest from the water heater.
- High-Efficiency Fixtures and Fittings: Low-flow showerheads and faucets will reduce demand for hot water and resulting energy use for water heating. The LEED minimum water usage rate is as follows: The average flow rate for all sink faucets should be ≤ 1.5-2.0 gpm, b) Showers must be ≤ 1.75-2.0 gpm, c) Toilets must be ≤ 1.1-1.3 gpf, dual-flush or be U.S. EPA WaterSense certified.
- Pipe Insulation: All hot water piping should have R-4 insulation and insulation should be installed on all piping elbows to adequately insulate the 90-degree bend. If your water heater is warm to the touch wrap it in an insulation blanket or jacket and wrap all incoming and outgoing pipes with insulation to a minimum of 4-feet from the water heater.
Materials and Resources
- Environmentally Preferable Products: Use products that are a minimum 90% made with either recycled content materials, are FSC-Certified or are reclaimed. Recycled content tiles are abundant and should be easy to find these days. If you are using wood cabinets, or other wood fixtures aim to have them FSC-Certified to ensure that they've come from an environmentally friendly source. Check out Craigslist, antique stores and salvage shops for unique and inexpensive cabinetry, fixtures and materials to give your bathroom character and reduce it's environmental footprint.
- Local Products: Aim to get most of your products from local sources &mdash both where the raw material was sourced and where the product is manufactured should be no further than 500 miles from your home. Ask your cabinetry maker where they get their materials and request that it be local &mdash unless you live overseas skip the European cabinets. Choosing local products will reduce the amount of embedded energy associated with your bathroom.
- Paints, Coatings and Sealants: Use low and no-VOC products for all of your paints, and even your sealants and caulks to improve and maintain indoor air quality.
Indoor Environmental Quality
- Moisture Control: Some bathrooms may need an dehumidification systems in addition to natural or mechanical exhaust systems. This would be used to maintain a humidity level of less than 60%.
Don't forget no product, appliance or fixture can be LEED certified &mdash only buildings can be LEED certified. Products can contribute or qualify for various LEED credits, so don't let a company fool you with false or misleading advertising.