Rainwater standard designed to help code officials
Officials in Fairfax County, Va., were excited several months ago to review their first rainwater harvesting projects under county-mandated sustainability requirements. But developers also anxious to try out some new rainwater harvesting projects wanted to do some things not covered in the 2012 codes upon which the requirements were based.
Richard Grace, a code specialist in Fairfax County’s Building Code Services Branch of the Department of Land Development Services, said they had to turn down the first project that came to them just a few months ago from “The Boro,” a multi-phase development in the Greensboro area of Tysons Corner in northern Virginia. The developer of a three-block project wanted to install a rainwater harvesting system on the roof of one the buildings that would be used for heating, ventilation and air conditioning evaporative cooling. But, they couldn’t under the current direction of the adopted codes. Frustrated, Grace combed the internet for answers. That’s when he learned that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) had just approved a new standard developed over several years by the International Code Council and the CSA Group (formerly the Canadian Standards Association).
Even better, Grace learned that the CSA B805-18/ICC 805-2018 Rainwater Harvesting Systems Standard was designed to help code officials seeking an industry standard to develop guidelines that work with existing building codes. Grace saw in a draft of the standard that it would dovetail nicely with the Fairfax County rainwater requirement. “I called the developer and asked if he could make a few specific changes based on what I saw in the draft standard,” Grace said. “After some tweaking, we were able to approve the project.”
Shawn Martin, vice president of Technical Services at the Solar Rating and Certification Corp. (ICC-SRCC) — a program of the ICC Evaluation Service, which is also a subsidiary of the International Code Council — was excited to hear what Grace was doing in Fairfax County. Once word of the new standard and its expansion on existing codes spreads, Martin expects a lot more rainwater harvesting projects will come along. He said that ICC-SRCC noticed what their Canadian counterparts were doing with some standards related to rainwater harvesting components and that the Code Council reached out to the CSA Group five years ago to see if there was a way to develop a common standard for the entire system that could be used with existing codes in the U.S. and Canada until it could be adopted into the next round. The result was an 18-member — nine representing the Code Council and nine representing the CSA Group — ICC/CSA Consensus Committee on Rainwater Collection System Design and Installation (IS-RCSDI).
The committee, on which Martin served as ICC secretariat along with Paul Gulletson as CSA secretariat, held nine public meetings and developed three public comment drafts before submitting the final to ANSI and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). The American National Standards Institute is the SCC’s U.S. counterpart, which administers and coordinates the voluntary standardization system in America. Both organizations approved the new standard earlier this year.
The new standard makes possible many more applications for rainwater harvesting, according to Martin. “It’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard.” He added that the new standard will help address the design and performance of rainwater harvesting systems, backup water sources, storm water management and water quality in ways that are specific to the ways the water will be used. The challenges and opportunities when using rainwater for different purposes can vary significantly. Cooling towers, fire suppression systems, irrigation, toilet flushing and potable applications have some very unique health and safety considerations that this standard addresses. All of which will be especially helpful in projects that want to use rainwater harvesting to counteract drought, help with storm water management and provide an alternate source where there are water quality issues.
Officials who worked on the standard say rainwater — when properly harvested and treated and in compliance with local ordinances — can be used in many applications such as fire suppression, flushing, cooling towers, landscape irrigation, drinking water and swimming pool refill. In fact, 90 percent of a home’s water usage is of the non-potable variety, said Troy D. Vassos, technical director at Integrated Sustainability Consultants Ltd., in Vancouver, British Columbia, an expert in rainwater harvesting who also served on the Consensus Committee. Water for flushing toilets and showers and baths account for 60 percent of residential usage, said Vassos, and Vancouver also has some rainwater harvesting projects in the works.
Grace said he can see a lot of applications coming their way now that the new standard actually lets them accomplish what they set out to do in their county-wide regulation. “It had been a Catch-22,” Grace said. “We had this county-wide requirement that no developers could meet. The new ICC/CSA standard was very well-timed.”
As part of the 2018 International Code Council Group A code development process the new ICC/CSA B805-2018 Rainwater Harvesting Systems Standard was approved to be included in the 2021 International Plumbing Code (IPC) and the 2021 International Residential Code. Recently, the International Code Council Training and Education department has completed an educational presentation based on the 2018 IPC non-potable, water-reuse provision and the ICC/CSA B805- 2018 Rainwater Harvesting Systems, which will provide much-needed education to all interested parties who are looking to further their knowledge on these sustainable practices.