The Shanghai Tower will serve as a mammoth 125-floor rainwater harvesting structure. The breathtaking outside shell borrows the best designs from nature, collecting rain to purify and replenish 675,000,000 liters of water each year. Combining stores, offices and apartments, the building will serve as an icon for water resource management in China, as the country struggles to find enough clean water for its people and its growing economy.
“Unfortunately, most of the buildings in the world are not Shanghai Towers – most of the buildings aren’t new,” noted Dave Pogue, Director of Sustainability for CB Richard Ellis in the Artemis Project webinar earlier today. “While some of our buildings are new, we also need to be concerned about managing the ‘rest of the mess’,” David Pogue, CB Richard Ellis. “While some of our buildings are new, we also need to be concerned about managing the ‘rest of the mess’,” Pogue explained. CBRE manages over 1.2 billion square feet of property in the Americas, and the bulk of those buildings are not new. Environmental considerations must contend with budgets. “We have a lot of buildings struggling trying to find a way to be better in a water constrained world,” Pogue stated.While water is vital, it is virtually free today. And water seldom gets attention until there is a crisis. Pogue noted that basic water saving devices such as toilets and urinals generate only a trickle of benefits and take 8 to 10 years to pay back. They’re better than nothing, but still just a small drop in the bucket.We’re still waiting for the onsite appliance that reclaims water and treats rainwater with the precision and beauty of a miniature Shanghai Tower. Small-scale onsite waste water systems operate today, recycling water from sinks and toilets to save over half of the drinking water used by an apartment building. Companies like Dominic Sulik’s Natural Solutions Utilities are offering whole building solutions for onsite water management that match much of the savings from the Shanghai Tower. This offering is a service that pieces together existing solutions.We can see the crises are coming, but we are still waiting for the Apple version of a building water system that matches the benefits of the Shanghai Tower. “Its not about the cost of water, it’s about the downtime and the risk for the property,” John Macomber, Harvard Business School.“Its not about the cost of water, it’s about the downtime and the risk for the property,” notes John Macomber, Professor of Sustainability at Harvard Business School. If there is a lower cost of capital for a better risk-adjusted return on the property, then onsite water management makes sense financially.Professor Macomber suggests that real estate properties such as accommodations and hospitality operations—hotels, spas, and hospitals—are examples of some of the early candidates for water tech. “The beach head for water tech is where the landlord pays for the water, where the landlord can effectively measure the benefit of an intervention, and where the volume of water used really matters to the economics.”