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A Tool for Sustainable Residential Water Management

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posted on 26.02.2021, 21:26 by Alejandra Munoz Munoz
Water problems due to scarcity or climate change urge changes regarding how professionals design buildings to sustainably manage water. In the near future, it is expected that water scarcity and general environmental awareness will increase the demand for sustainable water management (SWM) practices in the US residential sector. However, research on SWM design practice has been oriented to specific design professionals, problems, and technologies.
These approaches lack a holistic perspective on SWM, especially at the single-­‐site, residential scale. Even though tools have been developed for SWM, there is a dearth of tools oriented to designers in the residential sector.
This dissertation's main objective was to investigate the needed components and initiate development of a tool oriented to SWM design for the residential sector. The development of such a tool began with a literature review, an ethnographic study, and a national survey that
helped to develop the SWM design process model and the tool's requirements. Using the information gathered and insights obtained, a prototype SWM design tool for residential applications was developed that integrates the required functionalities and allows for further development recommendations.
This dissertation contributes to increase the knowledge about the SWM design process in the residential sector providing a better understanding of the early phases of the SWM design process for SWM. The literature review enabled identification of the gaps in the knowledge base regarding the description of the SWM design process and the tools available for the residential sector. The ethnographic analysis of the SWM process based on a real case study in Pittsburgh, PA, and the national SWM survey provided critical information about components of an SWM
design process model and the requirements of the tool. From the literature review, and the previous studies evaluated, a model of the SWM design process was developed and implemented in a prototype. The tested prototype tool builds upon the principles of SWM design and integrates the functionalities required by professionals for SWM design in the residential sector:
-­‐ The prototype provides a holistic approach to SWM design. It integrates indoor and outdoor water needs and allows SWM components to be included its management.
Through a water balance table, the prototype incorporates different water supply sources (including reuse of grey and blackwater) and deploys them according to the quality needs of water uses.
-­‐ The prototype integrates costs and environmental performance in the early phases and supports multicriteria decision-­‐making in SWM design. In addition to the water balance estimation, the prototype performs hydrological and water quality estimations and cost estimations that serve as the basis for comparison of alternative designs through the use of Multi-­‐Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) techniques. The user gains from this approach a better understanding of the range of possible designs and the tradeoffs involved in
choosing from among them.
-­‐ The prototype incorporates methods of appropriate technical complexity for the early phases of design adapted to non-­‐expert SWM designers. Widely-­‐used procedures are employed, and regulations, assumptions, and suitability criteria for SWM components are made explicit to the user.
-­‐ The prototype provides a user-­‐oriented environment that allows modification and testing of alternatives or partial solutions with fast feedback to test design for sustainable
residential water management. The functionalities tested in the prototype can be used as a specification for software.
This will foster the integration of SWM strategies early into the design process with an approach that responds to designers' needs while adopting computational tools barrier-­‐free. This research provides a better understanding of the early phases of the architectural design process for SWM at the residential scale. It allows the development of future tools for residential water-­‐system design rooted in the reality of architectural and SWM design practice.




Degree Type




Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Jared Cohon David Dzombak Ramesh Krishnamurti Omer Akin