Heather Benjamin
3 minute read

The Eurobusiness office tower achieved LEED Zero Water certification in August.

On Aug. 14, Eurobusiness, a LEED Platinum commercial office building in Curitiba, Brazil, became the first building in the world to earn LEED Zero Water certification. A complement to LEED, the LEED Zero certifications verify the achievement of net zero goals in the categories of water, carbon, energy and waste.

Starting off with LEED Platinum in 2016 was a high achievement in itself for developer and investor Marcos Bodanese, but when the opportunity to attain LEED Zero recognition appeared, he didn't hesitate.

“We were excited to have the first LEED Platinum office building in our region. At the time, LEED Zero Water didn’t exist. We did it because it was the right thing to do. But now, to have its actual, measured performance certified under LEED Zero is just thrilling,” says Bodanese.

The first building to certify to LEED Zero Energy was also in Curitiba: the headquarters of consulting firm Petinelli, which worked on the Eurobusiness project. Managing Director Guido Petinelli uses his own office building as a "living laboratory" of sustainability.

The LEED Platinum, LEED Zero Water Eurobusiness building

The LEED Platinum, LEED Zero Water Eurobusiness building.

Choosing to pursue net zero water

"I used to say that it is easier to sell a client on a Platinum than on a Certified project," says Petinelli. "After all, what young athlete ever dreams of going to the Olympics to place second?" Bodanese, it turns out, was one of those early adopters who Petinelli says "always want to go further and reach higher."

Then, the responsibility was on Petinelli to do whatever it took to make it work. In spite of the ambitious nature of reaching net zero, however, he found that several elements combined to make the journey easier than expected: beyond working with a visionary client, Curitiba is a city with progressive building codes and site conditions that made it easy to justify an innovative approach—plus, he was fortunate to work with a project team who bought into the idea.

In addition, the local water utility, Sanepar, supported the project, and as one of the best managed and respected water utilities in Brazil, their approval will likely encourage other projects to follow the Eurobusiness example and attempt similar projects.

Making smart choices with water

Eurobusiness incorporated many strategies to achieve net zero water. The 14-story building treats 100% of its wastewater (both grey and black) on-site, through a constructed wetland on its roof. The municipal building code requires that greywater be treated and reused and that a rainwater catchment basin be installed to reduce runoff rates. In a conventional design, these systems would be housed underground, taking up the space of about two parking spots.

In order to reduce initial costs and free up parking space, however, Petinelli suggested storing the rainwater on the roof. A pool of water now covers the entire surface of the roof deck. A raised floor system designed for exterior use was topped with fine gravel and planted with macrophytes, aquatic plants that thrive in or near water.

The constructed wetland is part of the treatment system, where the wastewater is repurposed for toilet flushing or is infiltrated on-site. No chemicals are used in the treatment process, and potable water is supplied by an on-site artesian well.

The LEED Platinum, LEED Zero Water Eurobusiness building rooftop constructed wetland

A wetland on the roof treats wastewater for the building.

Replicating natural systems proved to be the most economical solution for treating the building’s wastewater. It also allowed for the treatment of both grey and black water at no additional cost. In the end, the parking spaces paid for the system.

Since the available area on the roof was limited, it was also important to reduce the amount of wastewater generated in the first place. Efficient fixtures and fittings reduce potable water consumption and, therefore, the amount of wastewater.

Alternative water sources played a large role as well, contributing to an 82% reduction in potable water use. On-site water sources included captured rainwater, AHU condensate, subsurface infiltration, and grey and black water. During a measured 12 months, 65% of all water used was reclaimed. An on-site artesian well serves as the building’s primary source of potable water, and the building only uses municipally treated potable water as a backup source. Most stormwater is also infiltrated on-site.

The LEED Platinum, LEED Zero Water Eurobusiness building

The Eurobusiness building and rooftop wetland from above.

Meeting challenges in water metering

The importance of proving accurate data through metering is essential for LEED Zero certifications, and Petinelli is adopting this requirement going forward.

"This is our second LEED Zero certification, and a common theme that has already emerged is 'meters,'" says Petinelli. "We’ve been designing net zero energy and water buildings for some time now, probably over 50 projects to date. However, not all of these have meters in place...it’s easy to fix, however, and we are already working on it."

Of the Eurobusiness project, he says, "the building already had meters installed for both potable and alterative water sources. When it came to certification, it was easy to demonstrate achievement of LEED Zero Water’s requirements. All that was needed was the measured data for a year’s period.”

Petinelli has worked closely with the GBCI team to resolve any questions that arise as they go, and he is confident that the data measurement will showcase many other clients' projects going forward.

Who made it happen: The Eurobusiness team

Developer 

FMA Incorporadora

Architects

Borges Macedo Arquitetura, Realiza Arquitetura

Contractor/Builder

Engemática

Project manager

BBB

LEED consultant

Petinelli

Suppliers and other providers

Arvoredo, Belmetal, Ecotelhado, Egnex, GlassecViracon, Guardian, Perfilarc

*Bold text indicates USGBC members.

Giving meaning to the numbers with LEED Zero

Emphasizing measured performance "changes the conversation," says Petinelli. "We, as green builders, finally have a simple way to communicate to clients a clearly quantified value proposition. You can’t argue with data. And LEED Zero brings meaning to that data."

Petinelli finds that demonstrating market leadership through achieving the highest possible building performance standards is a natural sell for his clients. "I predict it will be even easier to persuade owners to achieve LEED Zero than LEED Platinum,” he says. It's human nature to want to reach the highest goal.

Learn more about LEED Zero