San Francisco building brings water efficiency to low-income tenants

The building uses 51% less water than one of a comparable size and community, which saves about 12 million gallons over two years

BySpencer Christian and Tim Didion KGO logo
Thursday, April 28, 2022
SF building brings water efficiency to low-income tenants
A San Francisco nonprofit is integrating a wide range of water-saving technologies into its buildings serving low-income residents in the Tenderloin.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With the pressure from drought and climate change increasing, conserving water is now a driving goal in the Bay Area. Whether it's a suburban lawn under your feet, or a high-rise apartment hundreds of feet above you.

Mark Puchalski is the director of facilities with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation. The nonprofit is integrating a wide range of water-saving technologies into its buildings, which serve low-income residents in San Francisco. And so far, the results are impressive.

"This building uses 50% less water, 51% to be exact, less water than a building of comparable size and community. That's 12 million gallons saved over two years," says Puchalski.

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Their water conservation model is so successful it's being highlighted in a new sustainability report by the nonprofits SPUR and the Pacific Institute. Units like ones here at 222 Taylor in the Tenderloin are equipped with an array of efficiency fixtures, including low-flow showerheads and toilets, with more installations planned.

"I'd like to see an entire portfolio of buildings that have been retrofitted and or built new that incorporate all the latest technologies in water conservation," says Puchalski.

And the efficient use of water even extends to the building's rooftop. That's where Urban Agriculture Coordinator Katelyn Mann tends a sprawling rooftop garden, surrounded by skyline and solar panels. The plants are drip irrigated, and favor drought tolerant California native species.

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"So all of the produce that's harvested here goes to the tenants for free. And a huge part of our work is like looking at health equity. So how to get tenants produce that's grown fresh from the site, but also how to incorporate them into working on the site, so that they can get the benefits kind of the therapeutic benefits of gardening," explains Mann.

The non-profit is scaling up water-saving technologies at more than a dozen properties this year. Puchalski says the goal is not just environmental sustainability, but environmental justice. Perhaps creating a new model for bringing the benefits of water efficiency to lower-income communities.

"I would love to be able to give tours to other companies to come out and say, let me let me show you what we've done," he says.