Trend Tracking

By Jim McCloskey

It’s not all that often that I use WaterShapes World to discuss a specific item appearing in our current newsletter, but this time I can’t resist:  The first in a series of three great articles appears in this edition, and I want to call as much attention to it as I can.

In my last blog (click here), I wrote about the important lessons water-oriented professionals have learned through coping with the drought that has plagued California for the past six years.  I noted that this is a phenomenon that periodically afflicts other parts of the country as well and suggested that watershapers everywhere would be well advised to become water wise.

Then along comes this set of articles to add practical, tangible, sensible depth to my opinions.  Written by fountain specialist Robert Mikula, the series is about sustainability on a level that reflects just how far the thinking about energy efficiency and cost control has come in the years since the LEED program became so large a part of the commercial construction universe.

For years now, products, approaches and philosophies borne of LEED compliance have been filtering over into the residential marketplace as well:  Widespread deployment of variable-frequency-drive pumps, high-efficiency heaters, LED lights and smart controls all demonstrate the fact that energy conservation is not being overlooked by watershapers on any level.

What I’d like to add here is that the same sort of attention is being paid to the ways chemicals are being used and, as Mikula will define in his second and third articles, to developing best practices when it comes to setting systems up with water conservation, flexible site programming and energy efficiency in mind.

On the commercial side, movement in these thoughtful directions doubtless tracks itself back a good number of years, starting with the energy crisis of the 1970s, the health-consciousness trends of the 1980s and ’90s, and the many drought episodes that have plagued the watershaping industry periodically through so many of the intervening years.   There’s still a lot of retrograde thinking out there, but it boils down to this:  It’s never wise to think that saving a client’s money, whether it has to do with water, chemicals or energy, is a bad idea.

This is the context into which Mikula’s three-part series, called “Sustainable Trends,” is emerging – and I don’t think the timing could be much better.

The first of the articles, “Water’s Place” (click here), is all about the reasons why water is so important, undeniable and precious a part of our lives.  Mikula starts with Wallace J. Nichols’ amazing book, Blue Mind, and defines the specific role watershapes play on the grandest psychological and sociological levels.

What Mikula perceives – and addresses so eloquently – goes beyond Nichols once he begins discussing what he knows from his everyday work at Crystal Fountains:  that it doesn’t take much to derail a watershape project these days and that their beneficial and desirable inclusion in built environments is made more difficult by water shortages (perceived or otherwise), a lack of purposeful design and cavalier consideration of energy consumption.  I’d add a fourth factor, that is, an emerging sense that chemical treatment of water is a questionable if not a bad thing.

This punishing gauntlet of factors is something that almost all commercial watershapes must pass through, and both Mikula and I would argue that the same rules are increasingly governing what happens on the residential side.  He approaches the energy and water issues with great passion in future installments, defining pathways to system development that make it easier for the fountains he develops to be included in large-scale civic projects where water and energy use are huge considerations – and sources of easy objections.

More and more homeowners are concerned about the same issues as their civic and commercial counterparts.  Fears of ongoing running costs, the appearance of overconsumption (or of water wastefulness) and perceptions of chemical hazards can create a brutal working environment, but I believe that Mikula’s suggestions, carried in the second and third parts of his article (to be published March 22 and April 19, respectively), offer a way of thinking and talking about sustainability that truly makes sense and might help put the “fearful” at ease.

See for yourself:  It’s powerful stuff, and I’m proud to be part of spreading the word.

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