UBC Undergraduate Research

Sustainability project : a shower head analysis for Walter Gage Residence Arnold, Ip; Connor, Mackay; Nevin, Taylor; Ryan, Unger; Liz, Vasilkovs


In recent years, UBC has taken very seriously the concept of being sustainable, and this can be seen through many of the initiatives they have been part of. One area where UBC is attempting to be more sustainable is in their water use. In previous SEEDS projects, groups did triple bottom line analyses of competing low flow shower heads using economic, social and environmental indicators to make a suggestion to Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS) about a more sustainable replacement shower head. While these groups did attempt to make suggestions to SHHS, it was concluded that more research would need to be done before a decision was made. Our SEEDS project was designed to make further suggestions to SHHS about implementing low flow shower heads at Walter Gage residence, and more broadly, for all of UBC. Walter Gage residence had one criteria that other residences didn’t have: The replacement shower head needed to have a wand in order for the cleaning and maintenance staff to more easily clean the showers. Knowing this, we researched different shower head brands and their reviews and came up with two shower heads which we would test. These two shower heads are called WaterPik Eco-flow 6-Setting Handheld, and Niagara Earth Massage Handheld, hereinafter respectively referred to as the “WaterPik” and “Niagara”. To analyze the possibility of using these as the new replacement shower heads, we did a triple bottom line assessment using economic, social and environmental indicators. Our economic analysis was done by comparing the cost of each shower head, along with the amount of money saved in water conservation over a ten year period. Our analysis showed that the Niagara and WaterPik would both be economically viable, but the Niagara more so. Our environmental analysis was done by calculating the water saved by switching to each shower head, and why conserving water has environmental implications in Vancouver when we have a nearly unlimited supply of fresh water. This analysis also showed the the Niagara and WaterPik would have positive environmental impacts, with the Niagara again having the more positive impact. Our final indicator was a social analysis, where we gave each student testing out these shower heads surveys asking questions to determine their satisfaction with the shower heads and other such questions . This analysis did not go as well as anticipated for a variety of reasons. Each student involved in testing out the competing shower heads (6 male, 6 female) were given these surveys after each shower head had been tested for a week. When we collected all the surveys, we only received 19 out of the possible 36 surveys back, and it could be seen that most had been filled out at the last minute because of the date at the top. With so few responses, it was very difficult to make conclusions about each respective shower head. From the small sample size, it seemed as if the Niagara shower head was the least popular, but without more information, we could not say so conclusively. Based on our economic and environmental indicators, the Niagara shower head seemed like the most viable option, but the surveys did not give us enough information to make a confident recommendation to SHHS about implementing it as the new replacement shower head. Without knowing the very important social implication of how much the students enjoyed the shower, we can only suggest that more research be done to examine the social impact of a new replacement shower head. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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