From The Editor | April 11, 2018

CRM Pioneer Now Pioneering Comprehensive Water Recycling, Too

Pete Antoniewicz

By Pete Antoniewicz

Since 1999, when business people at more than 150,000 companies worldwide wanted to keep better track of their customers — and be more responsive — they turned to and its industry-leading customer relationship management (CRM) software. Now, companies looking for ideas on sustainability, in terms of water recycling, can turn to the new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco as a leading-edge environmental solution as well. It is estimated that the building’s water recycling system will save more than 7.5-million gallons of drinking water annually — enough to supply more than 16,000 San Francisco residents.

Pushing The Envelope Further Than Before

While individual aspects of the Salesforce Tower water recycling plan are built upon previously applied technologies, the sheer scale of the application is what makes it stand out. At the time of its public introduction, the company’s blackwater recycling system was the first of its kind in San Francisco and the largest in a commercial high-rise building in the U.S.

The complete system will interact with all water-related aspects of building operations — from top to bottom — including:

  • Rainwater. A rooftop collection system will funnel rainwater into the blackwater collection network to be recycled through the onsite treatment system.
  • Cooling Tower. The rooftop cooling tower heat exchanger will take advantage of recycled water processed by the water treatment system in the basement of the building.
  • Potable Water Use And Recycling. All sink faucets, drinking water fountains, and showers will use pure drinking water supplied directly from the municipal water utility, but will all drain into the blackwater recycling system for treatment and reuse.
  • Toilets. Treated, recycled water will be distributed through a separate recovered-water piping system and back to bathrooms to be used for flushing all toilets and urinals. Flushed sewage will be collected through the blackwater system and channeled back to the treatment system.
  • Irrigation. A drip irrigation system will distribute recycled water to keep landscaped areas fresh and green.
  • Onsite Processing. Blackwater returns will be processed through a six-stage onsite treatment system that includes biological wastewater treatment, UV radiation, and a membrane bioreactor for ultrafiltration. All solid byproducts yielded by that treatment process will be directed into the city’s sewer system.
  • Automated Control. Operation will be monitored constantly through hundreds of sensors distributed throughout the system, to ensure water quality and consistent operation. 

It is estimated that the net efficiencies from the recycling system will reduce potable water use by 30,000 GPD, reducing the building’s consumption of drinking water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission by 76 percent.

Sustainability Is In Salesforce’s DNA

Water recycling is not the company’s sole focus on sustainability. Other building features include a custom HVAC system that utilizes cool outside air flowing through a quiet, low-velocity distribution system installed beneath the raised floor system. The design is intended to take advantage of the city’s typically mild climate. The HVAC system also uses a heat exchanger to recapture any remaining heat in return air and use it to warm incoming air as needed.

The very structure of Salesforce’s cloud-based computing service is also geared to reduce carbon emissions. The depth of that commitment is outlined in a white paper — “ and the Environment: Reducing Carbon Emissions in the Cloud” — commissioned by the company and available through the company website. The document cites that a transaction is “on average 95 percent more carbon efficient than when processed in an equivalent on-premises deployment and … is on average 64 percent more carbon efficient than when processed in an equivalent private cloud deployment.” It also states that “’s estimated total customer carbon emissions footprint is at least 19 times smaller than an equivalent on-premises deployment, and is three times smaller than an equivalent private cloud deployment.”

Commitment Reflects A Growing Trend

The CRM software company that has helped companies grow for nearly 20 years is now also helping its local community thrive in a state faced with long-term water challenges. Salesforce Tower’s specific design reflects a broader view of the relationship between water recycling and overall sustainability. The undertaking reflects both the company’s attitude toward sustainability as well as its location in a heavily populated region of the country that is sensitive to water scarcity and environmental concerns.

While most of the state of California has had concerns over water scarcity uncertainties due to drought in recent years, the San Francisco area has taken that threat to heart with numerous projects designed to promote greater sustainability in its water resources.

In 2012, the City and County of San Francisco adopted an ordinance on onsite water reuse for commercial, multi-family, and mixed use development. As of July 2015, Article 12C of that code mandated the use of onsite non-potable water treatment and reuse systems to recycle graywater, rainwater, and foundation drainage for toilet and urinal flushing as well as for irrigation, in any new development projects exceeding 250,000 square feet of space. The 61-story Salesforce Tower comprises 1.4-million square feet of office space. is the largest tenant, occupying more than half of the building.