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Explainer: This ain’t no bric-a-brac

This ain’t no bric-a-brac

In 1985, then-UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali famously declared that "the next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, not politics." Since then, concerns about water use and resources have become heightened. One Montreal company thinks it has a solution for your home.

EXPLAINER DRINKS FROM THE BRAC SYSTEM.

1 Dennis Yasar, 41, is the man behind Brac Systems. After making a living in real estate he decided he wanted to create something "special." And he believes that water offers him that opportunity. "The average Canadian uses more than 343 litres of fresh water a day – a demand second only to Americans – and 65 per cent of indoor home water use occurs in the bathroom," he says, citing figures from Environment Canada. The World Health Organization recommends that the average person only needs about 50 litres of water per day. After working for two and a half years with partners, plumbers and other experts, Yasar’s company has now launched a system that he believes can reduce the annual water usage in a home by 30 per cent or more. This is because about 30 per cent of our home water usage comes from the toilet. "Be honest, we all flush more than once," he says. Yasar has already sold 230 units worldwide, though only 20 have been purchased in Canada. He recently received approval from the Quebec government, so it’s now available to homeowners, renovators and builders in this province.

2 The Brac System looks like a regular home hot water tank and is installed next to it. The Brac System takes the water used in showers, baths, the laundry and the bathroom sink – known as grey water; sewage is called black water – and directs it through its filter to clean it of bacteria and other nastiness. This cleansed grey water is then routed to the toilet to be used for flushing. "One shower per person a day will cover the daily usage for the toilet," he says. The tanks come in three sizes to accommodate the number of people in a home or condo. The largest model is good for a household of roughly six and costs $1,895. Installation costs about $1,000 more for a new home, and double that for a renovation. "If we installed the system in one million homes with four people in each house, we will save over 80 billion litres of water per year," he says.

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  22 comments

  • by Andree-Anne Boisvert - February 1, 2007, 10:49 am

    This is a brilliant invention that is sure to set the norm for environmental conservation in the future. The last obstacle to taking units like the Brac System mainstream is the price. Too many people want to save the environment only if it costs nothing. We need to start admitting that conservation is well worth the investment.

  • by Erin Stropes - February 1, 2007, 11:25 am

    80 billion litres of water… damn, that’s impressive. And all from putting used water into your toilet instead of fresh? Now, what this clever man really needs to do is develop a model that apartment owners can install (for less than $1000 per unit) so that every unit in the building can use this system! If I were the government, this is the sort of thing I’d be handing out mad grants for.

  • by Heather Lee - February 1, 2007, 11:53 am

    Sewage systems across the country bear a silver lining when it comes to both an emerging economic sector and an environmental safeguard. The first world has long fallen into disfavour over its waste of water. It would be prudent for Mr. Dennis Yasar to continue to look for additional sources of grey water to flush his toilet. His unit could also collect water from the kitchen sink. Many litres of water are washed down the kitchen drain from everyday cooking, dishwashing …not to mention letting it run until you get that perfectly chilled glass of water. Maybe he could even find a way to collect waste water from car washing in the driveway. It’s clear to see that the future economy lies in the green belt.

  • by Angelo Baaco - February 1, 2007, 12:50 pm

    I think this is a great invention. The water that we currently use to flush is actually perfectly drinkable. Of course, since most of us don’t usually drink from the toilet, this water just ends up being wasted. So it makes perfect sense to flush using recycled water that we were going to let down the drain anyway. Hopefully those newly-built houses and condos will install these things.
    The only concern I have about this new system is the maintenance. I wonder how much more it would cost annually to keep it working properly.

  • by Marek Zyskowski - February 1, 2007, 1:12 pm

    Basically if I understand this is like recycling water. Recycling paper, plastic and metal seems to be a nuisance more than anything else. I mean you don’t really know what happens to all that stuff you recycle. But recycling water inside your own home seems like a really good idea. I think this new system should be a mandatory for new homes. I live in the country and most small municipalities have very limited capacity to provide water to new developments. Each time there is a new development is built pipe need to be put in and existing ones need to be upgraded. This could help keep taxes low for newer developments if the newer developments were more efficient.

  • by Steve Landry - February 1, 2007, 2:35 pm

    ~Eureka~
    Now that someone has figured out a way of re-routing grey water (because everyone knows that you don’t need clean water in your toilet to flush away the waste), why can’t someone in the Ministry of the Environment or some other leather-toed politician introduce a home energy program where households can qualify for some financial help to have this “very great-looking” system installed? Doesn’t it make sense to economize on water usage by reusing grey water? Isn’t this part of the solution to our lengthy House of Commons debates about finding “bridges” over “trouble water” scenarios?
    -I always wondered why toilet capacity sizes were reduced in new homes several years ago to reduce water, but caused a higher incidence of blockage (read toilet jams) forcing homeowners to flush two or three extra times to get the waste down the pipe, and using more water in the process?
    -The Brac System sounds like a great idea and should be “jumped on” as a viable solution to water shortage problems through a home-use modification system.
    -If Canada doesn’t run with this idea, you know other environmentally sensitive countries will or someone else will invent something similar but with a larger marketing budget than Mr Yasar.
    -Let’s be the first to make the statement that we can manage our resources with ideas we don’t have to buy somewhere else.

  • by Ruxandra Niculescu - February 2, 2007, 7:30 pm

    I believe this Dennis fellow is a wonderful man that deserves a lot of recognition for this invention. A lot of us realizes that water wastage is a big problem, but not many of us are willing to do much about it. I think it’s great that a man that used to work as a real estate agent was ready to take a risk in pursuing an idea like this. I also think that, if we want to make this concept spread and become main-stream, that the government should fund it and a lot of publicity should be made to spread the word.

  • by Martin Dansky - February 2, 2007, 11:05 pm

    The way to properly introduce this beauty of converting grey water into a flushable quality is tax incentives, with the difference in the money coming from donations or through city grants. The city grants would encourage landlords to convert from the old retarded way of water waste to something more eco-conscious. Where is the money going to come from? The city would be inducing landlords to up the rent to defray the cost of municipal installations, the money has to come from somewhere! So don’t be so eager to recycle your grey water. Just time the amount of minutes it takes you to shower like and that will reduce your consumption and save on energy costs for new contraption.
    But just out of curiosity wouldn’t a gismo to control the habit of flushing twice cost less to install? I mean here we are perpetuating the continued flush twice habit, when all it would take would be readapting. I guess profits would be much less than the handsome unit created by the inventor and his associates. In addition to the less lucrative venture the energy required to operate a blocking gismo would be much less than operating this beauty and I can say that without being a hydraulic engineer. I don’t think of this as being a brilliant solution as much as it is expensive and inappropriate especially for a city that likes to concentrate on changing street names.

  • by Eric St-Pierre - February 3, 2007, 7:52 pm

    Politics is in its most basic form simply about power over people and things around us. The fight over water protection is making more and more headway. As Canadians we have access to water like crazy but it’s quickly becoming a commodity with greater economic value. This bric-brac system seems awesome. The next step that needs to be taken is for governmental subsidization of this in public spaces. Perhaps then consumers such as ourselves will make a rational ecological choice and follow along.

  • by Mark St Pierre - February 4, 2007, 5:33 pm

    Wow, what a truly innovative and altruistic invention! After all, when it comes to flushing – no one gives it a second thought but thankfully, this contraption makes eco-vigilance a no-brainer. Though it may be extremely niave of me, I only hope that the Tories can see their way through to susidise the cost of the Brac System because I hate to see such a novel and noble innovation flushed away!

  • by Genia Chepurniy - February 4, 2007, 9:29 pm

    what a wonderful invention and like everyone else states, it would be great if there were government incentives, subsidies or something similar put in place to get these units into more and more homes… after traveling in Asia last spring, and having to deal with my fair share of squat toilets and interesting shower concoctions, i came back to Montreal truly appreciative of the water systems that we have here… but we definitely consumer a greater quantity of water than we need to and if we can not install something similar to the BRAC system, then we should research ways we can easily reduce water consumption in our home (ie- filling a two litre pop bottle and placing it in the reserve tank of our toilet will mean that we are flushing out less water or try simply taking shorter showers)

  • by Charles Montpetit - February 5, 2007, 11:16 am

    Yes, it’s about time we started recycling our grey water. But yes, the BRAC system is a bit on the expensive side. And yes, there should be government subsidies for installing it in our homes. Still, let’s stop waiting for external solutions that are both effortless and inexpensive: even if you’re broke, you can saving water right here, right now by cutting the shower water when you soap up, turning off the tap while you shave or brush your teeth, refraining from flushing every single time you pee, dispensing with most car-washes, and refraining from using your dishwasher until absolutely necessary. If you think that saving water is a good idea (and you should), don’t wait until BRAC does it for you at some future theoretical date, and start changing your ways right now!

  • by Shira Katz - February 5, 2007, 5:04 pm

    The idea of this invention sounds great, however, without laws and regulations, only people who can truly afford to purchase and maintain it, and who care enough to take the trouble, will install it. Here is more of my critique as to why people may not be so quick to purchase the system:
    1. I think many people will not take these types of inventions seriously unless there are serious incentives, such as a future new law that charges money for new water usage, which would likely influence people to buy this type of system to save money.
    2. There has to be competition on the market of similar inventions to bring the price down.
    3. If stale dirty water remains for an extended period of time in the toilet tank (e.g. overnight, or when people go on vacation), especially in an apartment building, will this encourage unwanted pests?

  • by David St Pierre - February 5, 2007, 6:52 pm

    Well, here’s one invention that is novel without being a novelty. Not only was the dude forward-thinking and eco-conscious enough to make it his mandate to devise an invention that would save tons of water, he actually followed through. Now the onus is upon us to ensure that we don’t squander this opportunity – I’m only hoping that the municipal, provincial, and federal gov’ts also take heed and pony up some cash to make this new-fangled Brac System de rigeur nation-wide.

  • by Stephen Talko - February 5, 2007, 9:59 pm

    The residents of the old city of Montreal like myself do not have metered water so there is little incentive to conserve this precious resource. Even this new toilet contraption that consumes little water is of no use when there is no running water as happened on February 1 when the main water conduit in our district broke. I was forced to go downtown to use the washrooms there. A much better idea is to do away with the need for water altogether. A composter in the back yard can collect all human waste converting it into manure to be used later as fertilizer. Bathroom sinks and tubs are also not necessary as there are soaps and shampoos which are quite effective without water just requiring a towel to clean up. Eventually water will only be used for drinking.

  • by Reuven De Souza - February 7, 2007, 6:25 pm

    The brac system is not solely rather inventive but something whose time has come with respect for the rest of the world. With quebeckers wasting more water per capita that anyone in north America it is a system whose time has come. The fact that we have such easy access of immeasurable amounts of clean water cannot be seen as an excuse for watering the streets, sidewalks, unnecessary home-grown fruits and vegetables, etc. a noble invention indeed.

  • by Marcello Furgiuele - February 7, 2007, 10:56 pm

    Wonderful idea to conserve water, however price is steep and incentive is low. There must be a combination of setting the right price for the product, and giving an incentive to reduce consumption aka water tax. It is only by “penalizing” for lack of a better word people that they will reduce their consumption. It is nice to have free water but as the author says the consequence is the high consumption rate in the US and Canada, it is not a coincidence. In Europe it frequently happens that residents go without water for a couple of hours, and they are able to live with it.

  • by Adam Richard - March 24, 2007, 12:43 pm

    I just bought a BRAC and am installing it into my new house that has been plumbed to allow grey water to flow to the system. All new homes should be piped to accept such a system as it doesn’t add that much to the cost. Retrofitting an existing home to use one can be tricky but eventually all bathrooms get updated and the plumbing can then be rerouted. If you think the price of fresh water will go down and availability will increase then there will never be enough incentive to make it mainstream. If the payback period becomes less than 5 years homebuilders will install them to appeal to the ” I’M green, but only if it’s easy and cheap” crowd. I believe this will become mainstream, it will become required to plumb all new homes to accept one and incentives, rebates and simple economics will make grey water recycling commonplace. The technology of these systems will soon allow for using recycled water for subterraneans landscape irrigation. This will only add to the appeal and could cut water usage up to one half in many cases. The common sense of this idea cannot be ignored!

  • by Pedro Eggers - May 13, 2007, 5:48 pm

    If you’ve lived in North America your entire life you will never fully understand how much we take water for granted. I still remember going to South America as a kid and thinking how funny it was that people actually kept barrels of water in their household. I’m not talking Evian or some spiffy shit like that but wooden barrels full of rain water. You don’t think we waste water up here? Trust me, you do. We all do.

  • by Daudi Saidi - May 14, 2007, 9:25 am

    Brilliant brilliant idea and in a right direction. Yes it is expensive but, so is every innovation in its infancy stage. Brac has sold only 230 unit worldwide(only 20 in Canada)! The price will for sure go down when more units are sold. So lets give a guy a break and praise his innovation. Keep it up Mr. Dennis Yasar.

  • by Daniela Forgione - September 8, 2007, 7:16 pm

    We will only realize how crucial it is to install such a grey water recycling system in all new residential and commercial buildings once it is too late and we will all have no drinking water left.

    We all have to assume the responsibility and use such a grey water recycling system to prolonge our limited water sources for our future generations to come.

    It would be great if the government would support these grey water recycling systems by offering incentives.

  • by Blouin Nathalie - February 15, 2008, 3:38 pm

    I can’t say enough to emphasize the importance of eco-conscious inovations. Water is our life force and no amount of waste should be justified. This system should be installed in every new building or house constructed. What are the law makers waiting for, a global crisis before they act? Bring the BRAC home!!

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