Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have ramped up their efforts in recent years to improve sustainability. Now, several newer projects may provide a blueprint — and set the tone — for the future approach to the construction of buildings and wastewater plants.
Amsterdam is touting the world’s first floating wastewater treatment facility. The structure, which was built to support a floating housing development in a former shipping yard, is being billed as energy-neutral and supports 550 households.
Dutch water company Waternet developed the concept of the floating purification plant, when steep land values made it too costly to locate on land, and selected Dutch-Frisian company Desah to build the structure. The plant cleans two types of wastewater: grey water, which includes wastewater from showers, kitchens, and washing machines; and black water, which includes wastewater from toilets.
The grey water is purified and discharged to a nearby river while the black water is separated by its organic material for a variety of uses. Biogas can be used to power the facility while phosphorus can be used in fertilizer and applied to nearby sports fields.
To conserve water and promote overall efficiency, the floating houses are fitted with the type of waterless vacuum toilets found on ships. This makes it easier to process the solid waste materials.
At the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, construction of The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design was completed in the fall. What’s unique is that the building’s wastewater is not connected to the sewer system.
The 37,000 square foot facility, which includes classrooms and laboratories, is designed to annually collect more water than it uses. Instead of conventional flush toilets, foam flush toilets and waterless urinals collect waste and send it to a bank of composters in the building’s basement.
Water from the sinks, showers, and drains is treated on-site. A constructed wetland, filled with native plants and situated at the entrance of the building, filters graywater before it is infiltrated back to the groundwater through a drain.