Wastewater innovation doesn’t have to be hidden from view
The American Institute of Architects and its Committee on the Environment released its top ten green projects of the last year, praising designers trying out new ideas during a rough economy. Architecture fans might have guessed some of the winners – Vancouver, B.C.’s schmancy convention center with the largest vegetated roof in North America; the K-12 school in Greensburg, Kan.; a lab at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
For my money, the most intriguing winner is the Olympia, Wash., service center for the LOTT Clean Water Alliance. The combination office, research lab and waste treatment plant uses methane generated from waste to heat the building directly, avoiding the need for a boiler, and employs solar heat gain and daylighting to reduce the lighting load. There’s also a pond fed by reclaimed water.
Drawing heat from waste treatment isn’t new, although it is a tragically underused energy source. What’s more notable is that the treatment plant isn’t hidden from public view – it’s on full display. The alliance even offers tours to the public.
One of the first steps to ramping up innovative ways to handle wastewater and rainwater is to get people willing to talk about the stuff. The era of modern plumbing (a great advance for humankind, by the way) brings with it a flush-it-away-and-don’t-think-about it mentality. Now that leaders like Cascadia Green Building Council are promoting creative ways to conserve and reuse the, uh, stuff, it’s helpful to have examples like the LOTT facility that are visible to public.
Props to Seattle’s Miller Hull Partnership for leading the project.