Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The future...?

If I'd known when signing up that my "Designing Zero Net Energy and High Performing Buildings" class was actually "intro to HVAC systems" class, I probably wouldn't have signed up.  If I've learned anything useful from what our professor has taught us in the last five weeks of 3 hour, Tuesday night classes, it's that I shouldn't go into a career in HVAC systems.  I'm not nearly as interested in them as he is.

However, part of class has been exciting: the days when we had student presentations.  Because it was a special class that people signed up for last minute (and changed their schedules to take), everyone taking the class is extremely interested in the broad range of technology involved in making efficient buildings.  This means that, when asked to present case studies about zero net energy or high performing buildings that we find interesting, the presentations were very interesting.

The building which stuck out to me most in the group was the Omega Center for Sustainable Living.  This building is an environmental education center which strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible in every way - from the building itself, to the food they serve, to how they get rid of their trash.

Even more exciting, however, is what they do with their liquid waste.  The facility treats all of their own wastewater (up to 52,000 gallons a day) on site, using no chemicals and only solar power and gravity to keep the machine running.  After 36 hours, the water is clean enough to drink again!  (Though, due to water quality laws, they cannot actually provide it as drinking water and instead let it make its way down to replenish the local aquifer).

This, in my mind, has to be the future of sustainable living.  Celebrity chef Alton Brown swears by cooking tools that have multiple functions - he despises the single tasked tools that never get used.  In the same way, perhaps its time we focus on multipurpose buildings.  We could waste a lot less land (and a lot less energy on transportation) if we spent more time making water treatment facilities on the same sites as other facilities, and the like.  It's something to think about.

That said, I have class again tonight.  Hopefully we'll learn more this week than the design of another type of HVAC system.

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