June 23, 2008

New York Water System

New York City's water supply system has grown from a few wells on Manhattan Island to one of America's most extensive municipal systems. Today, it relies on a combination of tunnels, aqueducts and 19 reservoirs both in the city and far upstate to meet the daily needs of 8 million residents and countless visitors. Thanks to well protected wilderness watersheds, New York's water treatment is simpler than in other American cities. Downhill flow allows the system to do without pumps.

The complex system is divided into three separate systems:

  • The Croton system, the oldest and smallest, sits in Westchester and Putnam Counties.
  • The Catskill system, built decades later, is significantly larger then the Croton. In the early years of the 20th century, the city and state designated thousands of acres in the eastern Catskills to build two reservoirs that more than doubled the city's capacity.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, the city expanded its water system again, tapping the east and west branches of the Delaware River, as well as other tributaries of the Delaware and Hudson rivers to create the newest and largest of its three systems, the Delaware system, which provides around half of the city's water supply.

The Croton system is the source of numerous turbidity issues for the city's water. Engineering studies in 1903 also recognized that the clay of the steeply sloped Eastern Catskills turned the clear waters of the Schoharie and Esopus Creeks (which feed the Catskill system) muddy after storms. In addition, both the Cannonsville reservoir of the Delaware system, as well as many reservoirs within the Croton system have also had quality issues related to algeal blooms.

The city has sought to restrict development throughout its watershed. One of its largest watershed protection programs is the Land Acquisition Program, under which the New York City Department of Environmental Protection has purchased or protected through conservation easement over 70,000 acres (280 km²) since 1997.[1]

World's 1st mobile water purification system debuts - April.26.2005

chelsea_pier62.jpgJean-Michel Cousteau, explorer, educator, environmentalist and film producer, joined business executives yesterday, in New York, in launching the first water purification unit that converts polluted water into drinkable water.

The 12-meter-long mobile emergency filtration system, or MEFS, which was on display at a Manhattan pier in Chelsea,(pictured), took in large quantities of the Hudson River and converted the brown liquid into clear water during a process that took about 15 minutes, as reported by Kyodo News and published by Japan Today.

The unit, which is the first of its kind, is capable of producing 60,000 gallons of high-quality water per day and was created by Ecosphere Technologies, a subsidiary of UltraStrip Systems, Inc.

The self-contained unit could be installed on an emergency or temporary basis and would be capable of providing enough water for the daily needs of 10,000 people.

New York Water System: Reservoir Management

the water test:

Many New Yorkers say they drink bottled water because it tastes better, but ABC's 20/20 did a blind taste test.

They offered people New York City tap water and five other bottled waters, Evian, the top-selling bottled water Aquafina, Poland Spring, Iceland Spring (which comes all the way from Iceland), and American Fare, a discount brand from Kmart, which sells for less than half the price of Evian.

"In our test of bottled waters, Kmart's American Fare — the cheapest brand — won. Big-seller Aquafina came in second.

Iceland Spring tied the ordinary tap water for third place. Fifth place went to Poland Spring, and in last place, by far, with almost half the testers saying it tasted bad, was the most expensive water — the fancy French stuff, Evian.

"It tasted like toilet water," one man said.

Evian had no comment about that review.

Bottom line, if you buy bottled water because you think it's healthier than tap, test after test shows no evidence of that. And if you buy fancy brands because you think they taste better, you're probably just buying the hype. " ::ABC

Note: While New York City may have some of the best water around, your building may compromise it with old lead pipes. Read Umbra in Grist.

June 22, 2008

LANDSCAPE: Greensburg, Kansas, GreenTown

Rebuilding Greensburg

Eleonore de Lusignan

After the tragic tornado storm that swept through Greensburg, Kansas on May 5th, 2007, the town is left to rebuild itself from scratch. So why not doing it right and making it the most sustainable in America? With the support of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Greensburg has established a Long-Term Community Recovery Plan that as stated sustainability as there number one priority. The decision made along several town meetings, energy use was put on top of the list and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has established a field office in the town.

Green Source:

There’s a constant tension between rebuilding as fast as possible and making the right decisions. But because Greensburg was already on a slow, steady decline prior to the tornado,” explained Hardy, “residents know that if they were to simply jump in and rebuild exactly as before, there’s no reason that trend would change. They recognize that and want to do something different.”

Greensburg-based companies are using the disaster as an opportunity to advance their businesses by embracing environmental responsibility.


TH: So what led to the desire of the townspeople to rebuild green?

BD: I think several things have contributed to it. Number one is that we’ve all been called to be good stewards of what the lord has blessed us with, and that’s just naturally going green because we’ve all become aware that the fossil fuel resources are running out. So we’ve lessened our use of fossil fuels and cut utility bills; sometimes without spending a tremendous amount of money by 30, 40, even 50 percent.

In rural America we are the original recyclers and our forefathers and pioneers knew the advantages of passive solar heat with their animals and homes, and geothermal energy as well, using it through dugouts and cellars with root crops. They were aware of all that technology generations ago. So that’s where we go back to as our roots; take care of the land because it takes care of you.

And being close to nature has also really spurred us on now that we’ve had the opportunity to rebuild from scratch. " Treehugger


Planet Green’s GREENSBURG docu-series premieres June 15th!

WATER: Greywater Guerrillas

The Greywater Guerrillas are a collaborative group of educators, designers, builders, and artists who educate and empower people to build sustainable water culture and infrastructure.

According to the New York Times, they are "a team focused on promoting and installing clandestine plumbing systems that recycle gray water — the effluent of sinks, showers and washing machines — to flush toilets or irrigate gardens." with a mission: “It’s about trying to use resources to their full potential and interact with ecosystems in a beneficial way.”

This is not just using a hose to spray your garden with shower water, this is a sophisticated recovery system. the picture above shows "A pipe running from the house deposits shower and sink water into an elevated bathtub in the yard that is filled with gravel and reeds, and the roots of plants begin filtering and absorbing contaminants. The water then flows into a second, lower, tub, also containing a reedbed, before flowing into a still-lower tub of floating water hyacinths and small fish."

recently published "Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground"

Dam Nation is a people's history of water—and the water grid; a detailed accounting of the fallout from a century of Manifest Destiny's attacks on wild rivers. The book traces how—across five continents—beleaguered commoners block the neoliberal makeover of the world and endeavor to restore balance between humans and watersheds. These strategists and innovators blow open the scarcity myth to show how local democratic control coupled with watershed restoration can provide water for everyone.

What is graywater ?
Any water that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called graywater . Dish, shower, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80% of residential "waste" water. This may be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation.

Why use graywater ?
It's a waste to irrigate with great quantities of drinking water when plants thrive on used water containing small bits of compost. Unlike a lot of ecological stopgap measures, graywater reuse is a part of the fundamental solution to many ecological problems and will probably remain essentially unchanged in the distant future. The benefits of graywater recycling include:

Lower fresh water use

Less strain on failing septic tank or treatment plant

Graywater treatment in topsoil is highly effective

Ability to build in areas unsuitable for conventional treatment

Less energy and chemical use

Groundwater recharge

Plant growth

Reclamation of otherwise wasted nutrients

Is graywater legal?
In practice, greywater legality is virtually never an issue for residential retrofit systems—everyone just bootlegs them. However, graywater legality is almost always an issue for permitted new construction and remodeling, unless you're in a visionary state such as Arizona or New Mexico. For details see our Grey water policy center and Builder's Graywater Guide (book).

LANDSCAPE: New Chinese Cities, Bill McDonough + Partners

Leap frogging to future sustainable cities in China.

Eleonore de Lusignan

After the success of Bill McDonough's book Craddle to Craddle, China has implemented it into there government policy and McDonough's + Partners was given the responsibility to design 7 new cities with the expectancy that 400 million new Chinese citizens will need new homes within the next 12 years. For starts, Bill has begun designing two city plans: Guantang Chuangye Sustainable Conceptual Master Plan, and Tangye New Town Concept Master Plan.

Guantang Chuangye Sustainable Conceptual Master Plan
Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China


This concept master plan aspires to indicate, through design strategies, a future that is positive and hopeful in all aspects.

Striving to maximize social engagement, the plan creates an urban structure that promotes walking and healthy activities in its multitude of parks, paths and trails. The development will also preserve existing stream and wetland communities, returning clean, healthy water to the ecosystem at equal rates and in the same patterns of the undeveleped site through the use of integrated strategies. Befitting its designation as a demonstration project, the plan demonstrates what is possible in Liuzhou, in China, and in communities around the globe. The project serves as a challenge to seek excellence in placemaking that will enable Liuzhou’s children to live and work in concert with a world full of potential and opportunity."
Ningbo View (image courtesy of EDAW and William McDonough + Partners)

"Each of the demonstrations feature cradle to cradle design principles that are gaining recognition in part due to the recent Chinese printing of the book “Cradle to Cradle: Exploring Design for the Circular Economy” by William A. McDonough and Michael Braungart.

The sustainable design of urban centers is of vital importance to China and the world. In the coming two decades, 300-450 million people will move from the countryside to China’s cities. This year alone, China will build 5 billion square feet of new housing and consume 40% of the world’s production of cement. Over 65% of China’s cities are in a water shortage and 90% of urban watersheds are considered contaminated by Chinese government standards.

The China-US Center for Sustainable Development’s strategic goals are to set the standards for sustainable development and build the human and organizational capacity to achieve them. The Center’s mission is to accelerate sustainable development so that commerce, communities and nature can thrive and prosper in harmony – what China is now calling a “circular economy.” "

Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang AR

Tangye New Town Concept Master Plan
Jinan, Shandong Province, People's Republic of China


This concept plan outlines a sustaining vision for a new administrative and cultural center for the government of the Licheng District in rapidly growing Eastern Industrial Zone east of Jinan. Working under the guidance and support of the China Housing Industry Association and the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development, the design team has developed conceptual plans for a new urban district that would house 180,000 people and embodies the principles of Cradle to Cradle Design.

The plan develops a framework for achieving the ultimate goal of safe, healthy and delightful solar-powered cities. By considering issues beyond the initial use and operations of the development, the plan supports later adoption of emerging technologies and systems not readily available at the time of construction. For instance, proper orientation and solar access will enable the town to install photovoltaics should current trends continue make solar energy equal in cost to coal-fired electricity by 2016.

The pattern and organization of development responds to site-specific environmental features, systems, and flows. Vegetated fabric defines a patchwork of developable areas that imply a network of residential neighborhoods and commercial/public precincts. A series of linear parks running from east to west convey storm water to existing gullies and provide a setting for neighborhood amenities and a structure for pedestrian and bicycle routes throughout the new district. The plan also facilitates the integration of innovative infrastructure for water, wastewater, and energy production and use.

In addition to benefiting the people of Jinan, this anticipatory design provides a replicable model for a country embarking on a campaign to house 400 million people in the coming decade, giving China the opportunity to redefine cities in ways that lead the world in the realization of truly sustaining future."

" Under the guidance and support of the China Housing Industry Association and the China-US Center for Sustainable Development, William McDonough + Partners with the support of WSP Environmental LLC was commissioned to create a concept master plan that embodies the principles of the Cradle-to-Cradle Design Protocol and sustainable design.

The concept plan aspires to indicate, through design strategies, a future that is positive and hopeful in all aspects; one that:
- Maximizes social engagement and community
- Creates an urban structure that promotes walking and healthy activities
- Effectively leverages the scarce land available for development
- Promotes alternative and renewable technologies
- Treats water as a precious resources
- Improves the quality of storm water leaving the site
- Uses biological resources to build and restore soil quality
- Restores habitat and biodiversity
- Learns from and respects the quality of the land and people"


We lay the city out so everyone can move in parks without crossing traffic, the buildings have daylight lighting, the university is at the centre, and with hi-tech connectivity
William McDonough, architect

BBC News

Metropolis: Eternal Optimism

The Great Green Leap Forward: Energy-Hungry China and India Leapfrog to the Front of the Global Green Building Movement

By Kevin Sullivan

Resources: The Revolution Begins

LANDSCAPE: The Ford Rouge Plant, D.I.R.T Studio

Revitalizing a Sustainable Industrial Landscapes.

Eleonore de Lusignan

The Ford Rouge project in Dearborn, Michigan is a collaborative effort between Bill Ford, Bill McDonough, and D.I.R.T to remediating the landscape of one of our most historical and monument factories in the automotive industry. The main focus has been on the use of phytoremediation, a process that uses plants to treat polluted environments by absorbing or digesting toxins to clean the contaminated soil, water and air. The expert in this field, Clayton Rugh, has his installed a central scientific laboratory at the Ford Rouge power plant and is in charge of directing this process.

"In 1999 McDonough entered into an agreement with Ford Motor Company to redesign its 85-year-old, 1,212-acre Rouge River facility, an ambitious and innovative industrial/environmental makeover that will require 20 years--and $2 billion--to complete."

Overview by Will McDounough and Partners:

"This landscape master plan celebrates the potential to bring natural and industrial systems together to create a productive, regenerative landscape.

Henry Ford’s vision of linear production fundamentally reshaped the American manufacturing system --and provided a compelling framework for the transformation of this historic industrial site. Embracing Ford's heritage of innovation and business strength, the plan draws its inspiration from the features of the site and gives shape to the themes of linear production, historical legacy, and environmental regeneration. The large-scale interplay between the industrial and natural systems creates a new model for the regeneration of air, water, soil, and habitat through natural processes.

Devised for implementation over two decades, the design enables an orderly flow of people and delivery of materials through the site. A rectilinear pattern of hedgerows, swales, and trees reinforces the pre-existing street grid and creates a system that filters the millions of gallons of stormwater and reestablishes wildlife habitat.

The plan also reshapes Miller Road, the thoroughfare along the Rouge's eastern edge, as a tree-lined public boulevard highlighting the site's industrial heritage.

Additionally, the complex hosts groundbreaking research in phytoremediation. Researchers identified a dozen plants that successfully absorb and neutralize polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from the soil and established a 1.6-acre demonstration garden and research lab near the old coke oven by-products operations.

By rebuilding the processes of the site, the plan recreates the 20th century’s preeminent model of vertically integrated industry as a replicable model of sustainable manufacturing and a positive legacy for the future.

Ford Rouge Plant, Dearborn, MI. PILOT PROJECTS + PROTOTYPES: Storm water channels and porous paving retention beds (under the Mustangs), native shrub mosaics and phytoremediation research plots. Collaborators: Ford Motor Company, William McDonough + Partners, architects; Nelson/Byrd, landscape architects; Cahill Associates, engineers; Dr. Clayton Rugh, scientist.
from Archinect


D.I.R.T website

Think Green, Metropolis