Competitions give us a chance to elevate the ideas of transforming our existing cities into something new, inspiring and green. Tackling the environmental challenges of dense living has been a theme of the eVolo Magazine’s Skyscraper Competition for the past few years. Their forms reflect idealism and digital visualization, yet the ideas face real-life problems.
Taking second place in this year’s competition, the Water Purification Skyscraper in Jakarta was the most aggressively green project of note. http://www.evolo.us/competition/water-purification-skyscraper-in-jakarta/ Often green proposals are aimed at a generic, overpopulated city. This proposal focuses on a specific place and problem – the lack of accessible water in largest city of Southeast Asia. In 2006, the United Nations Human Development Report estimated 7.2 million individuals were without clean water in Jakarta.
This proposal not only purifies waste water with a complete filtration system, but also employs and houses a population within the same complex. The Sanskrit root of Jakarta translates to “complete victory” – replacing the slums along a polluted river within the second largest metropolitan area in the world would be just that.
The project may be inspired by advances in water recycling, but the challenge of re-creating potable water will require research on small scale systems.
Living Machine® (http://www.livingmachines.com/) has been implementing systems that avoid environmentally harmful chemicals and reduce energy use. Basing their system on wetlands and tides, water is naturally cleansed by cycling through compartments of gravel, microorganisms, and plants. The company customizes its system to each installation’s location and needs. Though the final product is not potable water, responsible water treatment reduces use of potable water and returns ‘waste’ safely to the environment. As a bonus, exterior installations of Living Machine® provide resort quality landscaping.
Living Machine® has potential to be applied world wide. The U.S. based company has received inquiries from India, Australia, China and the Middle East. A basic system was installed in Tema, Ghana that has successfully improved the water quality of a protected lagoon and provided agricultural irrigation since 2007. Currently, additional purification technology can be applied to effluent from the Living Machine® to reach standards for potable water. Working in countries with greater need and less stringent regulations might push the company to edge their system closer towards this goal.
Currently, Living Machine® has been installed in several locations where the mechanics of the system doubles as landscaping and courtyard for the projects. The Water Purification Skyscraper in Jakarta offers an enticing vision for a similar technology in which the mechanics and structure furthers the trend of using living walls which are productive, educational, and lush.
Camille Cladouhos is on staff with Feldman Architecture.