What if the walls of your house could recycle the wastewater from your sinks, showers, baths, and washing machine? Architect Maria Paz Gutierrez is working with environmental engineer Slav Hermanowicz and bioengineer Luke Lee to design new technologies that can capture, recycle, and heat household wastewater, a potential improvement in water-stressed areas.
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With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the multidisciplinary team is engineering solar panel technology that makes greywater reusable while creating thermal energy in the process. What is now wastewater would be used at least twice, cutting demand, and the free solar energy can be captured as well. The greywater isn’t clean enough to drink, but it’s fine for flushing toilets or washing clothes.
“This is the future of sustainable building systems–synergistic optimization processes that are win-win from the local to the global scales,” explains Paz Gutierrez. “The end user benefits because they’re using less water and paying less for electricity or gas; the community benefits because it has less water to treat; the environment benefits because we’re not going to be contaminating aquafers. That’s the fundamental difference between this design and other building systems.”