Green Australian-Style: Sewer Mining

Australia is sometimes referred to as the "land of sunshine and sharks," and is well known for Foster's beer and its even more violent version of football, but it may soon gain renown for a new export: sewer mining. Ché Wall, group director of Lincolne Scott, an Australian consulting engineering firm, was one of a number of designers on an international panel at Greenbuild.

12/01/2004


Australia is sometimes referred to as the "land of sunshine and sharks," and is well known for Foster's beer and its even more violent version of football, but it may soon gain renown for a new export: sewer mining.

Che Wall, group director of Lincolne Scott, an Australian consulting engineering firm, was one of a number of designers on an international panel at Greenbuild. He spoke of a pair of projects that Australians boast as the "greenest projects in the world," and he may be right. Specifically, he's talking about the Lend Lease/Deutsche Bank headquarters in Sydney and and CH2, the Melbourne City Council's new residence. Both projects feature cutting-edge, water-based HVAC technology such as chilled beams, chilled ceilings and evaporative "shower towers."

Wall, also the founder of Australia's Green Building Council, admits these systems are more expensive than traditional counterparts—by 15%—but from a holistic, life-cycle standpoint, they managed to save overall costs. "And people love it [passive AC] not because it's green, but because it's cool," said Wall.

Supply of water, however, is Australia's greatest crisis, and the country has had to turn to unorthodox means to find it. Principally, they've been exploring sewer mining, where they literally reclaim sewer water for various non-potable purposes. Before it's used, the water goes through a micro-filtration and reverse osmosis treatment process.

"We're pulling out 80% of the water and sending back 20% of the dirtier stuff," said Wall. "This has the potential to have a tremendous impact on the burden of the public infrastructure."

At this point, commercial and psychological issues are the greatest barriers. That said, water costs are so great Wall feels those barriers will fall away. And as far as random consumption of the recycled product: "I've drank it, and I'm still here."





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