Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drainage basin = Root system

Above is an image of a drainage basin that acts like a funnel, collecting all the water within the area covered by the basin and channeling it into a waterway. Each drainage basin is separated topographically from adjacent basins by a geographical barrier such as a ridge, hill or mountain, which is known as a water divide. Other terms that are used to describe the a drainage basin are catchment, catchment area, catchment basin, drainage area, river basin, water basin and watershed.

Drainage basins are important elements to consider also in ecology. As water flows over the ground and along rivers it can pick up nutrients, sediment, and pollutants. Like the water, they get transported towards the outlet of the basin, and can affect the ecological processes along the way as well as in the receiving water source. (As a note, may be there is a way of designing an underground drainage basin piping system with its own filtration system...???)

Modern usage of artificial fertilizers, containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, has affected the mouths of watersheds. The minerals will be carried by the watershed to the mouth and accumulate there, disturbing the natural mineral balance. (back to my red note?)

Because drainage basins are coherent entities in a hydrological sense, it has become common to manage water resources on the basis of individual basins. In the U.S. state of Minnesota, governmental entities that perform this function are called watershed districts. In New Zealand, they are called catchment boards. Comparable community groups based in Ontario, Canada, are called conservation authorities.

Here's an idea:

Underground drainage basin / reservoir. Basically, all the wastewater from homes and businesses from the neighbourhood drains down to one big underground reservoir (where all water gets stored). On its way, it gets its preliminary treatment, i.e. some nutrients/minerals/chemicals go back to the soil, the rest remain in the water. Then, it gets further filtered (possibly above ground, using any or all of the proposed filtration systems) and after that it then gets distributed to homes.



Another natural filtration system I just came across that can potentially use the so-called 'mycelium':

Mycelium (plural mycelia) is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelia are found in soil and on or in many other substrates. Typically a single spore germinates into a monokaryotic mycelium which cannot reproduce sexually; when two compatible monokaryotic mycelia join and form a dikaryotic mycelium, that mycelium may form fruiting bodies such as mushrooms. A mycelium may be minute, forming a colony that is too small to see, or it may be extensive:

It is through the mycelium that a fungus absorbs nutrients from its environment. It does this in a two stage process. Firstly the hyphae secrete enzymes onto the food source, which breaks down polymers into monomers. These monomers are then absorbed into the mycelium by facilitated diffusion and active transport.

Mycelium is vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for its role in the decomposition of plant material. It contributes to the organic fraction of soil and its growth releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi increases the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confers resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelium is an important food source for many soil invertebrates.

One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Petroleum products and pesticides that can be contaminants of soil are organic molecules. Fungi therefore should have potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, a process known as bioremediation.

Mycelial mats have been suggested (see Paul Stamets) as having potential as biological filters, removing chemicals and microorganisms from soil and water. The use of fungal mycelia to accomplish this has been termed "mycofiltration", although there is no reason to suspect that the process is any different from that of bioremediation using fungi.

Some Mycelium has symbiotic property with many plants. This opens the door to soil supplementation to improve crop yields.

Mycelium, spread on logging roads acts as a binder holding new soil in place and preventing washouts until woody plants can be established.


- Basically, what I gather from this research is that it is practically possible to create a biological (natural) water filtration system that can be incorporated into our solution.

- Also, these kinds of natural filtration systems has been long in use by many people around the world. They are real and possible to implement and incorporate into our project. There are specialists who can provide us with a number of such solutions for homes. Only I do not think that for this particular exercise we actually need such detailed research. I am sure that it is already enough to just know that such natural systems are available.

Scenario exercise


Every month I used to get a hydro bill. I no longer have to thanks to the solution provided by a group of four brilliant students from OCAD, who were working on “INTERVENTION” project in their class called “Socially Responsible Design Practices” taught by Martin Liefhebber. Thanks to their solution I no longer have to worry about where my water is coming from. I also don’t have to stress out about our planet and that I somehow impact global warming that the whole world is so concerned about. I like living my life knowing that my actions do not harness our environment. I also like to be a part of nature’s own natural processes. It is good to know that I can contribute to our environment. Thanks to the solution, the extra minerals go back to nature and contribute to plant and wild life in my community. Now I can even have my own garden and not worry about water and mineral supply because I know it comes directly from my household. During warmer seasons we collect water from rainfalls. When its winter the snow melts and gets treated through this special process and then we use that water for our needs. We even have enough excess water that we use to take ‘to go’ when we leave house so we no longer need to buy bottled water. Also, the excellent filtration system that apparently is based on a filtration system used in our plants, allows us to have clean and safe water for drinking, cooking, and washing ourselves. Also, the group developed the system where all excess of water that has not been used gets stored somewhere outside so in case any of my neighbors runs out of water, they can have it from our communal cistern that is available 24 hours. Overall, the solution provided by this group affected my lifestyle in an extremely positive and environmentally-friendly driven way.

Something to think about

I'm reading a book called "Breakthrough" by Mark Stefik and Barbara Stefik on invention and innovation and here's an exercise that might help us with our process. Basically, we have to answer two questions: What is possible? and What is needed?

Please, post your comments/ answers so we can discuss them on Thur. meeting.

Issue: Zero supply of fossil fuel

What is possible?

-Building off-grid systems
-Use of rain water/snow melt
-Reuse of wastewater
-Use of eco-machines
-Building of greenhouses
-Use of filtration system based on plants
-Use of Folkewall
-Cistern water collection and preservation

What is needed?
-Public awareness of the 'issue'
-Solution for all

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eco-Machines-Water Treatment

Todd Ecological-John Todd Eco-Machines

Here is the John Todd website both Tamara and I were referring to in class the other day. As a quick intro, John Todd is a highly accomplished academic with degrees in ecological design, parasitology, agriculture, science and engineering. Through his work as Professor at the School of Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, he has developed programs and Eco-machines, which employ the ecological knowledge to address urgent human and environmental problems. One of these urgent items is the treatment of contaminated water and John Todd has devised Eco-Machines to do just that.

Here is the link:


Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drainage system

Hydroponic farm +...

The photo at left shows a sub-tropical hydroponic farm growing bok choy in Brisbane, Australia using clip-together oval channel equipment under hail netting. It is the kind of food-from-the-roof technology likely to be adopted for Singapore rooftops - with the hail netting serving as a worker safety net, plus a barrier to rooftop debris flying away with wind gusts. An acre of this kind of hydroponics is more productive than six acres of good soil -- using less than a 10th of the water.*

** More info on hydroponic farming is on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroponic

Here's something intersting I just came across, might be of some use later... It's called a FOLKEWALL. Further info is taken from wikipedia.
Inspired by Dr Gösta Nilsson's "Sanitas wall" at the Sanitas farm in Botswana, this technique makes an efficient use of space by fulfilling on its own two essential functions: a mutually beneficial system allies vertical plant growing and the purification of greywater.


The basic design is a wall of hollow concrete slabs with compartments opening on one or both sides of the wall. The hollow parts are filled with inert material like gravel, LECA-pebbles, perlitevermiculite. In order to let the water trickle over the longest possible treatment path, plastic sheets are laid horizontally at intervals along the length of the wall between the pebbles. or

The water is brought at the top, and percolates following a zig-zag pattern throughout the inside of the wall. As it does so it feeds the plants which purify it in the same process. The plant rootsbeneficial bacteria grows over the pebbles, releasing the nutrients in the percolating organic material. At the bottom of the wall a container collects the purified water, which can then be used for non-drinking house uses or for watering the garden; or it can be returned to the top of the wall. grow through the inert material and extract nutrients from the water. A film of

Other considerations

Plants used: since the harvesting of the plants is a part of the purification process, fast growing, herbaceous crops are specially suited for the Folkewall. Perennials like trees and shrubs should be avoided.

Greywater: The water feeding the plants in the wall must be devoid of heavy and/or unsafe pollutants notably blackwater. This requires using source-separating toilets.

Pay-back period: Gus Nilsson calculated for his walls at Sanitas farm, Gabarone Botswana, that the growth and selling of tomatoes on the wall would pay the entire erection cost of the wall in three years.

  • Better use of the water: most of the evaporation happens through the plant's leaves, which makes the method specially useful in arid climates. It is this aspect Gus Nilsson makes use of.
  • More efficient use of the area, for example in greenhouses or other glazed areas.
  • In a greenhouse where the wall is used as a greywater purification device, it also works as a heat exchanger and -buffer.
  • Purification of the percolating water, if greywater is used as irrigation.
  • A wall x by x m2 is sufficient to purify greywater for 3 (or 4) people. The water can be reused in the house for non-drinking purposes, or to water the garden.
  • In warm climates, the wall can be used as building material on the south side. This will cool the building.
  • Low-cost housing: the combined use of Folkewalls and source-separating toilets would reduce the infrastructure cost by about 30%
Q/A with Dr. Folke Gunther from http://segate.sunet.se/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind05&L=et-oden&P=1214:

First, I will tell you why I use the name 'folkewall' instead of 'living wall' as I used earlier. It is because I realised that this word already was in use for a sort of tombstones and in certain architectural constructions. Therefore I choosed the unique, although presumptious, word 'folkewall'


"one of the advantages of 'vertical growing' that attracts me is the better utilisation of the growing area especially in greenhouses.
The example in Gus Nilsson, Gabarone, Botswana is therefore most fascinating"

"and is especially useful when you have a greenhouse that is constructed against the concrete wall of a building (http://www.iobbnet.org/drupal/node/view/313) or even in the middle of a east-west greenhouse.
Do you know of any such application in a greenhouse in Stockholm ?"

Although they have been discussed (on Ven in Öresund, also in large scale in Gotland, Sweden) none have been erected yet, to my knowledge. I planned to build one by myself the summer 2004, but circumstances came between.

"Do you have any data or can you say that productivity (product yield) per unit of greenhouse space is higher when a mixed ground and vertical cultivation are used ? ."

In a greenhouse, seveal walls will restrict light entrance, why you have to have them either in the middle or on one side. The other spaces have to be used for lower types of growing. The pcture above is for a planned greenhouse in Umeå (Farnorth Sweden). The beds are filled with horse manure to heat up the building as well as serving as a growing place (pictures of such a 'hotbed' at http://www.holon.se/folke/garden/vb/index.shtml , I will translate it)

Gus Nilsson calculated for his walls in Sanitas, Gabarone, Botswana, that the growth and selling of tomatoes on the wall would pay the entire erection cost of the wall in three years.

The interesting thing with the folkewall is that you combine growing with water purification in a mutually beneficial system

"Are there any crops that are specially suited for Folkewall ?"
fast growing, herbaceous. Perennials, like trees ans shrubs should be avoilded, since the harvesting of the plants is a part of the purification process"

Water efficiency plan by TorontoWater


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Some background info!

Hey guys,

I'm still trying to figure out the site.. but since I've done a similar project I figured right off the bat I'd contribute with some background. So here are a few diagrams that demonstrate how this process actually functions throughout and inside the plant..

I'm hoping this can give us some inspiration and possibly fuel (hahah pun intended) our design process...

This diagram illustrates a current system for water filtration. Basically, toxins and pollutants are pulled out of the water in 3 stages (phases, whatever). The water is strained through a ceramic filter, followed by high density activated carbon (pretty much filters gas) and lastly a heavy metal reducing media. I think our plants will likely have to filter water in stages much like this system.. of course they will be more efficient and sufficient.

This is pretty much just how a plant pulls the water up FROM its roots into the leaves (the roots get the water through osmosis). The water is transported through the xylem (think veins but plant cells), it does so by using a CAPILLARY action ~ this is where it gets a bit tricky. Capillary action is another word for opposites attract; water moves up into the roots and through the capillaries because its molecules are attracted to those in the inner walls of the plants cells (causing suction pressure).

If you're still unsure, Wikipedia gives the best description: "Capillary action is primarily responsible for water transport in plants. Water is drawn up into the plant via the roots. A network of fine tubes, collectively called the xylem, attracts water up the stem or trunk due to the adhesive forces between the water molecules and the cellulose molecules in the xylem walls. The effect of capillary action is limited by the pull of gravity"

'Hit off' links


Water Filtration System



- Speculate on how a neighbourhood could evolve in the event of limited or zero supply of affordable fossil fuel
- Agree on a thesis of how the residents and retailers might respond to this dramatic change and how this vision translates into opportunity
- Focus on one aspect in detail
- Aspect: WATER



- Exploring the responsibility of design in the social context by surveying the human, societal, technological and economical dimension of design
- Responsibility is explored both at the physical level of the creation and use of products and services in contrast with the natural resource limitations of the planet as well as at the psychological level taking into account spiritual and cultural needs
- Exploring the role design can play in affecting fundamental changes in society
- Exchanging of ideas and reinforcement of the leadership role designers can play in providing a new vision for the future