Water SMART Blue Buildings For Sustainable Urbanisation

By Stanley Samuel, Marcus Lim 16 May, 2016

The centralised water system may never completely cover China. Ecosoftt' Samuel & Lim on their decentralised option

The SMART Blue Building Standard exploits the potential of wastewater instead of simple discharge; it reduces costs
The integrated standard can reduce over 50% of water footprints and also recycle & reuse >80% of wastewater
Municipal synergies exist but also useful in cleantech parks

The orderly development of new cities and buildings in a rapidly urbanizing country like China is heavily dependent on the availability of water. Yet, the current water systems based on centralized treatment approach and conventional technologies are coming under increasing stress. Technical challenges in implementation, low treatment efficiencies, high funding requirements and the inability to recover costs through tariffs are some of the major challenges.

 The complete coverage of centralized water & sewage systems may never be possible

It is increasingly recognized that the complete coverage of centralized water and sewage systems may never be possible, even in urban areas. As a result, the exploration and adoption of more viable, environment friendly and economically sustainable options are critically needed.

Blue is the new green – Ecosoftt’s Water SMART Blue Building Standard

The emergence of innovative, economical, low maintenance and compact water and wastewater technologies has enabled decentralized solutions to become viable alternatives.

Decentralized solutions have become viable alternatives

Decentralized solutions serve to complement conventional centralized plants and networks, or serve areas without municipal services. With such technologies, it is now possible to reduce load on the water grid, plug gaps in water systems, enhance water security for users and conserve finite water resources.
ECOSOFTT’s Water SMART Blue Building Standard provides a new paradigm through the decentralized and integrated management of water, wastewater and waste. It allows building owners and communities to become sustainable on water through the following:

a) Reduce their water footprint and wastage by more than 50%;
b) Recycle and reuse over 80% of the wastewater on site; and
c) Discharge the balance 20% in an environmentally friendly way.

Aspects of Ecosoftt’s Water SMART Blue Building Standard

This Blue Building Standard is applicable to townships, residential colonies, hotels, commercial buildings, schools and other facilities. It has proven to be a viable and economic model by the following:

  • Embrace rainwater harvesting, a low cost source of water from the natural water cycle;
  • Recover and reuse wastewater using low energy and high water recovery technologies;
  • Reduce use of chemicals by using biological treatment processes;
  • Add treated wastewater as a new and reliable source of water through decentralized treatment. This enables ‘Point of Use Reuse’;
  • Take in all on-site wastewater sources including grey water and black water without dual plumbing to separate the wastewater types. This reduces the percentage of capital that property owners have to allocate upfront, and reduces implementation timelines;
  • Better optimize water from different sources and use non-potable water for non-potable purposes;
  • Deploy smart accessories to monitor and manage water usage that can be integrated with Building Management Systems; and
  • Engage users and sharing responsibilities in managing water from source to source, at source. 

Re-use instead of discharge

A central theme in these practices is to exploit the potential of wastewater instead of simple discharge, which is the prime objective of many existing Sewage Treatment Plants. With advanced treatment technologies,
wastewater becomes
a very reliable water
source. When wastewater is reused locally for a variety of non-potable uses, the demand on the potable supply would be reduced.

A central theme in the Blue Building Standard is to exploit the potential of wastewater instead of simple discharge

To minimize wastages and cost, users can adapt treatment solutions to generate water quality that is “fit for purpose”. This is especially relevant in modern buildings such as schools, hotels, homes and commercial properties, where a variety of non-potable applications such as toilet flushing, cleaning, cooling towers and landscaping require different water qualities. Such practices represent major savings in water resources, energy, human effort and financial resources. At the same time, wastewater is no longer discharged untreated in the open.
Local reuse, in conjunction with other interventions such as conservation, can thus help achieve sustainable water use and reduce the need for infrastructure expansion. In many urban areas where water is supplied by tankers, implementing water reuse systems pays back financially in a matter of months.

Synergies with municipal systems

The Blue Building can operate without the existence of a centralized system with water grid, such as when the building is totally dependent on groundwater. Where a grid exists, significant reduction in load and improvement in efficiency can be achieved by managing water and reusing wastewater at source.

The Standard also prevents incurring costs by catering for potable & non-potable uses & opportunities

The Blue Building standard prevents commercial operators from having to use high-quality potable water for non-potable purposes which constitute the majority of their water consumption. As potable water has high embedded energy, financial and environmental costs, using potable water for non-potable purposes means that we are incurring significant embedded costs, even if these costs are not fully reflected in water tariffs. Using non-potable water instead of potable water for the majority of our non-potable water consumption can therefore reap significant savings in terms of these “hidden” embedded costs.
Further, Blue Buildings at appropriate scales lessen the load on the sewer networks where they exist. They also form part of the solution to meet ever-increasing water demands in urban settings by generating an on-site source of non-potable water, thereby reducing a property’s demand on piped freshwater. As a result, such an approach has the potential to be adopted on a massive level to bring reliable services to masses in water scarce countries, conserve water resources and maintain an ecological balance.

Case Study: Cleantech Park in Singapore

Singapore already has one of the advanced water and wastewater systems in the world. Sewage generated in the city state is collected through an extensive network of pipes and treated to produce drinking quality water, termed NEWater.
Despite the advanced centralized treatment system and water grid, it is constantly seeking ways to make every drop of water work harder, especially at the point of use. One of the projects is the Water SMART Blue Building at Cleantech Park developed in collaboration with ECOSOFTT.
Wastewater that is currently flowing out of the building will be tapped and treated using ECOSOFTT Poseidon, a highly efficient and low footprint biological treatment system. Treated water will be used for toilet flushing and possibly other non-potable applications such as cooling towers in the future. The entire system is by ECOSOFTT’s Water SMART control system. In this way, the building becomes water sustainable. At the same time, the load on the centralised system and grid is reduced.

Treated water will be used for toilet flushing and possibly other non-potable applications such as cooling towers
Not only is the building water sustainable but loads on centralised systems are reduced

Case study - Cleantech Park Singapore

The future: Water sustainable cities

A paradigm shift from simple treatment and effluent disposal to water reuse must be created to ensure water sustainability. Decentralized solutions and the integrated management of water and wastewater makes it feasible to manage water from “source to source” in homes, buildings and communities in economically feasible, environmentally safe and scalable methods.

A paradigm shift from simple treatment and effluent disposal to water reuse is needed
The Blue Building Standard is this shift

To spur the mass adoption of decentralized solutions, the development of policies, standards and generating awareness will be useful. In that respect, municipal corporations and policy-making agencies should take a leading role.
The Blue Building Standard represents a paradigm shifts from conventional thinking and water management approaches. It is a viable alternative to provide water access for the masses and a important tool to power sustainable urban development.

Further Reading

  • A New Model In Village Water Management – Water projects in China suffer from sustainability issues. Ivanna Tan from Lien Aid on how their Village Water Management programme overcomes these issues and has delivered clean & sustainable water to more than 72,000 rural villagers
  • Changing Filters: Benefits of AFM vs Sand – Sand filters are the primary means of treatment but there are performance & stability issues. Dr Howard Dryden, inventor of the up-cycled AFM® filter tells us how his filter means lower costs & bacteria & longer life
  • Water: Habits & Actions – What are your water habits? Even giving up chocolate for one week can positively impact our waters as Patricia Dwyer, Founder & Director of The Purpose Business Group, tells us. See what other changes you can make
  • WaterHubs: Infrastructure for Urban Slums – 523 million or 61% of the urban slum population in developing countries is in Asia. Saurabh Saraf, WaterHubs CEO, outlines how WaterHubs can deliver holistic & fiscally viable water & sanitation solutions for slums
  • Rural Drinking Water Solutions – 783 million people in rural areas still lack safe drinking water due to diseases coursing through waterways. Ling Li on why a traditional water distribution system is not necessarily the best answer & shares cheaper alternatives
  • China Water Risk special report: “China’s Long March To Safe Drinking Water

Chinas Long March To Drinking Water 2015 Reprot - EnglishChinas Long March To Safe Drinking Water 2015 - CH

Bottled Water In China - Boom Or Bust - Report Covers

  • China’s Bottled Water: Boom Or Bust? -China’s bottled water industry stands at a fork in the road. Big expansion plans by the industry could be derailed by central policies to protect drinking water sources. Get ahead of these key risks
Stanley Samuel
Author: Stanley Samuel
Stanley is the Founder and CEO of ECOSOFTT and Chief Architect of its Water SMART Blue Building platform. He has worked on numerous projects in water management in urban and off-grid environments, including rainwater harvesting, groundwater protection, rivers and lakes conservation and development of water and wastewater solutions for college campuses, residential developments and integrated living habitats. Stanley is a mechanical engineer by background, and holds a Diploma in Wastewater Treatment from the University of Chile. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Business Management and earned a dual degree Executive MBA with INSEAD and Tsinghua University, China.
Read more from Stanley Samuel →
Marcus Lim
Author: Marcus Lim
arcus is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of ECOSOFTT based in Singapore and Hong Kong. Since co-founding ECOSOFTT, Marcus has been working with research institutions, technology innovators, businesses, NGOs and public sector agencies to develop sustainable solutions across Asia. Among the notable projects Marcus has led include the Water SMART Blue Building in Cleantech Park, Singapore. Marcus holds a BBA (Honours) degree from the National University of Singapore, a Diploma in Wastewater Treatment from the University of Chile and a dual degree Executive MBA from INSEAD and Tsinghua University, China.
Read more from Marcus Lim →