Economy and Ecology: Two vastly differing words that aren’t often used in the same sentence, much less combined in real life. Today, I’d like to inform you that not only can they work together, but that it’s already being done!
The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) has combined some of their branches into a new sustainable laboratory/office super complex. The idea behind this was accomplished based on the Cradle-to-Cradle/Circle Economy principles. This is a bio-mimetic approach to the designs of systems. It models industry on nature’s processes, viewing materials and infrastructure as nutrients circulating in healthy and safe metabolisms. The philosophy here is that industry must be protecting and enriching ecosystems while maintaining a safe and productive environment. Wow, talk about green tech!
There, among many of the things that they are researching, is an engineer carrying on research about the influence of quality light on plant defenses (that is me, Judith). I will try to explain for you all the features that make this building the epitome of sustainable construction.
In the Cradle-to-Cradle model, everything we make and leave behind is regenerated as raw material for use either in the natural environment or even in new products. Talk about the ultimate form of recycling. The other two main principles built into this model are solar energy and biodiversity.
All materials that have been used in the building are recyclable or recycled, from the concrete to the glass. Speaking of glass, all of the walls in the offices are made of glass in order to get all the sunlight inside that they can. I sure love an office with a view!
Let’s not forget about that roof. There is a whole plant ecosystem up there, along with photovoltaic panels, mirror panels, a cooling system, and other amazing new Eco-technological developments. It beats my garden at home!
I bet you’re wondering what some of those roof mirrors are for. These mirrors grab the sun’s energy and that is used to heat the building. They heat up water, and store it at 300m underground to be used to heat the floors in the winter. To refresh the building in the summer, they use wind energy that cools the water through a cooling system, at which they store 70m underground.
If you think that’s interesting, check out how they make even the waste system renewable. The toilets in the building run in a vacuum system that spend 10 times less water than a normal disposal system in a regular office building. The wastewater is rinsed in a tiny amount of brown-water, which then goes into a digester full of bio-gas. Then, it goes into an algae bioreactor, which eats up the wastes, and purifies the water. The algae can be extracted and used as fertilizer and other products. The water then goes through a helophyte filter, after which point it can be used as ground water, or simply flow back to nature. Pretty darn efficient, yeah?
Of course, you don’t need to design a massive and complex system to be eco-friendly. You can accomplish this in your everyday life, for example, by simply not having a recycling bin in your office. Instead, everyone could carry their garbage to a community bin near the exits so that they can just drop it off on their way out at the end of the day! There are plenty of other projects and companies out in the world that are doing things much like this. Feel free to check out this article on several eco-friendly buildings on our planet.
This could definitely be the future of where and how our societies further integrate our Economy and Ecology. It’s quite amazing what the NIOO and other companies like it are finding ways to not only go back to nature, but also maintain the technological prowess of our modern age.
Watch this 100 seconds video of the NIOO building 😉