On track to become the first green building to achieve both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge Certification, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OSCL) embodies the synthesis of wastewater recycling, clean energy, and eco-friendly architecture. Designed by sustainable design firm BNIM Architects as a functioning model for the nonprofit organization Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, the state-of-the art environmental education and water reclamation facility in Rhinebeck, New York serves as a teaching tool to educate visitors on Omega’s ongoing environmental initiatives, including innovative wastewater strategies.
The building’s design, informed by the removal of the facility’s current wastewater disposal system, is centered around a 4,500-square-foot greenhouse containing a water filtration system aptly named the Eco-Machine. Executed using technology developed by ecological architects Dr. John Todd and Jonathan Todd of John Todd Ecological Design, the Eco-Machine uses plants, bacteria, algae, snails and fungi to recycle wastewater into purified water, which is then used to restore the aquifer.
The 6,200-square-foot facility also contains a classroom, laboratory, water garden, and constructed wetland, supplies all of its own energy needs using photovoltaic power, and is carbon neutral. The self-sustaining, high-thermal mass building uses passive solar heating supplemented by geothermal heating as needed, and employs natural ventilation cooling strategies.
The OSCL is one of the first buildings to participate in the Living Building Challenge and is anticipated to become one of the first buildings in the United States to be designated a Living Building – the highest level of environmental performance possible to date. Combining good design with an overriding green philosophy, BNIM Architects successfully set new standards for the future of sustainable architecture.
Photos by Andy Milford