Gallery: Wastewater Treatment Plant In San Francisco Is a Gorgeous Indo...


When you think of a wastewater treatment plant, you probable picture a vast, unsightly pool surrounded by a concrete facility. You probably do not picture a serene wetland in the lobby of an office building, but that’s exactly how sewage will be treated in the new building of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Design by Worrell Water Technologies, the constructed wetland, called Living Machine, will clean the building’s wastewater to make it suitable for reused in toilets, irrigation, and maintenance.

The constructed wetland will be integrated into the building’s lobby and outside landscaping, using Worrell’s advance ecological engineering to clean all of the building’s black and gray water. The system can treat up to 5,000 gallons of watewater each day and requires only 1,000 square feet. Wastewater will flow into watertight basins below the wetlands’ surface so there is no smell, no mosquitos, and no health hazards. The end result is a lush green space and natural habitat that will save the Public Utilities Company up to 750,000 gallons of water every year. An additional 900,000 gallons will be saved for nonpotable future uses.

A Living Machine system mimics a tidal wetland, one of nature’s most productive ecosystems. The computer-controlled system treats wastewater in a more energy-efficient and cost-effective way than traditional wastewater plants. Inside the watertight basins, a biofilm grows on a special gravel. When the basins fill, the microorganisms in the biofilm begin eating the nutrients in the wastewater. The water is then drained and the basins are filled with atmospheric oxygen, which rapidly consumes and converts any remaining nutrients.

The constructed wetland is just one of many green technologies that the San Franscisco Public Utilities Commission will be implementing in its new 13-story building. The structure will also generate its own energy through solar panels and wind turbines.

Via Environmental Protection

Photo credit: Living Machine, Worrell Water Technologies


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  1. scmc872 March 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    These images are all different projects in Worrell Water Technologies’ portfolio and I believe none are actually the SFPUC building.

  2. cho July 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    I don’t really understand former comments. How do you know this garden doens’t work technically? It’s an idea that has been developed for half a century. Even living machine has practiced for 10 years already. Constructed wetland has been involved in industrial scale waste water treatment plant already. Here, living machine tried to present a different idea, treating waste water locally in a more natural way. It’s a LOCAL water solution reducing the stress on city infrastructure. That’s what LEED aims for. Membrane bio-readors or thermal de-polymerization are available only in industrial scale. It’s different concept. Also, it’s actually an energy solution, not for water.

  3. waterexpert March 2, 2011 at 8:33 am

    This is just a gimmick with no technical (scientific), environmental or economical benefit. The vegetation would look beautiful, no doubt. But if that’s what you are after why not just plant them without running the risk of exposing the public to sewage! There are other methods for treating sewage on a small scale that are far more efficient and economical.

  4. lazyreader February 23, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Real Utilities have to deal with hundreds of billions of gallons a year, pardon the pun but these devices are just a drop in the bucket. I agree it’s interesting if applied to every commercial building in the city. But this is more aesthetically pleasing than it is useful.

    Other devices like membrane bio-reactors and thermal de-polymerization offer useful industrial scale applications to deal with wastewater.

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