Skyscrapers Double as Giant Brita Filters

By Adam Figman, Editorial Intern

As far as most people are concerned, skyscrapers serve two purposes: to hold offices and to make city skylines look nice. Well, we might be able to add sustainable design to that list. The latest emerging innovation encompasses skyscrapers being used to fix water problems to create sustainable environments around the world.

Jakarta skyscraper One concept is the Ciliwung Recovery Project (CRP), designed by Rezza Rahdian, Erwin Setiawan, Ayu Diah Shanti, and Leonardus Chrisnantyo for Jakarta, Indonesia, a city built on the intersection of 13 rivers. The Ciliwung River, the largest of the 13, cuts right across the center of the city, but it has unfortunately become a bit of a disaster, as surges of the river’s water flood the city, and the slums alongside the riverbanks have created terrible pollution—which is where the skyscraper comes into play.

The CRP hopes to purify the river and its surrounding environment back to its original state. It will do so by both purifying the water, and housing the people who occupy the area’s slums. Here’s how:

The purification process will take place through three lines. The first line will flow the polluted river water via pipes into the building’s filtration section. There the garage will be sorted out of the water and used as raw materials to fertilize the soil in the river basin.

Next, dangerous contaminants will be eliminated from the water, and good minerals will be added, making the water safe for CRP building residents (those who previously resided in the slums). Keeping these people safe in the building, and not alongside the river, will pen new space for green areas and keep the flood plane protected.

Household waste products – those that are safe, of course – will then be distributed back into the river. This may be done in two ways: through underground capillary pipes, and by spraying the processed water through the “skin” of the building. Doing this increases the humidity in the building’s lower section, which will pioneer plant growth and help construct a new ecosystem.

And, as if the entire project wasn’t sustainable enogh, the building is capable of creating its own energy, completely independently. The outer layer of the building’s skin will be used as a wind power generator. There is also a solar reactor on top of the structure, which will generate solar power. Even the elevator uses Archimedes’ Principle, moving up and down based on its specific gravity.

Freshwaterfactory Next we look several thousand miles west of Indonesia to Almeria, Spain, where plans for another water-filtering skyscraper have been drawn up. Designed by French-based group Design Crew for Architecture (partners: Nicolas Chausson, Gael Desveaux, Jiso Yang Huang, Thomas Julien), the Freshwater Factory Skyscraper will function as its name insists. Although it might look like something out of a sci-fi flick (think District 9 or Independence Day), the Freshwater Factory may revolutionize farming’s relationship with freshwater.

The structure is composed of several round tanks, which are filled with brackish water (water with more salinity than freshwater but less than seawater). Located inside spherical greenhouses, the tanks bring in the water via tidal-powered pumps. Inside the tanks are mangroves, which feed on the brackish water and sweat out freshwater, which then evaporates in the greenhouse and condensates into dew on the plastic walls. The dew is collected and distributed through gravitational flow.

And it’s no small amount, either; one 10,000 sq.-ft tower can produce 30,000 liters of freshwater in a single day (enough water to irrigate, say, 10,000 sq.-ft. of land). 

The project, if successful in Spain, could be applied anywhere.

Maybe skyscrapers have more than two purposes, after all.  

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