Forbes.com recently compiled a list of the world’s most high-tech green buildings, and the Port of Portland’s new office building earned a spot on this list because of the building’s Living Machine system. The Living Machine system by Worrell Water Technologies is an advanced wastewater treatment and water re-use system.
The Living Machine system is an aesthetically pleasing yet efficient approach to wastewater treatment and water re-use. The system has a small physical footprint, can work either indoors or out, and is built to suit the specific needs of each client. Port of Portland uses this system in the building's lobby, not the traditional location choice for a wastewater treatment plant.
Although each installation is a bit different, there are several common factors including a settling tank where the water enters the system, a wetland bed where microorganisms and plants go to work cleaning the water, a water control system, an optional disinfection system, and the reuse system that holds water for reuse onsite.
The wetland system is the working horse of the Living Machine, and Worrell Water Technologies uses three different types: Tidal Flow, Horizontal Subsurface Flow and Vertical Flow. The Port of Portland facility uses the Tidal Flow Wetland, which closely mimics a true tidal process. Tidal cells drain and flood the wetland several times each day, which brings in fresh oxygen to the microorganisms that are naturally cleansing the water.
According to Will Kirksey, executive vice president at Worrell Water Technologies, “This is a great honor for the Port of Portland, architecture firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca and Worrell Water Technologies. The Port of Portland building demonstrates that even large-scale commercial building design and development can be achieved with minimal impact by tapping into natural energy systems and using natural water processes, like the Living Machine system.”
In addition to its functional aspect, the Living Machine also has an educational purpose. Visitors to the facility can learn more about the process and how it benefits the environment and also creates usable water for the building’s plumbing system.
The Living Machine system isn’t the only green feature onsite. The facility also features a geothermal heating and cooling system, an eco roof, generous use of sunshine to provide natural light to the building, and more. The Port of Portland is awaiting final confirmation on its pursuit of LEED Gold certification for the facility.