Eaton residents, engineers go green

GOING GREEN: The net-zero water dorm developers (from left to right), Sabina Rakhimbekova, Mirek Miroslav, Vincent Warger, John Pittaluga, James Englehardt, Sebastian Eilert, Tingting Wu, Tianjiao Guo, Cristina Delphus and Ali Habashi, will be working together on a water conservation project in Eaton. Courtesy Joshua Prezant.

Recently awarded a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Dr. James Englehardt, a professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at UM, along with an interdisciplinary team, has been using cutting-edge technology to reduce energy and water demand and promote sustainable development.

The research team behind this Autonomous Net-Zero Water Project will build on current technologies that allow many functions of water monitoring, quality control, operation and maintenance to be decentralized in order to develop a low-energy, direct potable reuse system with net zero water consumption for a special interest floor of Eaton Residential College.

Next semester, up to 20 undergraduates will begin the residential portion of the project while living in Eaton and working toward developing this new system for recycling wastewater. The wastewater from the community will be treated to above drinking water standards and then returned to the community for all uses except for drinking and cooking.

“The goal of the net-zero water dorm is to ultimately bring change to the way people use water where they live by applying cutting-edge technology and research in the area of environmental engineering,” said Vincent Warger, the project’s filter designer and public relations coordinator.

Initial testing and maximization of the treatment process will begin in the fall and the system will be fully implemented by 2014.

The engineering techniques used in this eco-friendly project will demonstrate low-energy treatment processes that recycle wastewater for re-use within a living community. Special drinking water taps will be available to residents of this special interest housing community and most likely will be fed from a well outside of Eaton.

Students interested in living in this community were selected after completing an application and reviewing the applicable information about the project’s goals and concept. Residents will be actively involved with the creation and implementation of the program, including the opportunity to participate in periodic testing of the water.

“We hope that we are making a positive impact on the environment,” said Tianjiao Guo, 23, a Ph.D. candidate and environmental engineering student.

Residents of other special interest housing floors in Eaton believe the new floor will be a great experience.

“Special interest housing is a great way to meet new people who share your same interest, activities and skills,” said Sharif Michael Ahmed, 19, president and creator of Audio Abode, the music special interest housing floor.