Love That Dirty (Toilet) Water

The above song is traditionally played after a Boston Red Sox baseball game victory at their home field. The water I am referring to in this case is gray water from a toilet I saw as part of a gray water system in the new Gates Foundation building. This gray water left me with a lasting impression and the foundation can help popularize and lead gray water systems as well as other on-site life cycle systems to victory

I witnessed the gray toilet water as part of the first year MSRE tour of the new Gates Foundation building. I have never seen it’s like in Maine, and the tour had not yet divulged the secret of the gray water or any of the on-site life cycle systems. The gray water is part of a gray water system that collects rainwater from the living roof and stored it in an underground 1.2 million gallon tank that is used for irrigation, water features, and toilets. This large tank of gray water reduces the foundation’s demand for city water by more than 70%.

In addition to the gray water system are other on-site life cycle systems. There is a 750,000 tank that is chilled at night to cool the buildings during the day which help save on electricity costs. The building itself can be considered an on-site life cycle system. The upfront costs to help pay for the building’s sustainable features will pay for itself in 30 years’ time. The quality of the building materials will allow the structure to last for 100 years. In total, the building will not have debt service for over 70 years and presumably with very little upkeep.

The Gates Foundation is an influential international philanthropic organization with a state of the art building that sets a standard in sustainability. Hopefully, its influence will impact other organizations across the globe to incorporate their own on-site life cycle systems such as the gray water system I was so impressed by. With the popularity of gray water, the costs should decrease making on-site life cycle systems a victory for sustainability.


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