Miami Green Homes

Water and wastewater (WWW) treatment – a look at the energy used for water in the US

While water and wastewater (WWW) treatment accounts for a surprising 5% of total U.S. electric power generation, topographically-variable WWW conveyance account for a more surprising 15% of the same total [Pod06; Coh04]. In addition, while wastewater contains energy in dilute form, current goals for recovering such energy represent only 0.02% of the total generation, through the use of microbial fuel cells of the future [Log04]. If, on the other hand, WWW were decentralized, up to 15% of total U.S. electric power production could be saved.


While centralization of WWW treatment was implemented to concentrate resources and ensure water quality, today many monitoring, quality control, and operation and maintenance (O&M) functions can be decentralized electronically. Imagine, if each building of the future contains a direct potable reuse system, then maintenance personnel, rather than driving to a central facility daily, would be dispatched electronically to neighborhoods for routine annual maintenance. Moreover, decentralization would increase the accountability of neighborhood residents in terms of responsible use of water, personal care products, and household chemicals.


Beyond energy savings, autonomous net-zero water (ANZW) buildings would not need to treat for most pesticides (US, 5 billion lbs/y) and industrial chemicals (US, 6 billion lbs/y), representing a total mass loading of 2 mg/L on U.S. surface and groundwater runoff. Treatment instead would focus on effective destruction of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) such as pharmaceuticals, which cannot be as easily regulated in terms of environmental half-life as pesticides and other chemicals, by advanced oxidation. This latter advantage would address the current 6% feminization of male fish across all species (20%, black bass) in U.S. river basins [Hin09]. Finally, an urban demand for e.g. one million gallons of water every day in Southeast Florida would be removed from the (Everglades) natural system. Eliminated would be water rationing, and the need to treat seawater with total impurity levels two orders of magnitude higher than drinking water standards, to drinking water standards when impurities in treated wastewater e.g. in S. Florida currently meet 87 of the 93 numerical drinking water standards on average without further treatment.


Increased construction activity in the outlined areas over the last 10+ years. Many infill projects and zero lot line developments. Increased population growth in the target area with increased load (people) and demand (use per individual). Overall individual load has increased over X years by X gallons per day. Strain on water treatment system and infrastructure, especially close to water ways cited. Septic tanks systems that are undersized, outdated or broken, without eh owner knowledge. Purposeful (non permitted or documented) re-routing of sewage water to nearby water ways and excess burden on municipal sewer system with surface water runoff, increased rainfall intensity and more man-made diversions of water. Quantity of subsurface runoff (stormwater).


Estimates of water use in the United States indicate that about 410 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn in 2005 for all categories summarized in this report. This total is slightly less than the estimate for 2000, and about 5 percent less than total withdrawals in the peak year of 1980. Freshwater withdrawals in 2005 were 349 Bgal/d, or 85 percent of the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals. Fresh groundwater withdrawals of 79.6 Bgal/day in 2005 were about 5 percent less than in 2000, and fresh surface-water withdrawals of 270 Bgal/day were about the same as in 2000. Withdrawals for thermoelectric-power generation and irrigation, the two largest uses of water, have stabilized or decreased since 1980. Withdrawals for public-supply and domestic uses have increased steadily since estimates began.


Waste Reduction – a few simple steps…
July 9, 2012, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Hot Topic, Sustainable Living, Waste

Waste reduction can be classified as simply as diverting waste from a landfill: remember reduce, reuse, and recycle. As children, we are all taught the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) as a way to keep us conscious of our impact on the environment but we never really kept it up as we grew up. Why? We became lazy and even starting playing basketball with our trash. There are many different ways to achieve waste reduction in residential and commercial applications.

Three ways for reducing waste stand out for both construction and commercial waste. First, reuse some of the architectural components. Create on-site processing and recycling programs as well as off-site processing and recycling. There are companies all over the U.S. that deal with waste management and ironically enough, the largest company is appropriately known as Waste Management. They have LEED-accredited professionals on staff for consultation purposes. These companies set up systems for you or give you the option to use theirs (though at a larger cost, but still more convenient). WM will set up waste pickups and the best way to achieve waste management is to wait until the dumpsters are completely full until they or a similar company come to collect.

As for waste reduction at home, there are many basic, easy, and free ways to start. Some even save money in the long and short run.

  • Use carpools or mass transit (this saves on fuel waste)
  • Donate your used goods, i.e. clothing, old appliances, instead of throwing them out. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
  • Use a metal water bottle. Last year, 2.4 billion pounds of plastic bottles were recycled. Although recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space, the process is still not ideal. So why even use them? Sigg is an amazing company with durable metal water bottles and they look good, too. I have been using Sigg bottles for years now.
  • Use bar soap. Using bar soap instead of liquid bath wash that comes in yet another plastic bottle helps save plastic and the energy of recycling it by minimizing your waste to a paper wrapper or small cardboard box.
  • Recycle batteries! Places like Best Buy and Staples have plastic bins by the door for collecting batteries. No battery fluid seepage into our landfills and water tables!
  • Send in your address and name information to DMA, Mail Preference Services to stop getting junk mail at home. This will reduce your paper trail. Every year, 3.5 million tons of 5.9 million tons is junk mail that just ends up getting thrown out. Save the trees, please.
  • Composting. Reuse your food scraps to fertilize your garden.
  • Recycle your grass or as the term has been coined “grasscycling”. This means simply keeping your grass shavings on your lawn or spreading them in your garden. This absorbs moisture and retains for when the lawn needs also reducing the amount of water wasted.
  • Reuse, Repurpose and Repair. If something is broken, try to fix it first. It’s not worth throwing out if it’s something repairable! Try your local cobbler to fix a variety of things, not just your shoes.  Or even Google-search ideas for re-using that old door that you’re just going to throw out. Maybe it becomes a new conversation table in your living room. There is always a way to reuse something. You just need a little imagination and maybe a little elbow grease to get it done.

The South Florida kitchen

The kitchen is in many cases the main space of the house and there is great opportunity to create a true masterpiece. The kitchen offers a number of sustainable opportunities, probably more than any other room in the house.

To start lets separate outdoor and indoor kitchens. This post will focus more on indoor kitchens. Part II, will be posted at a later date.

Since energy use is one of the quickest ways to make decisions about starting a project and generally have the fastest payback and the most incentives, let’s start with this topic. There are of course the appliances used in the kitchen. Look for Energy Star appliances to start. If you want to go more high-end, carefully investigate that energy uses and benefits of your selected equipment. The choices are plenty.

New Open Kitchen

Stove: efficient cook tops are available but to really go green, go with gas. Many say that it not just saves energy but also cooks better. It certainly cooks faster in many instances. Consider a combination steam oven for your baking needs. These machines are a bit more versed and also use less energy than conventional ovens.

When using your oven, forfeit the pre heat time and also turn the oven off a few minutes before your dish is done. The heat will not escape at a noticeable rate until you open the door, saving you energy before and after…

Dishwasher: if you have a large household, the water savings justify using this neat machine rather than hand wash. The magic number is 3 or more people living in your household. There are many great models that will not just save you energy, but also save you water. My favorite brand is Miele.

Fixtures: get the low flow fixture for your kitchen that has a moveable multifunction head rather than 2 separate units for fixed and flexible use. Again, I recommend to look for the German manufacturers. There are many stunning designs that have a flow rate of 1.8 gallons or less. You can also save energy by not running your hot water to the kitchen, depending on the layout of the house. If it is a long run, consider just adding a small on demand unit to the kitchen sink.

Lighting: If you can’t stand the heat… exactly. Lighting can contribute substantially to the heat load in the kitchen. Here more than in any other room in the house, use cool lighting. The CCT – Correlated Color Temperature level indicated the “blue” appearance of LED lights. Typical car lights are about 4000. You may want to go with a 3500 in the kitchen; still bright but a bit warmer. 3000 is generally recommended for living and bedrooms, you can use the brighter light in the kitchen. LED lights are the preferred choice for me. More on LED lights here.

Hollywood Condo kitchen

Layout: remodeling your kitchen is a great way to improve some of the natural features your space has to offer as well as improve on the flow and use for this space. There is the general consideration of the “kitchen triangle”; the use of stove, sink and refrigerator. If you have space, I recommend the integration of a center island. This is where your designer really makes a difference, so call me to set up an appointment to upgrade YOUR kitchen.

Materials: a kitchen must be warm and user-friendly as well as easy to clean. Countertops, cabinetry and flooring are the main players for the kitchen. There a number of recycled content counters available, so leave the granite top behind; try some recycled glass, reclaimed wood or pressed recycled paper…

For the floor, choose large component tiles (24 x 24 or larger to minimize grout lines) or solid surfaces like polished concrete. Wood replacements are generally not recommended for the kitchen, as this is the space that is likely cleaned most frequent.

For the cabinets, go with FSC wood, or ensure that a composite board is Urea Formaldehyde free! Your carpenter can and should verify this information!

And finally to the best of South Florida: year round vegetation! This means that you can grow your on herbs and even some veggies year round, and it also means that composting is an easy must…

…more to come in future posts; including the South Florida Outdoor kitchen.

If you like to get started on your own kitchen renovation, contact Sebastian Eilert Architecture today:



a bit about…recycling.
December 1, 2009, 4:14 am
Filed under: Sustainable Living, Waste | Tags:

One of the best green practices you can do in your home is waste reduction. This does not cost you a dime and will have a great impact on making your home and your life more sustainable. It is a fantastic step towards green building and sustainable living.

 To start, look at your containers. In South Florida you should have a single stream recycling bin (typically dark blue). This will take glass plastic, metal, paper, cans and bottles. What is single stream? Single stream is the opposite of multi stream and makes it easy for the end user to recycle. In essence, all your goods go into one container and will be sorted at the plant. The down turn of this method is that less of the actual material will be valuable in the recycling process as it was likely ruined by some of the other items it got in touch with. The benefit is that more people are doing it and more overall volume is recycled.

The alternative is multi stream collection. This is the way Germany and other countries are doing it and they place the “burden” of separating on the user. Typical items to separate are newspaper, plastic (such as yoghurt cups), glass (there is also a mount fee for most glass bottles in Germany), compostables and other waste. Collection of the varying items varies by day. This system works surprisingly well in Germany but has found some resistance in most parts of the US… one day we will change, too!

 So what can you do if you consider going beyond the single stream system or are left out of the system entirely for now? Do your own multi stream. To start, get a little kitchen compost and, if possible, a outdoor area to then compost. There are also simple balcony ready contraptions that work quite well for your compost. If you have more than 2 plants, you will most definitely be able to use the compost “in-house”.

Next, sort paper. If you are a heavy newspaper reading household, separate the newspaper and save it for cleaning or shred it to mix into your compost. Consider donating some of the higher quality magazines to schools and medical offices.

Glass containers can be reused in many ways. I like to use them to separate and store my nails and screws, but they are useful storage for so many items that tend to clutter our closets, pantries and basements.

 How about leaving potential rubbish at the store? Most of the non-compostable and non-recyclable waste we generate is packaging. Leave it with the vendor and make sure to bring your own bags. There is no excuse to use plastic bags anymore. All grocery stores, as well as many others, offer reusable bags for very affordable pricing. Once you have it, make sure you put it in a place where you will not forget it, such as your back seat (and by all means, express yourself with your favorite team logo, charitable organizations, business logo, etc…, the options are limitless).


…and one last word…about plastic bottles. Avoid them, same with bags. Recycling helps, but not using them will help transform the marketplace and save our planet. The damage done by wasted plastic bottles to the earth, the oceans and wildlife is getting out of control and accelerated many of the problems we are facing. Do your part to send a message to the manufacturers to stop making disposable plastic products.