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Other Composting Toilets

Public composting toilet installation on the rise

The Toronto and Region Conservation authority has composting toilets at their offices.

British Columbia’s Sewage-Free Building

Humanure Introducing humanure sanitation where it is needed.

Time Magazine: Humanure: Goodbye, Toilets. Hello, Extreme Composting, December 4, 2009. Green toilet wins city approval, June 18, 2009.

From Kathy Stinson's biography of landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander:

The C.K.Choi Institute of Asian Studies [Vancouver, University of British Columbia]....revealed Cornelia's keen interest in using science and technology as well as aesthetics to solve environmental problems. She had the unusual chance on this project to be part of a team made up almost entirely of women -- and on which women architects, civil engineers, and mechanical engineers held leading positions....Materials for construction were largely salvaged from a nearby building that was being demolished....The building uses 40 percent less energy than a "normal" structure. This amounts to a saving of $9,600 a year and enough electricity to serve nineteen family homes.

The water systems at Choi show how closely the indoor and outdoor aspects of the design were tied. Since the composting toilets use no water, they don't have to connect to sewers, and their use saves more than 1,500 gallons of drinkable water per day. That's enough for 3000 thirsty people. "Imagine how much drinking water could be saved if a whole city were to use composting toilets," Cornelia says. "Not to mention the money to be saved through not having to maintain and expand sewage infrastructure!"

The liquid that flows out of the toilets is called composting tea. Along with the gray water from the basins and sinks (water mixed with soap and stuff washed off dirty dishes), the "tea" flows into a trench that runs along the front of the building. "Sounds disgusting," you say? It's not. The lined trench is filled with gravel and planted with sedges, reeds, and iris. The gravel, the plants' roots, and other microbial life filter the water as it passes through the trench to the far end. Clear and odourless, that water is then used to irrigate the other gardens around the site.

A lot of people think a green building like the Choi Institute must have been far more expensive to construct than a traditional one. In fact, the per-square-foot cost was no more than any other building at UBC. Completed in 1996, it set new standards for environmental responsibility in landscape architecture. The American Institute of Architects included the building in its 2000 Earth Day Top Ten examples of "viable architectural design solutions that protect and enhance the environment."

Kathy Stinson, Love Every Leaf: The Life of Landscape Architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. Tundra books, 2008.

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