Water, one of the few necessities in life. Without it, one dies. It is not common to think about how fortunate most people are to have access to water at all times. What happens when purified drinking water is gone? Are steps being taken to address such issues in order to secure fresh water?
1 out of every 7 people lack access to clean water right now. That is over 1 billion people worldwide. By the year 2030, the world’s freshwater supply will decrease by 40 percent. As population numbers continue to rise, we must address this issue.
Of all the world's water, 96 percent lies in the ocean. This largely untapped resource could be the solution to our problem. Desalination is a process that creates potable water by removing salt and other harmful minerals from seawater. Recently it has gained traction and popularity, but remains an expensive alternative to the current freshwater supplies. But, what happens when those run dry? Our concept will desalinate ocean water using energy efficient methods, and also supply the water to where it is needed most. A skyscraper of potable water ready for community use.
Solar or wind power are two possible solutions to energize a desalination tower. In comparison, it was concluded that solar powered multiple effect distillation would produce more fresh, clean water than a wind powered reverse osmosis plant.
In terms of water produced, it is easy to determine a clear winner based on capacity. With solar energy (using 16 panels), over 1,300,000 m³ of water can be produced as opposed to 350,000 m³ from harnessed wind energy.
By using solar panels, a more efficient building footprint can also be established. Panels would be stacked vertically on top of one another, while wind turbines require more space and a specific layout in gathering the maximum amount of wind energy.
MULTIPLE EFFECT DISTILLATION
Multiple Effect Distillation is one of several ways to provide fresh water through the desalination process. Using heat as energy collected from solar panels, the process is started. The heat from the panels is turned into steam as a means of removing salt from the water. Once heat has been collected, seawater enters the system and passes through a series of heated evaporators. Going through this process allows for the system to fully purify the water and make it drinkable. As the water goes from evaporator to evaporator, it is exposed to multiple heat levels. Typically, the first evaporator would be around 95ºC while the last is as cool as 80ºC.
Large scale, small scale, world crisis. Is it possible to imagine a world without water? In the United States many people would simply say, "no." Addressing all levels of water shortage is important for this reason. Based on specific needs at the time of crisis, different storage capsule sizes are used. On the large scale in which a whole city may need water, large capsules are available for transport by helicopter. When a single family home or small community needs water, a smaller capsule option is available for transport via drone. Lastly, in times of world crisis, large water storage bags are used to supply a large population with water. These storage bags are stored within the sea-based tower and available for transport with the use of a boat. Once they reach a coastal destination, they can then be transported in smaller shipments on a need based scenario.
Not only does the Elutriator transform seawater into potable water, but it also can hold an immense amount of water. In one year, it produces enough freshwater to fill the entire Houston Astrodome. But where does all this go? Beneath the surface, water is pumped into three different containers. Two of them are smaller, more portable capsules. Available in 10 or 500 gallon sizes, these capsules float to the surface when full, and await a drone or helicopter pickup. The last and third option is a large water bag. Modeled after the giant Nordic Water Bag, these can carry over 2 million gallons. Te freshwater stored here will be ready for a global emergency.
Elutriator will feature two towers: one off the coast of Los Angeles (where the desalination process will occur) and another based inland as a means of storage. Pictured are design sketches working with tower forms. The sea tower is composed of three main parts. Above water solar panels are used to collect the sun's energy. As an ode to the sea, the tower has been depicted with a wavelike form. Below the sea is where the actual desalination process occurs. Here, a level is reserved for the water to be purified through Multiple Effect Distillation. From here, the water is captured in giant storage capsules or water bags and held until needed. Surrounding the underwater storage is a cage system to protect the newly purified water from any danger (sharks, debris, etc.).
The inland tower serves the sole purpose of a storage facility. In times of crisis, this reserve tank can be used to ship purified drinking water to those in need. Focus of the inland tower is to simply store the water, but also allowing for an aesthetically pleasing building. The building would function somewhat as a giant gumball machine; storage capsules are placed in the facility from the top (via helicopter or drone depending on size), and descend to the bottom of the tower. When a capsule is needed, they can be removed from the bottom and transported to their final destination.
California is already experiencing the effects of severe water shortage. The greatest need will be where the greatest population exists, Los Angeles. The water processing tower is located off the coast on the Pacific Ocean while the inland tower will sit on the Angeleno shoreline.
Looking at the WaterFX desalination plant as a case study, solar panels are the basis of harnessing energy for our tower. As the energy of the sun is captured by the solar panels, it converts the energy into heat in order for its use in the Multiple Effect Distillation process. Being in the northern hemisphere, the solar panels would face directly south in order to maximize the sunlight captured. With the changing of the seasons the solar panel is then rotated 15º up or down to account for the changing angle of the sun.
When developing our building form, our principal concern was to shape it, so that it could capture as much thermal energy from the sun as possible. We began by looking at a solar farm, traditionally laid flat in the desert, covering a wide area. But, we needed to shrink our building footprint on the ocean surface and gain surface area for our solar panels. Next, we needed to add additional room for water pre-treatment, and mechanical space for the large evaporators. Finally we interpreted the arc of the solar panels, and the shapes of various ocean creatures to inform our resultant organic form.