DAY 17: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Research and Technology (6/19/2017)

We awoke early with a long day ahead of us full of traveling.  Complimentary breakfast at the hotel followed by a short walk to the train station.  We traveled from Zurich to Dübendorf to visit the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Research and Technology (EAWAG). EAWAG is a research institute of ETH Zurich.  Our goal for the day was to learn about their larger research agenda in water sustainability.  Dr. Thomas Lichtensteiger, the head of the Ecoteam at EAWAG, spoke to us about their research and gave us a tour of the grounds.  EAWAG is a research institution that researches non-marine water including aquatic ecosystems.  Researchers work on ways to improve water for human welfare, water for ecosystem function, as well as strategize for trade-offs in order to resolve water demands.  They have multiple buildings each with a different function.  One of which is their experimental building where they run tests on wastewater, drinking water, and any other type they wish to experiment on.  EAWAG prides itself on bridging research to practice, and they decided to incorporate this philosophy into their own buildings.  One of the buildings does not have heat nor air conditioning, and is instead heated by the people inside, and cooled by fresh air specially pumped in from outside. The building is surrounded with blue panels that protect the building from the sun and weather.  An expansive atrium allows plenty of natural light into the building, and a green roof littered with solar panels allows the building to use the equivalent of two single family homes worth of electricity annually.  Outside they had a series of infiltration basins and rain gardens to capture stormwater from surrounding areas and their green roof harnesses rainwater to be used in toilet flushing.

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A second building we visited uses a new concept of building design which includes a permanent concrete center and flooring for each floor.  Each floor is designed to allow for building pods to be interchangeable every five years.  This building also had a lab in the basement dedicated to urine capture, filtering and concentrating in order to create a fertilizer from the urine captured from the buildings inhabitants. Our speaker for the trip was a Virginia native, B.J. Ward, whose parents live near Richmond. B.J. explained that this research can be done this because of the special no mix toilets that transports fecal matter to the blackwater system and the urine to a distilling tank to start the fertilizer creation process.  They are also researching how to best treat stormwater for reuse, as well as how to remove dissolved medicines from the urine.

After a jam-packed morning filled with learning, we ate lunch at the organic cafeteria on-site, which was delicious. Several of our speakers and other researchers joined us for lunch to answer additional questions. We then headed back by train to Zurich and had two hours of free time before we left for Freiburg.  Some of us completed last minute shopping, while others lounged at the hotel.  We said our goodbyes to Professor Moomaw, and joined up with Professor Buehler to take the train to Freiburg.  After we got the hotel in Freiburg we took a walking tour with Professor Buehler around the city and he showed us the integrated transportation infrastructure system, as well as the architecture of the old buildings untouched by the world wars. This is the beginning of our last week of Sustainable Europe.

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