In 2005, we realized that Omega's aging wastewater septic system would soon need to be replaced. Instead of simply installing a new septic system, we wanted to create a different kind of water treatment system—one that would handle water not as waste, but as a precious resource.
Omega identified three criteria to be met by the natural water reclamation system we envisioned:
- Water reclamation using zero chemicals
- Water reclamation using low energy
- Educational opportunities for individuals and groups
We brainstormed with Omega teachers at the top of the environmental and sustainability fields and chose to build an Eco Machine™, a natural "wastewater" treatment system that cleans water by mimicking the systems of the natural world. This met criteria number one, water treatment using zero chemicals.
Part of the Eco Machine™ needed to be housed by a building. We decided the building should be just as green and efficient as the Eco Machine™ itself, and began to design the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. We built the OCSL to the highest standards in sustainable architecture—LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge. To meet one of the prerequisites for the Living Building Challenge, the OCSL was designed to generate and supply all energy for both the Eco Machine™ and the building. With a zero carbon footprint, we were able to exceed our second criteria of low energy for the new water reclamation system.
At the OCSL, we wanted the public to be able to learn about the process of natural water reclamation, witness the latest developments in green building, and take courses that highlight their connection to the natural world and inspire greater sustainability in their own lives and communities. With a 4,500 square foot greenhouse, an accessible mechanical room, and an indoor and outdoor classroom, the OCSL meets Omega's third criteria of education and allows us to provide educational opportunities for a wide variety of groups and individuals.