The aim of this section is to provide a synopsis of the project to bring a Jonathon Todd EcoMachine or something similar to the community of Lyons.
What is an Ecomachine?
An Ecomachine, refered to in this output as a 'John Tod Ecological Design' (JTED) or an Ecomachine is in super-simple terms, an ecological waste water treatment plant.
However its beautiful complexity and multifunctionality cannot be given justice in this output wordcount limit therefore I would encourage the reader to read more about these systems on the John Todd Ecological Design website here.
They are in short:
- A way of restoring waste water to drinking quality without hazardous chemicals
- They are designed as an ecosystem with beneficial relationships between diverse plants, microbial species and distinct treatment zones.
- They can be designed to function, and resemble, a baffled “river” through the creation of eddies, countercurrents, and contact zones in which a diversity of life will arise.
The potential for an Ecomachine has arisen in Lyons in the context of the town needing to take action around its processing of waste water.
The options are:
- To retrofit the existing industrial system.
- To send waste water to a further town for processing.
- To build a similar system on the same or a different site.
- To install something original such as the JTED system.
All options have advantages and disadvantages and there are multiple factors at play, for which an ecosocial designer must navigate in encouraging the adoption of the ecological option.
In terms of community context, Lyon also hosts a thriving 'green community' with many actors, such as the Sustainable Futures Commission working for ecological solutions in meeting community needs.
Why is this project important?
- It would be a step forward for JTE, ecological design pioneers.
- Lyons would be the first state in the Country taking it to another level & would hopefully trigger a domino effect allowing other towns to install similar systems
- The Ecomachine is not just about cleaning waste water, its role is as an influencer of something much larger e.g. a new regenerative business model, shared services and multifunctionality, restoration on multiple levels.
What has happened so far?
Several positive steps have been taken in creating the opportunity for a JTED to become realised in Lyons. On a personal level, my role in the process is explored in the next section.
Below is a brief overview of the stages of the project so far:
1. Prepatory work & relationship building - explored in the next section.
2. Jonathon Todd Day
The son of Jonathon Todd & his Chief Engineer came to Lyrons to give two presentations. The first in the morning was to all commissioners in the town and the board of Trustees from the Waste Water Committee. There were also site visits and at the end of the day a second presentation was given with an opportunity for questions and answers.
Diane Dandeneau from the SFC described the day as "the brilliant next step", allowing people to see the possibilities. The day also generated further questions.
3. Feasibility Studies
Following the generated questions, the supporters of the project now need to provide data and evidence exploring:
- If the cost is competitive to traditional systems (equal or less), in terms of both installation and maintenance.
- What the ranges of risks are.
- How benefits outweigh the risks, especially in the context of installing a completely original system
- How to quantify the intrinsic value of the JTED that are not explicitly valued in conventional decision making e.g. biodiversity, resilience, multifunctionality, public health
The Jonathon Todd team will undertake a full feasibility study for approximately 40,000USD however the group organising on this project will also send requests for quotations to at least 3 or 4 other companies.
Diane Dandeneau has described the current status of the project as 'too vague' and feels its important to armour the group with a detailed feasibility study that can be make the benefits explicitly tangible, especially to engineers involved in the project. She encourages the WWC to "Bring out some numbers which will allow everybody to say yes".
What has been going well?
- Leverage has been utilised - for example through education with the Jonathon Todd day.
- Multiple beneficial relationships have been cultivated through various Municipal boards & committees as well as with the education community at the local University.
- Positive feedback - There are people in town governance that appreciate my presence & input.
- Actors in the municipal system are hearing the sustainability message from different directions & external factors such as newspaper articles & central government.
What has been challenging?
- The people who hold positions of power within the community tend to be conservative in their decision making due to the public holding them accountable.
- Actors are still working within the economic system and the 'financial side is still the ruling law' (Diane Dandeneau).
- Proposing something completely new & different
- Highlighting ecological values in a culture that does not value ecology or holistic thinking
- The moving parts of the municipal system - for example the politics involved, the fact that people are voted in on short terms which means building relationships can be a challenge.
- The lack of integration within a municipal system e.g. Its missing communication system between different elements and how the town is governed.
- Divested interests - for example my action learning with the Head of the Engineering Board, who also works for Monsanto and the challenge this relationship as brought to the project in terms of delays.
What are the next achievable steps?
1. Talk to Victoria
2. Write up request letters for 'Feasibility of ecological waste water' and send to at least 3 or 4 other companies.
3. Talk to Biomimicry Contact about scheduling presentation at Education event
4. Organise an education event or workshop, including designing an invitation list, which will educate about the JTED, to those in professional backgrounds such as engineers as well as potential investors, education partners or people who may donate to the project.