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16 May 2013 / in

NADP-Neighborhood Aqua Desalination Plant
22@, Barcelona, Spain

Spring 2012 M.Arch Year 3 MIT Studio
Instructor: Andrew Scott  TA: Andrew George Phillip Ferentinos
Building Type: Community mixed use building with integrated prototype water desalination technology

Barcelona’s plan to become a self-sufficient city is well under way. In the 22@ area, there are attempts to combat various inefficiencies of energy and material consumption. But none deal with Barcelona’s major shortages of water. In 2008, a drought pushed Barcelona to the edge of crisis; some tabloids had headings such as “Spain sweats amid ‘water wars’” and “Barcelona forced to import emergency water.” To sustain its population, Barcelona spent €21M a month to import 63 shipments of water from other parts of Spain and France. However, the effort was only able to serve the consumption of 25% of its inhabitants. Since the drought, Barcelona has built 6 desalinization plants that use reverse osmosis (RO) to generate fresh water. However, the production of water consumes nearly 10% of all energy spent by the city. 30% of Catalonia’s imports are energy alone.

In recent decades, a technology has been employed in many arid climates whereby seawater is converted to drinking water in a Greenhouse (GH) desalination plant. In addition to being able to produce fresh water, the plant is also a habitat which allows for a more favorable production of food. But this technology has not been deployed in an urban environment since the water production from a GH plant of moderate size can only sustain about 1000 people. While RO plants can produce 50 times more water, they are roughly 260 times less energy efficient then GH plants.
This project therefore is to speculate on the integration of GH plants to create a network of sustainable neighborhoods. Instead of factories that have machinery hidden from the public, desalination plants can be more like community gardens or neighborhood markets. By educating and evoking public curiosity, this project fuses water desalination and food production with cultural and public amenities for a neighborhood much like the Ferns in the Back Bay or the Eden Project in in Cornwall. Ultimately, it seeks to inform the public of their water use and water generation through architectural design.