BedZED, the cutting-edge housing project created by the group BioRegional, while an overall success, is having some difficulties, particularly with the living machine that handles its waste. Hard to tell how much of this involves the inevitable shake-down problems associated with any innovation and how much is poor design showing through:
Meanwhile, the other linchpin of BedZed's ethos - its Living Machine, which uses reed beds to filter sewage water for use in toilets and gardens - has been out of operation for the past seven months because the Peabody Trust, the housing association that commissioned BedZed from BioRegional Development Group, an entrepreneurial, independent environmental organisation, could not afford to replace the operator. ... [But] Thames Water agreed to take over the Living Machine and run it alongside new technology from the US. It is due to move in to BedZed later this year. Additionally, Dunster says, a replacement technology to provide heat and power from biomass has been identified to fill the gap left by the failed combined heat and power (CHP) system, which was so unreliable that Peabody installed gas boilers after the first winter. Dunster says he is now talking to the Greater London Authority's Climate Change Agency and the Carbon Trust about funding for the new system. "If things go well, there's a good chance we'll have the plant replaced in time for winter," he says.
We'll be following this closely.
"its Living Machine, which uses reed beds to filter sewage water for use in toilets and gardens - has been out of operation for the past seven months because the Peabody Trust... could not afford to replace the operator."
Well, that's sad. Part of the persistent trouble with Living Machines (now called ECO Machines by their inventor) has been the business model: these things need constant tending. They need service. One of the things that have caused these installations to be decommissioned over the years is the lack of tending, and a failure to bundle service into the installation contract. To think that complex living systems like these ones don't need constant attention is to miss the point entirely, because (like gardens, terrariums, agriculture, composting toilets) these are human-engineered systems which we're asking to perform specific tasks.
sounds to me like a simple lack of redundancy.
in order for design to be flexible and resilient, it must have redundancy.