Monday 20 January 2014

Ecovate your home

Marcelo Barbosa is an Artist and Maker.  His flat in Wandsworth, London is a testing ground for his work which looks at creating stylistic household products, which are very efficient and economical to run.  Here is a selection of his works in progress.

Water saving
Marcelo has been addressing issues regarding water consumption:

  • Every time we flush the loo we use between 7.5 to 9 litres of water costing 1.5 to 1.8p, (according to Thames Water).  We use the loo on average six to ten times per day.  This means roughly between 45 to 90 litres of fresh water is disposed of in flushing, costing around 9 to 18p per day.
  • Most everyone runs the hot tap at the sink and discards the cold head of water, until the hot water comes through.  Every time we do this we waste about 3.5 litres of water (based on 10M length of 22mm dia pipe).
  • On average we each use 150 litres of water per day and about half of this goes straight down the drain. 
He has developed a system for capturing clean waste water and pumping it to a 150 litre storage tank to supply the WC.  The water sources include the first runs of hot taps from basins, bath and show, condensate from the boiler, captured rain water and even the final rinse cycle water from dishwasher and washing machines.

Water saving strategy:
1 Valves divert first run of cold water from hot water supply to WC tank
2 Clean rinse cycle water diverted to WC tank from appliances
3 Condensate from boiler diverted to WC tank (though slightly acidic)
4 Rain water harvesting
5 Hot water tank supplied from boiler
6 WC tank fed from discarded clean water.  It can be large, restricted by size and weight
7 WC flush valve unrestricted flow and no cistern

On the wash hand basin, Marcelo has designed and made a valve to divert the initial run of cold water from the hot water supply, into the WC tank

The tank is positioned at high level and supplies the WC by gravity.   Marcelo has fitted a 'Hydra' flush valve from Brazil which allows as much water as needed to be used.  Since it is all waste water, there are no restrictions on how much is used, and no fixed measures. 

THe WC has no cistern.  Instead it is fed by a waste water tank positioned at high level.  Because waste water is used, there is no restriction on the amount of water which can be used by the flush.
Please excuse the photographer.

Environmentally efficient appliances
Whilst a student at Camberwell College, Marcelo developed an eco-fridge come intelligent larder. It's an insulated and airtight box, just like any other fridge, but with additional air vents to the outside. When the external temperature drops below 5ºC, the fridge compressors switch off and it draws naturally cold air. It makes sense. Why pay to run a fridge when the air outside can be used for free?

The prototype eco-fridge / intelligent larder.  Draws naturally cold air from the outside when the temperature falls below 5ºC.

Study model of the eco-fridge.  Compressor and mechanics in the bottom compartment, food in the top.  Vents in the back.   

Marcelo is working with some 1960's appliances to see how they can be improved with greater efficiency. Early generation washing machines and dish washers offer technologies which are simpler and more accessible than more contemporary appliances. The retro styling works with his visions for his flat where each appliance is a distinct identifiable product (rather than a suite of similar items). The more manual approach to working these appliances makes it simple to divert cleaner rinse water to the WC tank. It also means wash cycles are much quicker, typically 25 minutes max. In addition they can be adapted to use less water.  Ever wondered if fully automated appliances truly economise on our use of time

1960's dishwasher refurbished and adapted to new eco service.

A 1930's French wood burning stove has been refurbished for a new position in the fire-place. Using wood as a fuel will help reduce his reliance on gas, and is more sensitive to the environment. To reclaim as much heat as possible Marcelo intends to run the steel flue internally as far as possible and use it like a radiator, before it discharges to the outside. He's even combined a ship's propeller with a dishwasher motor to act as an integrated fan to help circulate the heat. Fun stuff.

1930's wood burning stove. fully refurbished and ready for installation.

Making space
Marcelo admits he has a small flat and is creatively working with it to make use of every inch of space. His original kitchen was small. He says 'What can you do with a small kitchen? - Make it smaller!'  It makes sense because the resultant prototype has given lots of space back to the living room and made the whole arrangement feel open and light. The design is based on an aircraft galley. The worktops measure only 380mm across. All the services neatly reach their destinations without the need for service voids. To save material resources, all the materials have been reused from the original kitchen.  Waste and recycling units that tilt, rather than pull out, to save space. 

Prototype space saving kitchen.  Made with reused materials.  In a small flat, this solution does not dominate the space.

The original bathroom is being replaced with a shower room relocated centrally in the flat to give greater window space to the bedroom. The shower room walls, only 50mm thick, contain services required for the WC, basin and shower. Because the WC is supplied from a separate tank, there is no cistern, saving further space. The space saving wash hand basin is fitted on a pivot and hydraulic arms so it can tilt out to be used like a standard basin. 

Space saving hand wash basin on pivot and hydraulic arms allows the user to wash their face too.

Marcelo has even been taking items like stereo speakers apart and installed the profiled speaker heads on to his (slim) walls. This integration saves on the space needed for the appliance to sit in a room and makes the walls appear like stylish products themselves. 

Speaker sets integrated in to walls look neat and means there are less items occupying a room.

Bespoke measures like this illustrate that with a degree of thought we could work to radically reduce our reliance on the standard utilities of water, gas and electricity.  It will be interesting to see how far Marcelo's can take this and see how close a London flat in a Victorian house can get to becoming infra-free.

His careful attention to detail to ensuring that no space is wasted has resulted in allowing a small flat look deceptively spacious.

Marcello is not afraid to take a product apart and see how it can be improved.  His work illustrates how accessible technology should be and how for the majority of us, we simply use our appliances without much question, relying on the (perhaps wishful) notion that the manufacturer has optimised its efficiency.

The shower room extract is connected to a cooker hood fan.  Marcelo says standard extracts don't give the power to keep a shower room free of steam and humidity.  This one has six settings. 

Marcelo aims to complete his flat as a show-case of his ideas.  A web site is under development but in the mean time, more of his work can be found on Facebook.

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