Victoria's fishy way to go green

August 26, 2005

There's something fishy in the water at the University of Victoria - literally.

The toilets and urinals at the school's new medical building, on the west coast of Canada, recycle waste water from campus aquariums used for marine biology research.

"The building is a state-of-the-art facility that combines sustainability with technology," said Sarah Webb, who heads the university's environmental initiatives.

Reusing the fish-flavoured water saves 2.1 million litres a year. An engineering and computer-science complex, due to open in 2006, will do the same in its bathrooms, saving an additional 2.7 million litres a year.

The university treats the waste water with ozone and a small amount of chlorine to render it safe and odourless, Ms Webb said.

The building can switch immediately to city water if the recycling system fails, but that had not happened since the building opened in January, she said.

Ms Webb said the medical building was made of locally available materials to cut down on the environmental toll of long-distance transport. It has showers and changing rooms to accommodate students and academics who cycle to campus; and it is designed to let in lots of natural light to reduce energy use. Designers also purchased desks made without adhesives, fearing that epoxy molecules might escape and degrade the building's air.

Ms Webb was unable to say how much the water recycling system or other features cost, but she maintained that, on average, building to these environmental standards incurred a premium of about 3 per cent.

Meanwhile, at the University of British Columbia a C$23.5 million (£11 million) Centre for Research into Environmental Sustainability will be constructed next year.

UBC said the building would produce its own energy through solar, wind and geothermal power, would get all its drinking water from rain, and would bring enough new flora into its landscaping to negate the carbon dioxide its occupants produced.

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