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Traditionally, infrastructure has been built around already-existing demand, but the Stanford framework envisions designing them together to maximize efficiency.

A recent study recommends simultaneous design of neighborhoods and integrated power and water plants to serve them

A new study from Stanford University could help United States policymakers spend billions in infrastructure funding more wisely. The study provides a framework for optimizing infrastructure in urban neighborhoods. The efficient new models for determining the mix of buildings, and for integrating power and wastewater infrastructure could have widespread implications.

Cities cover only about 3% of land around the globe, but they are home to 55% of its population and are responsible for more than 66% of its energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. If urban design could significantly improve efficiency in population centers, it would be a huge stride in reaching sustainability.

Models show that integrated power and wastewater infrastructure can be much more efficient than discrete plants. The framework envisions merging power and wastewater infrastructure, so, for instance, wasted heat and electricity from power plants can be used for wastewater treatment, and wastewater can be used to cool power plants.

Traditionally, infrastructure is built after demand is already established by the organic growth of an area, but by then it’s hard to optimize its environmental and economic performance because the mix of buildings highly influences the consumption profile of the area.

Simultaneous Planning

The Stanford framework envisions simultaneously designing both neighborhoods (demand) and the integrated, decentralized infrastructure that will serve them (supply), optimizing hourly demand for power and water supply and delivering efficiency far surpassing larger, centralized systems. This can lead to built environments that are more walkable, livable, and affordable.

The study found that fully integrating power and water infrastructure with buildings yielded a 75% reduction in negative social, environmental, and economic impacts from carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, lifecycle equipment costs were 20% lower than those for traditional discrete systems.

High-Efficiency Technologies

The researchers noted that advanced technologies can deliver high efficiency and allow small physical footprints for integrated power and wastewater treatment plants. The Stanford study envisions plants that are odor-free, that can run on alternative energy, emit few or no harmful emissions, and can serve between 100 and 1,000 buildings. More than 4,000 such systems that already exist around the globe deliver significant energy savings.

One such advanced technology recently proven at Stanford is the membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR), an adaptation of biological treatment that features high nutrient removal with low energy requirements, so operation even on alternative energy sources is viable. Fluence’s modular Aspiral™ plants use MABR technology to provide high nutrient removal with a small-footprint. The packaged plants integrate well into urban neighborhoods and produce low odor or noise during operation.

While the Stanford study imagines planned urban environments, the reality is that cities are dynamic. Fluence modular plants are designed to be scalable and ready to deploy right now. As neighborhoods and capacity needs change, the plants can be easily revised with the addition, removal, or redeployment of units.

With its Water Management Services, Fluence can deliver infrastructure accompanied by long-term operations and maintenance with no upfront investment. Contact Fluence to find out what good neighbors modular plants can be in tight urban quarters.

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