Problems & Solutions: Water

Problems & Solutions

The Center for Permaculture and Appropriate Technology (CPAT) is a place that showcases how a balance among (1) healthy food choices, (2) stormwater management, (3) low-pollution transportation systems with supportive jobs, and (4) renewable energy sources can be embedded in the Near West Side community area. Teaching, learning, and job training programs are integral to all work at CPAT.

The activities at CPAT are designed to build on the local economy by providing a marketplace where exchanges happen in a closed, local loop. CPAT equips the neighborhood with the knowledge and resources needed to live resiliently and encourages a community-scaled, closed loop economy less impacted by regional and global fluctuations. Programs like Local Bucks (see Eau Claire and Greencastle) ensure dollars stay local, and Really, Really Free Markets (see Toronto and NYC) encourage product life-cycle awareness, interdependence with neighbors, and community interactions.

The site becomes a campus of learning and working, and is the antithesis to a massive building that could have been built within the constraints of the Living Building imperatives. Crisscrossing footpaths break up the large street grid to create a human-scaled site that offers intrigue, and improves human well-being through stress relief as shown in Landscape Psychology. Paths are also a direct Biomimicry technique to create Land Mosaics that increase habitat types and species variation to an urban area, therefore providing opportunities for nature access, education and economic development.

As a Living Building, CPAT is a restorative organism. At the center is an anaerobic digester, CPAT’s stomach. Its fuel is waste, and its product is education, food, and support for the local economy. The more waste the digester receives, the more energy it generates.

2. Water

Chicago and many of the surrounding suburbs have combined sewer-stormwater systems that, along with enormous and incomplete underground reservoirs, have overflow problems with medium-intensity, and larger, rainfall events that result in discharging untreated water into Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.


CPAT will have a simulated wetland – acting as a living machine – to treat runoff and waste water from sinks and showers. This living machine can accommodate water from surrounding streets. All surfaces – hardscape and landscape alike – will be permeable, with water being absorbed by the food forest. Collected rainwater is cleaned to become potable; graywater is cleaned for irrigation. Composting toilets will be used to eliminate the need for processing blackwater.

Read about the other focus areas:

Food – Water – TransportationEnergy

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