One of the hot topics of 2016 was the great inflow of asylum seekers in Europe. LeAF was involved in this as well. The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers in the Netherlands (COA), aims to develop new asylum centres in a sustainable way, offering asylum seekers not only guidance, but also professional and adequate housing and other basic facilities. LeAF has identified the chances for and consequences of an off-grid, circular and robust asylum centre, in cooperation with Twynstra Gudde and Marconia.
The assignment was to develop an asylum centre for 500 people, initially completely off-grid, sustainable and circular based on existing technologies. The focus was on energy and drinking water supply, and wastewater treatment with resource recovery. LeAF took up the wastewater part, including the options for recovery. Twynstra Gudde was coordinator of the project and covered the energy part while Marconia looked at the drinking water aspects.
Three different circular concepts were developed for the production and treatment of the utility streams (energy, water) and the subsequent treatment of, recovery of resources from, wastewater. In all concepts measures resulting in a minimized energy and drinking water demand were included, and the resource recovery potential from wastewater was determined.
These concepts were compared to the traditional connection to the electricity and drinking water grid and sewerage. Attention was given to maintenance, investment and exploitation costs, user and management friendliness and the amount of resources that can actually be recovered (circularity).
The comparison showed that multiple systems exist that are both practically and financially feasible. The management of an asylum centre of this given scale could not only be off-grid and circular, but with the proposed technologies also robust and hassle free. In addition, the systems competed with a traditional connection to the utility services in terms of comfort and safeguarding public health and environmental quality. The financial analysis showed that very interesting return on investment periods are possible.
The complexity of this case was finding the proper level of detail in the concepts. On the one hand, enough information was needed to allow for a useful feasibility check and to investigate the financial and management consequences. On the other hand, the development of robust concepts that can cope with a changing environment asked for a higher level of abstraction. In the end, it seemed possible to find the right balance by finding the proper way of communication and cooperation and by making clear agreements with all parties involved.
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