The here presented abstract examines how the adoption of the Systemic Design methodology has led to some interesting and unexpected results during the design process of an alternative water treatment for domestic purpose.
The rapid evolution of the worldwide scenario, the climate change, biodiversity loss, resources depletion and rapid technological and social development called for a radical response from the design community. Anthropogenic pressures on the Earth System have reached a scale where an urgent change of route towards sustainability is inescapable. At the same time, the understanding of the raising complexity in natural and social systems, resulting by the discoveries occurred during the last century in Physics, Cybernetics, Biology, etc. made the reductionism view inadequate.
Therefore, the Systemic Design (SD) methodology results as a supportive tool for helping the designer to look at the objective in its complexity and to organize all the actors of the project by giving them the ability to relate and evolve autonomously.
As a consequence the individual parts of the system are intertwined, forming a virtuous network (autopoietic) of relations between the flows of matter, energy and information.
In particular the SD methodology here adopted has been developed at Politecnico di Torino with the aim of implementing sustainable productive systems in which material and energy flows are designed so that waste from one productive process becomes input for other processes, avoiding being released into the environment. This model is inspired by the theoretical structure of generative science, according to which every modification in resources generates by-products which represent an added value.
Starting from the observation of natural phenomena, the SD approach aims to “learn from nature” not just for mimicking the natural technologies, but for designing a product system able to positively interact with a dynamic environment and an evolving society.
The application of the SD methodology to the design of a water treatment entailed a focus on the understanding of the water behavior both at molecular and at macroscopic level.
It is well know that water is one of the most abundant resources on Earth and it is inextricably linked to life. The majority of natural phenomena involve water and our existence is dependent on this precious substance, or the lack of it. However water is limited and despite of its ability to self-cleaning along the water cycle, its quality is vulnerable and fragile. Hence, water scarcity and water pollution represent tremendous issues at global level that call for rapid solutions. Therefore sustainable management of water resources is one of the largest commitments to the international community for the coming years.
The state of the art of the methods used to disinfect and decontaminate water and to reuse wastewater or to desalinate seawater, is working in concert to improve health, safeguard the environment, and reduce water scarcity. However, despite modern science is able to investigate water very deeply and even though the efficiency of water purification technologies has increased tremendously in the latest years, many properties of liquid water still remain incompletely understood. Yet, a more profound comprehension of the water behavior can lead to turn the light on the many mysteries of this incredible substance.
The SD methodology drove the research through an intense exploration of the complex properties of liquid water touching a variety of disciplines from physics to chemistry until bioengineering and medicine that has opened the frontiers to a more holistic understanding of water.
As a consequence we got in touch with some of recent theories from physics, biology and biochemistry, that have cast a light on some new properties and behaviors of water able to dramatically change the perspective on which we use to consider this incredible resource.
In particular the recent hypothesis about the liquid water biphasic structure according to quantum field theory and the evidence of the so called Exclusion Zone (EZ) in the vicinity of hydrophilic surfaces, have inspired the design of a “filterless filter” which has the capability of filtering contaminated water using the EZ phenomenon instead of a physical filter. The separation process is driven by incident light energy, which builds the EZ and thereby excludes the contaminants. It is a self-cleaning process that involve a behavior of water in the vicinity of hydrophilic surfaces that occurs naturally at ambient temperature and pressure.
Therefore, the research started from the exploration of the liquid water abilities in self-cleaning and self-organization at molecular level, and leaded to the design of a water system that drastically reconsiders the water usage at domestic level.
The new house system is here considered as a “living organism” where water is treated using membrane-less and chemical-free purification modules that take advantages of the spontaneous solutes rejection in the vicinity of some hydrophilic surfaces or in a free-vortex.