What makes a Living Machine live?

by caseycew


In the interest of finding new research in the field of ecological engineering, I came across a project that is called Living Machine.

I admit, the the name itself is startling and made me think more of a robot that will somehow “accidentally” destroy a city rather than help out an ecosystem. In searching the internet for information about Living Machine, what I really wanted to find was an article someone had written about it. But what I found first was a press release from 2000 on the Oberlin College News Service’s website.

In brief, what Living Machine does is purify waste water by mimicking what nature has been doing for as long as the earth has been around. Living Machine honestly just looks like a row of plants that you would see in a greenhouse or maybe your grandmother’s garden. But what it does is far beyond anything Grandma’s green thumb can handle.

Water travels through plant beds in a tank-based system and is treated by “engineered ecologies” like microbes, plants, snails, and insects. The system is designed to treat up to 2,000 gallons of water daily and all of the water is reused on the site. That sounds pretty impressive to me.

John Todd, specialist in ecological design, designed Living Machine and has designed many more systems just like it called “Eco-Machines” (which by name is a little more inviting).

When I googled, “Eco-Machine” I was able to find out a lot more about what Todd does along with a couple articles written about his work. Eco-Machines have actually won awards and are there are dozens of them in 11 different countries.

I was pleased to find out that Eco-Machine is actually a bigger production than what I first imagined. What I first thought was just a small project in a greenhouse is actually something that’s stretched across 5 continents and helping a lot of people and companies get clean water in a completely natural way.