Omega Center for Sustainable Living

Omega Center for Sustainable Living

The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York provides innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit.  The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) is a wastewater filtration facility that is designed to use the treated water for garden irrigation and in a greywater recovery system, Omega uses the system and building as a teaching tool in its educational program designed around the ecological impact of its campus.

“Omega is thrilled to have crossed the finish line, and hopeful that projects like ours will mark a new era in sustainable design, one that reflects a truly integrated approach to creating built environments that are in harmony with the natural world.” – Skip Backus, CEO at Omega

Project website www.eomega.org/omega/about/ocsl

Vital Stats
Certification Status Certified Living
Location Rhinebeck, New York, US
Bioregion Northeast
Living Transect L3
Typology Building
Occupant Type Business / Educational

Project Team
Geotechnical Chazen
Civil Chazen
Landscape Conservation Design Forum
Structural Tipping-Mar + Associates
Architectural BNIM Architects
Interior Design BNIM Architects
Plumbing BGR Consulting Engineers
Mechanical BGR Consulting Engineers
Electrical BGR Consulting Engineers
Reclaimed Materials Planet Reuse
Water Systems Engineer Natural Systems International
Ecological Design John Todd Ecological Design
Contractor David Sember Construction

Site Info

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) is constructed on land that was previously used as a burial spot for solid debris from years of operation with the previous owner. In addition, the original fill material was removed and sold, dating back to sometime in the 1950s.

03. Habitat Exchange Imperative

Name Scenic Hudson
Prior Site Condition Greyfield
Location Hudson Valley area, New York, US
Landtrust Scenic Hudson Land Trust
Website  www.scenichudson.org/

Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects

05. Net Positive Water Imperative

Annual Water Use 16,476 gal

  • Harvested onsite 16,476 gal
  • Rainwater cistern size 1,800 gal
  • Collection strategies: Rain, ground well
  • Systems fed Ground Well: lavatories, drinking fountain, sinks
    Rain: toilets, washdown functions
  • Grey water Eco Machine  Systems fed Dispersal field that recharges groundwater
  • Black water Eco Machine  Systems fed Dispersal field the recharges groundwater

Estimated total water use per capita

  • 30 visitors/day for 231 days/year
  • 6 visitors/day for 134 days/year
  • 2.525 gal/visitor/yr
  • 16476 gal/yr (calculated)

Design tool(s) and calculation method(s)

Proprietary water/rainwater calculator

Water Sources and End Use Locations

Potable water comes from private wells located within the Omega Campus. After use this water is passed through to an Eco Machine system for treatment and eventually returned to the ground via subsurface dispersal. The following locations in OCSL are connected to the “potable” well water system: Bathroom Lavatories, Drinking, Fountain, Janitorial Sink and Wash Sink.

Rainwater from the building roof is collected in an underground cistern which is sized to provide adequate reserve for 100 percent of non-potable water use through-out the year. On demand, water is pumped from the cistern to a holding tank and UV sterilizer. From the holding tank, rain-water is distributed to its usage location. After use, this water is passed through to the Eco Machine system for treatment and eventually returned to the ground via subsurface dispersal. The toilets and hose bibs in OCSL are connected to the rainwater system. The Eco Machine treats roughly 3 million gallons of water from the Omega campus per year.

Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects

06. Net Positive Energy Imperative

Design tools & calculation methods

  • eQuest
  • ASHRAE

Additional Comments

Three solar arrays were installed on the building at Omega. The main parts of the solar arrays consist of the modules themselves, the racking system and the inverters which convert the DC to AC. The building employs 211 Sun Power 230 watt modules, combined with 8 Sun Power inverters. The inverters are sized specifically for the individual arrays and consist of three Sun Power 5000m, one 6000m, and four 7000m’s. The Sun Power modules is mounted on Uni-Rac solar mounting system. This system interconnects directly to the existing electrical panel directly feeding the buss bar effectively powering the building.

The three arrays are located on different roof spaces and a wall throughout the building. The awning array (A) is mounted on the wall of the bottom holding tank. The racking system is attached to the wall of the holding reservoir and holds 70 Sun Power 230watt modules on awning hardware that provides a 35 degree angle. These 70 modules will be feeding power to the Sun Power inverters in the electrical room. The North roof array (B) consists of 84 Sun Power 230watt modules on a Uni-Rac racking system attached to the seams on the roof with S-5 clips. This array feeds to the inverters in the electrical room directly underneath the array. The Outdoor classroom array (C) is mounted on a steel frame, consists of 57 Sun Power 230watt modules attached to Uni-Rac rails and feeds to inverters located below the North Roof.

Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects

07. Civilized Environment Imperative

Air quality during and after construction was, and is, important to the project team.  The construction team used care to keep the construction site clean and keep dust down during construction. Ducts, etc. were kept covered and protected from dust accumulation during construction. Once HVAC was brought on-line during construction, high MERV filters were used to keep dust from accumulating in the system and being recirculated. The building design and materiality was carefully considered to minimize extraneous surface treatments and materials. In most areas the actual building structure is left exposed as “finish”. Paints and sealers are low VOC and adhere to LBC requirements for IAQ.  All regularly occupied spaces have access to operable windows and are naturally ventilated.  The building owner has implemented a “green cleaning” program to use healthier, less toxic cleaners.

Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects

10. Red List Imperative

The team had a vetting process for each piece of material. This process included the builder, Architect, MEP Engineer, Landscape Architect and owner in collaboration to acquire product data from the manufacturer, check that against LBC and find alternatives if necessary. The project manual included relevant LBC criteria for each product/material class.

The Hurdles

We found some of the biggest hurdles here to be tracking down what materials are actually in a given product. Often representatives and manufacturers don’t know exactly what are in their products or components of their products that are outsourced. Further complicating this process, many red list materials have aliases. Finally, the team found that in some cases redlist compliant products/materials were available, obscure and hard to find, but at a significantly higher price.

Red List Substitutions

Original Product Red List Item Specified Manufacturer + Product Names
Pipe PVC HDPE, Cast Iron
Plywood Formaldehyde Adhesive Reclaimed Plywood, Reclaimed Lumber
Insulation Polyurethane Polyisocyanurate
Exterior Wood Creosote, Arsenic or Pentachlorophenol “Mushroom” Cypress (reclaimed cypress lumber)
Glulam Formaldehyde Adhesive Glulams utilizing Phenol-Formaldehyde Adhesive
Fibeglass Insulation Formaldehyde Adhesive GreenFiber Cellulose Insulation
Roof PVC EPDM Membrane Roof
Foundation Drain Pipe PVC HDPE
High Performance Coatings VOCs Low VOC Coatings (Tnemec)
Interior Wall Paint VOCs Low VOC Wall Paint
Upolstery / Carpet HFRs Not Used
Roller Shades HFRs Lutron - Vela Frabic
Wood Windows Formaldehyde Wood Windows laminated with Phenol-Formaldehyde Adhesive

11. Embodied Carbon Footprint Imperative

Embodied carbon footprint (TCO2e)

-1,387metric tons

12. Responsible Industry Imperative

Wood Source

FSC certified, salvaged

Salvage Material Sourcing

Nathan Benjamin, Planet Reuse

Manufacturers

Spec Weight Class Product Manufacturer | Location Radius Major Ingredients
061000 Zone 2 Wood - Preservative Treated Maine Wood Treaters | Mechanic Falls, ME 232 FSC Wood
061800 Zone 5 Glulams Unadilla | Sidney, NY 86 FSC Wood
072100 Zone 5 Insulation, Nail Base Polyiso Hunter | Kingston, NY 10 Polyiso, FSC Wood
085200 Zone 5 FSC Wood Windows Loewen Windows | Steinbach, Manitoba 2500 FSC Wood, Glass

13. Living Economy Sourcing Imperative

Regional Products Specified

Spec Weight Class Product Manufacturer | Location Radius Major Ingredients
033000 Zone 1 Concrete - Cement Lafarge | Ravena, NY 41 Clinker, Calcium Sulfate
061800 Zone 5 Glulams Unadilla | Sidney, NY 86 FSC Wood
072100 Zone 5 Insulation, Cellulose Green Fiber | Albany, NY 53 Cellulose
072100 Zone 5 Insulation, EPS Dow | Gales Ferry, CT 95 Polystyrene
072100 Zone 5 Insulation, Polyisocyanurate Hunter | Kingston, NY 10 Polyisocyanurate
072100 Zone 5 Insulation, Nail Base Polyiso Hunter | Kingston, NY 10 Polyiso, FSC Wood
092900 Zone 2 Gypsum Board National Gypsum | Shippingport, PA 53 Gypsum
Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects Photo courtesy of Farsid Assassi, via BNIM Architects

20. Inspiration & Education Imperative

The Omega Institute commissioned BNIM Architects to design a new 6,200 square foot facility and 4.5 acre site to serve as a new and highly sustainable wastewater filtration facility. The primary goal for this project was to overhaul the organization’s current wastewater disposal system for their 195-acre Rhinebeck campus by using alternative methods of treatment. As part of a larger effort to educate Omega Institute visitors, staff and local community on innovative wastewater strategies, Omega decided to showcase the system in a building that houses both the primary treatment cells and a classroom/laboratory. In addition to using the treated water for garden irrigation and in a greywater recovery system, Omega will use the system and building as a teaching tool in their educational program designed around the ecological impact of their campus. These classes will be offered to campus visitors, area school children, university students and other local communities.

Omega Institute is open to visitors and provides tours