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AD Park Manchester, Richmond

“The architect does all he can to make the body forget about how paltry it is, and to make man ignore what happens to his intestinal wastes after the water from the tank is flushed down the drain. Even though the sewer pipelines reach far into our houses with their tentacles, they are carefully hidden from view, and we are happily ignorant of the invisible Venice of shit underlying our bathrooms, bedrooms, dance halls and parliaments.�

-Milan Kundera



sous les paves la plage

Contents Introduction




Photographic Studies


Site Timeline


Design Investigations




Graphical Description


Site Studies






Site Re-occupation



Finding beauty within the sordid and real. The contents of this book focus on the development of an architectural project; a project designed to explore working method and an idea about architecture, the culmination of my undergraduate thesis at Virginia Tech. This is an investigation derived from thinking about the impact of unique spaces and atmospheres. Some of the most important spaces in architecture are not directly designed at all. They are the spaces not often thought of immediately in contemporary architecture, with tendencies toward being dirty, overgrown; free for their inhabitants to influence. The overlooked aspects of constructed reality, they provide an introspective look at construction and how it operates in its contexts.




The city of Richmond is creating series of small methane production centers as part of the new policy to reduce municipal waste and increase renewable energy. An aerobic digester facility that provides methane from domestic animal waste will combine with public space to create a park that will serve as a gateway into Manchester. Manchester is a quickly growing neighborhood, developing a new identity as it changes. The facility and park serve as an anchor to the entrance on Hull Street, helping to provide a dynamic place able to evolve with the community. The facility produces methane primarily from domesticated animal waste and high energy compostables, collected from a system of waste containers to be located throughout the city along sidewalks and in parks. In a 2006 study for San Francisco by NorCal waste company, the “opportunity to turn this nuisance into something positive” was investigated as a viable source of renewable energy for the city. This technology is already very common in cattle farming, where waste management is critical. According to William Brinton, a biodegradable waste consultant, “the amount of energy in dog and cat litter is higher than anything else.” Through a simple process this energy may be obtained and utilized to support Manchester as it grows and develops.


The unrealized possibilities in public infrastructure. A necessary component to our civilization, these ubiquitous elements remain one of the most interesting but unapproachable aspects of our built environment. As something that we are making part of our world,should there not be some joy found visually, audibly, or experientially? It’s the Bertie Botts every flavored beans experience. Because earwax flavored jelly beans are more interesting than simple corn syrup and red dye # 5. As different infrastructures move into today’s urban areas, we have the opportunity to rethink the way we interact with our built environment. Instead of disguising or ignoring these necessary components of contemporary life, they may be utilized to create exciting, unique spaces that add to the identity and urban space of our cities. Public infrastructure that considers what it means to be public.




organic waste visitors

organic waste collectors


house pets

railroad museum

tenants heat and electricty

manchester apts

Anaerobic Digester Data:

The proposed facility in Richmond can generate enough electricity for 600

homes and heat for 90 homes.

Roughly 25% of the gross energy produced is used in facility maintenance. The average electricity surplus is .2MWh per metric ton, and .18MWh of heat energy per metric ton. For a typical 5,000 tpa facility the building footprint will be 30 m x 15m, plus four tanks of 6-10m in diameter. The height of the building is estimated around 7m, and the max tank height will be 10m. Four waste vehicles will be needed per day. Waste is stored in a sealed conditioning tank. Employment recommendations for facility operation are one manager and two others. 13

Enclosed programmatic elements:

waste storage: at 10,000 tpa, the estimated waste digester capacity is 30,000 cubic feet,

comprised here of 3 cylindrical tanks 30 feet in diameter and 12 feet tall

receiving/expulsion: 270 square feet

gas storage: 88,000 cubic feet 1st level, 12 pressurized 5 foot diameter expandable units

public rest rooms: 2, each 125 square feet

monitoring station: 900 square feet


I came into studio today, and asked Tim if something smelled funny, like horses or cow pastures. He said he noticed it as well, and was pretty sure it was Jessie’s flowers; decaying after sitting at her desk for two weeks. He then added, “It’s not really pleasant, but it’s kind-of nice, it smells like life.”


Methane Storage: The methane catchment consists of a primary and a secondary system, each composed of dynamic elements. Methane is frequently stored in inflatable structures; here the primary inflatable structure serves as the roof element for the enclosed spaces. A large translucent, balloon-like object serves to contain the methane before it is compressed in the secondary system. The secondary system is comprised of 12 small inflatable storage containers located at the base of the 12 towers in the industrial garden. At the top of each tower is a small planter, filled with fresh soil from the facility, slowly rising and falling in response to the methane pressure. In a study for similar facilities in London, Dow Jones Architects concluded that odor is not a significant factor even in urban settings. The process requires an anaerobic atmosphere that must be completely sealed from the environment. 15


Manchester Population Data “Richmond’s Chelsea” .351 square miles population 184 in 2008 population density of 522 people per square mile-2008 Plant Zero has 60 art studios Art Works has 75 art studios At least 631 new residences have been constructed or are in construction. -resulting in possible 1250 new residents 17


Photographic Studies

Reviewing my photographs of Richmond, the places that held the most interest were often overlooked, overgrown; the infrastructural “back of house.� The raw, lawless characteristics of these spaces contributes to their value, offering freedom not available in other urban spaces. Here, materials are allowed to express themselves and weather freely, spaces are simple and strong, and vegetation is beautiful and unfettered. The habitation of non places.











Site Timeline

In addition to methane, the only other product of the anaerobic digestion process is cleansed fertile soil. As the facility reaches the natural end of its life by the year 2050, it will be dismantled, recycled, and reincarnated at another site in need of rehabilitation, leaving behind a lush garden. The design changes to fit each new site and context; forming a symbiotic relationship with the terrain. The facility leaves behind a little of itself in each location, a series of “industrial parks� spreading through the city.












Design Investigations

These diagrams act as generative design investigations to promote lateral thinking and to expand the understood possibilities of the architecture. They may be used to explain relationships in the facility design or to generate future possibilities and spatial concepts.


What are some ways that two objects can interact? As the infrastructure of production mixes with the possibility of becoming a publicly used site, how might the two areas relate?












Possibilities of interaction











While discussing the physical properties of anaerobic digestion facilities with Ohio State University PhD candidate Stephen Park, he mentioned that the containers where the gas is stored and pressurized are not always fixed, but may expand and contract. These diagrams are an initial step in understanding the possibilities involved with physical expansion.








Possibilities of expansion






balloon 45

How can the three elements interact with each other to arrive at more varied and interesting spatial combinations? In thinking of the circulation system of the facility as a loop created from smaller possible trajectories, the possible combinations of the necessary circulation elements led to mixing the possibilities of movement through the facility.


Stair to surface to ramp


Tower Power: swaying towers cluster around a large ambiguous hole in the earth, moving in relation to the breeze or some unseen force.

Path loop: a pedestrian path is peeled from the surface of the ground to wrap and weave with the methane production tower and its inflatable loop.

Flexible Tie-er: facility buildings are located among a grid of swaying poles, moving from unseen forces and in response to each other.

Tumor tower: a tower of compartments that expand and contract as appendages in relation to methane pressure. 48

Modeling initial possibilities

Balloon topper: a gas filled balloon hovers over the complex as it begins to fill with actual elements of a digester facility. Paths form in and around the structure as the containers act as a gravitational center.

Tree conformity: a grove of trees is cultivated at the site, fed and growing from the waste of the factory, supporting it, changing it through their growth. As the facility becomes obsolete the trees are harvested for use elsewhere.

Bubble earth: a barren earthscape containing large balloon structures, slowly rising and falling in response to methane pressure.


Richmond Energy Waste Collection



A series of process drawings that speak to the spatial and atmospheric conception of the facility. These may not exist directly in the final realization of the facility, but the ideas inherent in the drawings help to form a collective description of the project and its development.



A network of towers, slowly rising and falling, presents a constantly changing landscape tied together by ramps and gas lines. Vegetal growth is fostered on platforms at the top of each tower, fertilized by the facility’s excrement. Creaking, groaning, the passage through the park seems perilous. Often the landscape is difficult to traverse, and the constant movement can be a challenge. Every visit is an adventure.



A path snakes through large columns and by the facility, beneath a blue cloud form filled with methane contained in plastic sometimes fluttering and empty in the breeze, sometimes bulging as if to burst. The light changes minutely, and is magnified by the overhanging cloud. Bright sun coats the entire site in blue radiance, clouds initiate a deep shadow.



A network of experiences described through the section of the canal and sewer line on the site. Windows peer into the murky canal, the dank water is allowed to seep through the walls in places and travels underfoot as the network weaves itself under and through the site. Timbers slowly rot and joints fail over time as constant moisture takes its toll. Without constant maintenance the entire network collapses, leaving behind its imploded muddy footprint.



An attempt to begin to assign geometry to the facility. The hard surfaces of asphalt, grating, and structure are represented by hatching over speculative flow paths of people, energy, and materials. Horizontal lines represent ground level, 30 degrees the second level, and 60 degrees the third level. The facility sits on an angle to Manchester and Hull Street, revealing different identities as one travels. A road enters and exits briefly, skirting and beneath. The park becomes lifted above the ground plane, to allow unsold fertilizer to be spread through the site, focused on creating a small verdant hill which will define the entrance to Manchester.



An atmospheric disassembly of one of the enclosed structures and its surroundings. The cloud of the methane storage balloon floats above untreated and unfinished wood sourced from local scrap. These structures receive the translucent storage as a roof while anchoring it with and feeding it through their walls with pipes connecting to the digesters below. The wood is sheltered by the balloon, but ages due to lack of treatment, slowly decaying over the facility’s short life span. Striated surfaces add visual depth and allows floral invaders, such as moss, a toe-hold.



A section and elevation through a planter tower in the northeast corner of the site. The tower is raised on an inflatable storage unit of compressed methane and fertilized by the waste of the digestion process. A landscape of natural steel grating with planters slowly rising and falling, the ring of footsteps, the creak and groan of equipment, the smell of steel and soil.



A closer look at the section imagined with the city of Richmond rising in the background. The pivoting crane-like structure helps secure the inflatable methane storage with a cable that runs to a winch on the facility deck. The winch automatically controls tension and is itself controlled from the monitoring station. Simple, legible structures and elements provide relief from comfort.





Graphical Description

1: The ground floor is composed of a grid of porous pavers, the circulation systems, and the three large digestion tanks that form the gravitational mass of the project. 2: The upper level of the facility is predominately untreated steel grating, a field spreading over the earth’s surface. A covered pavilion like space is formed at one end by the methane storage; an open field of planters and benches at the other. The system takes the form of a loop, an appendix to the local trail system. 3: The restrooms and enclosed spaces are constructed from solid wood in contrast with the predominately metal and plastic elements of the facility. A simple window helps balance the room as light filters in through the methane storage above. 4: The compressed methane storage tower is basically a structural frame inside a box. The storage containers are similar to the pneumatic jack lifts used to lift heavy equipment and trucks. 5: A section cut through the entire facility describes the scale of its systems and their relationship to the accessible space. Circulation of people and materials spread from the nucleus of the digesters and the monitoring station through the complex. 6: A section through the center of the facility, shows the spaces of the anaerobic digester tanks in relation to the ground, second floor, and wood structures.



N 0 5




N 0 5


















0 1




Site Studies

In addition to clarifying the existing site conditions, the understanding of the site developed from this study leads to the conception of the qualities of the proposed facility. The layers of the project are already present and visible, not yet described through the direct context of the facility.












james river 14th street bridge

flood wall

observation deck

defunct canal

low bridge unregulated growth

Here the urban park is defined as, “the condensation of experiences into a small accessible area.� There are many traits common to parks, but the main thesis is the experience. In considering the site, it is possible to state that everything proposed by this project already exists in some way in this place. The facility will be an amplification of the current experiences of the site, a rugged experiential public infrastructure.

railroad museum

electric substation abandoned gravel lot

present growth on site: sycamores, locust, sumac, catalpa, straw, grass, blackberry, cat-tail, mullen, pokeberry disused railroad track

artspace gallery




POWERED BY POOCHES / Rather than let pet dung go to waste, experts explore its energy potential WASTE TOWERS

Rubbish In - Resources Out

San Francisco Hopes to Turn Pet Feces Into Power City’s Goal to End Landfill Use Sparks Effort to Get Energy from Animal Waste

Planning for Waste

Making the most of waste

Environmental Issues Management Facilities A Research Study

Station to station: the new power generation The architecture of Britain’s latest wave of energy plants is the finest since Bankside in the 1940s



Anaerobic digesters systems offer a viable and effective opportunity to reduce common waste while creating energy with fewer emissions. My close contact with friends involved in different areas of research in the subject and discovering the following two articles during preliminary research helped to shape the entire project. The population and anaerobic digester facility data was gathered from personal contacts, various websites and two research projects from Dow Jones Architects and ARUP.



Here’s the Scoop: San Francisco to Turn Dog Poop Into Biofuel Your house powered by pooch poop? The idea may sound far-fetched, but officials in dog-friendly San Francisco, California, hope to harness the power of methane in doggie doo so it can be used for heating homes and generating electricity. The technology of turning animal waste into energy was introduced in Europe some 20 years ago. It’s practiced by hundreds of farms there, as well as by 16 U.S. dairy farms. But San Francisco is believed to be the first U.S. city to explore the energy potential of pet waste. In a pilot program to start this year, Norcal Waste, a garbage company that collects the city’s trash, plans to use biodegradable bags and dog-waste carts to pick up the poop in one of San Francisco’s most popular dog parks. The waste will be run through a methane digester, a tank in which bacteria break down the feces to create methane. This biofuel can then be piped directly to a gas stove, heater, or anything else powered by natural gas. “Scraping dog poop off your shoe, now that’s something most people have been frustrated with for a long time,” said Robert Reed, a Norcal spokesperson. “Now we have an opportunity to turn this nuisance into something positive.” From Food Scraps to Dog Doo Known for its green credentials, San Francisco already uses several recycling programs to divert almost two-thirds of its household garbage away from landfills. The city aims to divert all of its waste from landfills by 2020. The poop-to-methane project is an extension of another bio-recycling program the city initiated ten years ago, when it began collecting food scraps from houses and restaurants and turning them into fertilizer for vineyards and organic farms. Today 300 tons (272 metric tons) of food scraps are collected every day from more than 2,000 restaurants and tens of thousands of homes. Norcal’s Reed says that some of the more than a hundred farms in the area that have used the compost produced from food scraps have seen record yields. “We have the most forward-thinking recycling program in the United States,” he said. The plan to recycle pet waste followed a recent study, which found that animal feces make up 3.8


percent of the garbage from residential collections in San Francisco. “The city saw this percentage and said to us, We need to get down to zero [waste to landfills], so we want you to start thinking about how to collect the dog waste and what can be done with it,’” Reed said. The high percentage is not surprising considering that San Francisco is home to an estimated 120,000 dogs, far more than there are children. San Franciscans may be responsible about cleaning up after their dogs. But most of the droppings are wrapped in plastic bags and end up in landfills, where the waste may sit for generations. If it’s not picked up, animal waste may dissolve into the soil and flow into the groundwater.

-March 21, 2006 Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News


Breaking It Down Almost 10 million tons (9 million metric tons) of dog and cat waste is generated annually in the U.S., according to William Brinton, president of Woods End Laboratories in Mount Vernon, Maine. The lab specializes in analyzing compost and other waste. "The amount of energy potential in dog and cat litter is higher than anything else because of the rich diet that we feed [pets]," said Brinton, who was consulted by Norcal to test the energy content of pet waste. He estimates that 1 ton (0.9 metric ton) of animal waste could produce 50 gallons (190 liters) of diesel-equivalent fuel, enough to heat a house in New England for two weeks. "Once you start multiplying it the numbers get pretty enormous, and all of a sudden it looks very appreciable," Brinton said. (Read Geographic magazine's "Powering the Future.") The pet waste must be collected in special biodegradable bags before being placed into a methane digester, which works much like a compost bin. Dog feces naturally contain bacteria called methanogens, which use hydrogen to break down carbon dioxide into microbial food. Methane gas is made as a by-product of this process. "It does not consume any energy to produce this energy, because you don't have to provide any energy to run the system," Brinton said. The resulting biofuel can be piped into stoves, turbines, and other machines that run on natural gas. "I see this effort as a logical next step of going after another portion of the organic waste stream that's currently going to disposal facilities," said John Majercak, a recycling expert at the Center for Ecological Technology in Northampton, Massachusetts. "I think it's great that it's getting so much attention, and [I] hope that, after everyone has a chuckle over it, we are all that much more aware of the opportunity to rethink the way we handle our waste," he added. The reaction from dog owners in San Francisco has been overwhelmingly positive, says Norcal's Reed. He expects to have special collection bins put up in Duboce Park, a popular San Francisco dog park, within a few months. "Every day we get 20 to 30 people calling and asking about [the program] and how they can volunteer to make sure it's a success," he said.

Š 1996-2008 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. 105

Diagram of proposed anaerobic digester system

inflateable gas storage

fermenter 3

fermenter 2

fermenter 1

holding tank 1 refuse intake

Estimation of domesticated animal feces produced in Richmond per year: 17,000 tons.


gas cleaning

combined heat and power unit

heat and electricity output

compressed gas storage

holding tank 2

digested waste output

3,080 MWh electricity and 2,772 MWh heat energy every year possible from pet feces alone.


Biogas production and storage data

One ton of organic waste produces an average of 110-170 cubic meters of biogas. Assuming constant 2nd stage compression => max 1st level retention of 2,500 cubic meters. 10,000 tons per annum => + 1,350,000 cubic meters biogas/year => 3600 cubic meters/ day.





Paths and a ramp system provide access from the nearby Floodwall Walk and adapt its language to their own. Weathering steel structure and grating serve as the primary surface, providing a simple, affordable, and effective structure, ringing with footsteps and aging gracefully as it earns its patina. Light filters through the grating mixing with the hum of machinery, the balloon storage overhead slowly inflates while the towers rise and fall constantly changing the atmosphere of the park.

























Site Re-occupation

These photographs of the site as it exists currently help to describe its future and exhibit the value it has obtained with its freedom. These are the natural processes working within the system. The beauty in the derelict and overgrown.


Common flora in Richmond


sweet flag blue star wood anemone field pussytoes wild columbine jack in the pulpit goastsbeard swamp milkweed butterflu weed eastern silvery aster white wood aster new england aster white health aster falt top white aster yellow wild indigo partridge pea white turtlehead green and gold maryland golden aster black snakroot tall coreopsis dwarf larkspur narrow leaf tick trefoil dutchman’s breeches wild bleeding heart mistflower joe pye weed common boneset wild geranium sneezeweed narrow leaf sunflower ten petaled sunflower woodland sunflower oxeye sunflower sharp lobed hepatica eastern rosemallow dwarf crested iris virginia blue flag round head bush clover plains blazing star canada lily turks cap lily cardinal flower great blue lobelia false solomon’s seal virginia bluebells monkeyflower wild bergamot

american water lily sundrops eastern pricly pear arrow arrum thick leaved phlox woodland phlox moss phlox obedient plant mayapple solomons seal pickerel weed bowmans root hoary mountain mint narrow leaved mountain mint virginia meadow beauty early coneflower broadleaf arrowhead bloodroot lizards tail early saxifrage wild stonecrop fire pink bluestem goldenrod sweet goldenrod pineywoods goldenrod downy goldenrod rough stemmed goldenrod clumping foamflower virginia spiderwort white trillium blue vervain new york ironweed bird’s foot violet yellow violet common yucca maidenhair fern ebony spleenwort southern ladyfern evergreen wood fern marginal shield fern sensitive fern cinnamon fern royal fern christmas fern autumn bentgrass big bluestem bushy bluestem broomsedge american basswood

long hair sedge sallow sedge pennsylvania sedge tussock sedge river oats silky oatgrass poverty oatgrass deer tongue variable panicgrass dwarf bamboo bottlebrush grass virginia wild rye canada rush soft rush rice cutgrass switch grass giant plumegrass little bluestem woolgrass blurush indian grass american bur reed redtop gama grass broad leaved cattail climbing bittersweet trumpet honeysuckle virginia cleeper common alder red chokeberry allegheny chinkapin new jersey tea buttonbush wintergreen black huckleberry witch hazel deciduous holly winterberry mountain laurel fetterbush, sweetbells spicebush great rhododendron pinxter flower swamp azalea winged sumac pasture rose prairie willow silky willow common elderberry

highbush blueberry arrow wood viburnum black haw viburnum down serviceberry canada serviceberry paw paw redbud fringetree alternate leaf dogwood silky dogwood flowering dogwood cockspur hawthorn wahoo american holly sweetbay magnolia red mulberry eastern hop hornbeam smooth sumac staghorn sumac black willow red maple river birch pignut hickory persimmon american beech white ash green ash black walnut red cedar sweetgum tulip tree black gum sourwood shortleaf pine virginia pine sycamore wild black cherry white oak swamp white oak scarlet oak southern red oak chestnut oak pin oak willow oak northern red oak post oak black oak sassafras eastern hemlock














Anaerobic Digester Park  
Anaerobic Digester Park  

culmination of undergraduate architectural thesis