Vetnibörg essay


Located on Iceland’s southwestern coast, Vetnibörg is a thriving metropolis established to revitalize Iceland’s economy following its financial collapse in 2008. Today, with 240,000 citizens, Vetnibörg boasts the world’s first hydrogen economy, supported by sustainable design principles that reduce the use of non-renewable resources and create a healthy environment for its citizens.

Vetnibörg’s multifaceted energy infrastructure harnesses renewable, carbon neutral energy. Enhanced Geothermal Systems offer forty times the energy capacity of traditional geothermal systems. Deep injection wells created by super-pressurized hydro-fractures force water into minute pores in hot basement rocks, causing subsurface crevices to expand. Production wells channel superheated steam from these crevices to turbines, generating clean, abundant energy.

Laddermills developed at Vetnibörg’s Breukels Renewable Energy Institute hoist continuously circulating loops of fifty giant wings at altitudes of ten kilometers and transfer the wind energy aloft to electricity on the ground. Nano-enhanced 3D photovoltaic cells on buildings and hydroelectric energy from nearby waterfalls provide additional power. These abundant power generation systems allow Vetnibörg to export energy to mainland Europe via a 1,200-mile superconducting seafloor cable, powering over 1.5 million homes.

Vetnibörg’s renewable resources also supply energy for electrolysis plants, which create hydrogen for fuel cells used in the city’s freight, shipping, fishing, and public transit fleets. Electromagnetic pods run on Skyways, elevated tracks powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Constant Acceleration Maglevs travel in low-pressure tunnels with distributed capacitors that recover energy from braking trains. Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft support commerce and tourism.

The city’s diverse industries and services provide ample jobs. The Björk Wellness Center and deCODE Genetics research cures for genetic diseases. Vetnibörg’s once pollution-prone aluminum smelters, now clean and efficient, import aluminum waste for recycling, providing essential resources and reducing environmental impact. Other employers include Vetnibörg’s exceptional public schools and the Thorarinsson Geothermics Institute.

To compensate for its lack of arable soil, Vetnibörg relies on state-of-the-art Sustainable Aquaculture and Hydroponics Systems that yield plentiful fish and produce. Organic gardens on high-rise rooftops and balconies allow residents to harvest fresh food quickly and conveniently.

Residents communicate via the Metropolitan Area Wireless System, which boasts high-quality audio and hologram options. Portable digiscreens integrate microspeakers, laser hologram projectors, and hyperspeed quantum computers based on a tri-base fiber optic computer language. This network provides unlimited online access and unparalleled security protection.

Cultural and recreational opportunities abound in Vetnibörg. The Laudviir Canal offers walking and biking paths, waterways for touring on human-powered hydrofoils, and water gardens lush with
greenery. A bustling waterfront hosts diverse cultural events, including the Icelandic Folk Festival at the Nordal Arts Center. Swimming in thermal spas, whale watching, and horseback riding in nearby Gullfoss National Park relax and energize Vetnibörg’s residents.

Outstanding economic, educational, recreational and cultural opportunities provide the highest quality of life for Vetnibörg’s citizens. It is no wonder that in 2202, the UN Human Development Index ranked Iceland as the number one “Place to Live.” As Iceland’s largest and most dynamic city, Vetnibörg certainly plays a key role in this distinction.

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To protect their city’s water supply, Iceland’s Vetnibörg Water Authority (VWA) utilizes a five-pronged, comprehensive approach to sustainable water management. Each VWA-certified residence must meet these criteria:

• Supply initial water resources;
• Reuse gray water;
• Be sustainable;
• Require no municipal input;
• Be eco-friendly.

In defining the scope for the project discussed here, VWA civil engineers focused on a design that was safe and cost competitive, required little energy and maintenance, and would be marketable to consumers. Their next step was to design the waste water, potable water, and control systems. Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) resulted in competitive bids, which were reviewed by the engineering team. Ultimately, the contract was awarded to Vatnpür Systems, Inc., whose subsequent work was overseen by the engineering team’s project manager. Following the construction of the system, Vatniborg’s civil engineering team verified the commissioning of Hrausturheim (Icelandic for “healthy home”).

Located along Iceland’s southwest coast, Hrausturheim is a marvel of engineering expertise. The 4,370 square meter structure is a six-story, 24-meter high-rise containing 250 residents in 62 multifamily housing units. Given a per capita water requirement of 85-110 liters per day, the total daily interior water consumption for the building is 23,000-30,000 liters. Xeriscaping and photo-catalytic, self-cleaning building surfaces lower the exterior water requirement to 1,500 liters per day.

The initial water supply for Hrausturheim was filled from three sources: rooftop Water Collecting Pyramids (WCPs), stormwater runoff, and the clean water discharge from the PEM fuel cells that provide power and heat to the structure. All buildings in Vetnibörg are charged in the same manner, negating the need to tap nearby rivers or employ costly desalination.

Once charged, Hrausturheim’s water system remains close-looped, i.e., it is completely self-sustaining, and no additional municipal water is needed. All wastewater, gray and black, is treated by the Vatnpür System, a single unit consisting of four treatment chambers. Preliminary treatment separates oils and greases from the waste stream via a weir. Primary treatment provides physical and biological treatment similar to septic tanks of the past. The smaller dissolved organics are then degraded in an aerobic filter, which provides secondary treatment by removing organic matter. The final step in the process is wastewater-polishing treatment for potable water. It consists of ultraviolet neutralization and a multimedia filter, which includes a roughing filter, slow sand filter, and an activated carbon filter. The treated water is then stored in a tank and pumped back into the water system, as needed, as clean, potable water. Using this system, 97% of all water consumed by Hrausturheim’s residents is recycled.

One challenge faced by VWA civil engineers in designing the system was monitoring water quality. The resulting system is centralized like a brain, with multiple branches all communicating with a central controller. High-tech sensors determine the level of wastewater treatment needed. For example, the system monitors the pH of the water and takes appropriate steps to neutralize it as needed. A total dissolved solids sensor identifies inorganic pollutants to determine the amount of physical purification needed.

Hrausturheim maintains its sustainability through water saving appliances designed by VWA-certified mechanical engineers. The waterless composting toilets use rotating tines that utilize temperature and moisture probes and automated electronic control consoles to biologically convert human waste into organic compost and usable soil. UV generating dishwashers neutralize dangerous bacteria and lower water usage. Nano-engineered clothes made of highly repellant silver nanofibers reduce cleaning needs. Resin-based waterless washing machines provide additional cleaning. Waterless fire protection created by chemical engineers eliminates the need for sprinklers by incorporating fire-resistant building materials including intumescent paint, fiberglass composite insulation, and class-A foundations. VWA-certified point-of-use water heating systems installed near showers and sinks keep hot water available constantly and divert unheated water for recirculation. Each environmentally friendly appliance contributes to the total water savings in Hrausturheim.

Collecting storm water runoff from Vetnibörg’s average annual rainfall of 125–200 centimeters also replenishes the building’s water supply. After its green roof absorbs 80 percent of the rain, remaining storm water runoff is channeled through automated valves to drain into the treatment system. If the system does not require replenishment, the storm water drains into the irrigation system.

Semi-permeable asphalt and concrete in Vetnibörg’s low traffic areas allow water to seep into underground pipes to flow into the irrigation system in a controlled manner.

Perhaps the most innovative components of the VWA’s sustainable water system are Hrausturheim’s two rooftop Water Collecting Pyramids. Mechanical engineers turned to the sea to make water from the plentiful sea fog on Iceland’s southwest coast. WCPs collect vapor that is gravitationally funneled into a network that feeds into the rooftop drainage system. Each inverted pyramid produces 96 liters of water daily. They are collapsible for easy storage when not in use, help cool the building, and provide shade for rooftop gardens and playgrounds beneath them.

PEM fuel cell stacks provide additional clean, potable water, which is fed directly into the freshwater storage tank. Water generated above and beyond the makeup requirements of the building is channeled into a freshwater collection system, where it is stored in tanks and shipped to countries abroad facing water shortages.

By combining innovative, sustainable design principles with the ingenuity of Iceland’s engineers, the VWA has created a system that saves money, protects valuable water resources, and provides clean, fresh water for all.

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