Architecture and Cities


Анна Будникова14/01/19 19:592.1K🔥

The role of bio-architecture in smart water management

The article includes the author’s thoughts and projects based on research experience in issue of water management in the conditions of climate changes and anthropogenic impact

Architecture as the urban infrastructure that is able
to manage natural resources in city smartly

Biomimiсry is a way of responce to global environmnetal problems

Natural microstrucures, pores, cells, branches transferred into the builsings structures and materials allow changing their properties and, accordingly, the environment

Changing the physical water states is a natural phenomenon, and we need to understand how to use rationally it in anthropogenic conditions

The ecological challenges in the rapidly developing world have been reaching critical levels. Sustainable development requires more transformative changes and solutions of the future problems. Today the most three critical problems that face human life are energy crisis, water crisis and pollution (Attia, 2012). The mankind’s history proves that water and civilization are two inseparable entities. This is proved by the fact that all great civilizations were developed and flourished near large sources of water (El-Ghonemy, 2012).
From 1993 freshwater scarcity became an issue of global concern. Poor management and irrational use of resources cause cause pollution and freshwater depletion even in regions with huge water reserves. According Buckminster Fuller, “waste is merely a resource in the wrong place.” The world challenge is to rethink existing water supply system and propose the new ways of smart water management.

Water transportation is usually expensive and has high initial cost (Kandil, 2011). The desalination of saline water both from surface and underground is also expensive with high initial cost and related to salt water existence. The extraction of water from atmospheric air is a beneficial method for fresh water production in remote regions or small communities, as well as it is independent of ground and underground water. (Mohamed, 2017).

Thereby, I focus on fact that there are alternative water that are `hidden` in the humid air, ground layers, snow, etc. and not used in any way, while are accumulated passively around us.

I have been investigating how to use it in architecture, considering the surface as a litmus test on water existing and quality. My first experiments were connected with issues how to gain freshwater from humid air on surface, how to purify water by wall, how to manage rainwater and snow in the building, how use provide water cycle by the building structure. As a result, I have been developing the following projects dedicated to these issues.

Hydromatter. Architectural system for water production from air. Anna Budnikova, Galina Vasilchenko (Prototyping future cities master program, Higher school of economics, 2018. Сredits — E.Mitrofanova, A.Yelbaev)
Hydromatter. Architectural system for water production from air. Anna Budnikova, Galina Vasilchenko (Prototyping future cities master program, Higher school of economics, 2018. Сredits — E.Mitrofanova, A.Yelbaev)

Hydromatter. Architectural system for water production from air

Higher school of economics, 2018, credits — E.Mitrofanova, A.Yelbaev

Hydromatter is a real prototype of the passive system of water production from air. It focuses on the phenomenon of evaporation under high humidity and condensation on cool surfaces. The hypothesis — it is possible to produce freshwater on some materials’ surfaces and use this as alternative water resource for ecological goals and human needs. The task of the study was to define the critical dimensions of the prototype producing water and the critical conditions as most unfavorable for such process. There were tests of various materials on condensation and absorbing abilities, hydrophilicity, permeability, etc. Ceramics was chosen as final material by its ability to cool and store moisture, as well as to be flexible in formation.

The experiment demonstrated that water can be produced on the 13,7° C surface under air temperature of 40° C and humidity level of 80%. Thus, 100 cm2 surface has produced 5 ml of water per 20 minutes in these conditions.

Ceramic modules were combined with peat tablets, which demonstrated the most efficient result in absorbing and capturing water. The seeds were inserted into tablets before experiment, and then they increased 7 times for 1 hour and sprouted seeds for 5 days.

Combining with peat elements this green system represents an architecture part, which can be use both outside and inside for water production or plants growing.

Hydromatter can be located in the special public buildings, greenhouses, where it is possible to produce more water and grow large scale plants, accordingly, with increasing the square of all surfaces but compliance with the proportions and temperature differences.

Materials testing on condensation ability
Materials testing on condensation ability
Materials testing on hydrophilicity. Clay
Materials testing on hydrophilicity. Clay
Form making. Final prototype
Form making. Final prototype
Calculation. Dew point
Calculation. Dew point
Final testing
Final testing

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HSE University Review

Project Video

Award — 3d prize. Climate development leaders Competition

Conference. Ecological forum in MARCHI

Theses for Int.Conference. MARCHI

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Hydrological cluster. Anna Budnikova
Hydrological cluster. Anna Budnikova

Hydrological Cluster. Volga river monitoring centre

KSUAE, credits: M.Zabruskova

The «Hydrological cluster» is a new typology of scientific complex that dedicated to one of the global problem — water sources depletion and world ocean water level changing. The project goal — to remind to society about important role of water sources for environment and sustainability in New Age conditions.

The Tatarstan Republic is also under this problem despite the huge water reserves. Because of their poor management and irrational use, Volga river as the main water supply surface source is gradually depleted. Today, the intake from Volga is 8 times higher than average intake in Russia. Urban authorities have long been talking about establishment of the republican body for monitoring water resources and proving that the problem is not water scarcity, but poor management and irrational use. According to Minnikhanov, Tatarstan Republic President , “we have enormous water resources, but we still have no infrastructure that is necessary for people living in our Republic and for our guests.” (Business online, 2018) Moreover, according GOST R 22.6.01-95, the city should have at least 2-3 alternative water resources to reduce existing resources usage. (Levanov V.N., 2002)

Kazan Volga river port site was selected for the hydrological cluster location. Long ago the site context had been different by natural systems diversity — fields, meadows, swamps, geological elements. `Fitopark` disappeared after hydro-electric power station construction — water level has risen that led to site flooding and pollution. The project offers a decision of water treatment and management by architecture elements and forms.

Biomimicry is considered as one of the modern ways of response to global environmental problems. The card of innovative biomimetic elements (elements of landscape, facade, structural and technological elements of interior) was developed. They mimic hydrological and geological objects in forms, ability of natural resources rational use and adapt to constantly changing environment. Landscape elements mimic to natural systems that allow regulating water level in drought and floods conditions. Facade and interior consist of different types of panels and structures for water and moisture smart use.

The cluster elements specifics is demonstrated on the Volga Hydrology Centre example. The `fairy tale` about water resources management by architecture elements is represented by the symbolical drawing — being alchemists, microorganisms, plants, bacteria extract freshwater from humid air, purify and store water, modify to useful energy. Allegories of natural systems — sponges, jellyfish, canyons and craters — overwhelmed the Volga Hydrology centre interior.

However, the fairytale is real — the elements are proved be the construction nodes with concrete blocks, efficient insulation and double-hinged facade that meet energy-efficiency requirements.

Hydrological cluster is the experimentarium consisting of innovative biomimetic elements for water management. The card is a universal constructor, which could be applied for other environmental and innovation projects.

Biomimetic elements typology. Hydromatter as a realized element for water production from air
Biomimetic elements typology. Hydromatter as a realized element for water production from air
Volga Hydrology Centre drawings
Volga Hydrology Centre drawings
Volga Hydrology Centre interior. Allegories of natural systems
Volga Hydrology Centre interior. Allegories of natural systems

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Award -1st prize, D3 Natural systems, USA. on ArchDaily

Award -1st prize, D3 Natural systems, USA. on Eleven-magazine

Award — Commended for publication. on Laka architects

Award — Commended, finalist. Drawing on ArchDaily

Award — Commended, finalist. Drawing on WAF

Award of excellence. Drawing on ASAI. Membership

Drawing on Bustler

Interview on ItsLiquid

Int. Scientific Publication. БИОМИМЕТИКА И КОНЦЕПЦИЯ ДВОЕМИРИЯ: КАК ПРИМИРИТЬ УТОПИЮ С РЕАЛЬНОСТЬЮ. BIOMIMETICS AND THE TWO-WORLDNESS CONCEPT: HOW UPOPIA WITH REALITY COULD BE RECONCILED article. Hybernatural: ноосфера, биомиметика и архитектура коммуникации article. Биомиметика и концепция двоемирия: как примирить утопию с реальностью article. Гибридность — проблема современного города или катализатор? article. Архитектурная топология и феномен биомимикрии

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Hidden Hydrology. Anna Budnikova. Prototyping future cities master program, Higher school of economics, 2019. Сredits — E.Mitrofanova
Hidden Hydrology. Anna Budnikova. Prototyping future cities master program, Higher school of economics, 2019. Сredits — E.Mitrofanova

Following this study, I focused on the possibilities of such a `geo-architecture` based on biology, geology and architectural structures. In addition to the freshwater production on the facade surface, water purification by facade or other wall can be considered, for example, in relation to rainwater. The same can be done by the landscape (landscape elements of the hydrological cluster).

I also focus on the Kazan, where there is not only a problem of water pollution, but also an interesting fact that could be an opportunity to introduce new ways of smart water management. Over the past few years, the Volga basin was high or extremely polluted in 40% cases. (Aif, 2018) According today’s research, 40% (33% and 7%) of centralized water supply sources samples do not meet hygienic standards. (Aif, 2016) The groundwater as alternative water supply resource is more reliable in quality. However, the fresh groundwater resources exploration degree is very low — water intake occurs on unapproved places (99.6%) without hydrogeological substantiation and focus on sanitary areas that cause pollution and depletion of groundwater.

Thereby, I focus on the Kazan city location feature — it is located on a specific salt karst ground platforms and have very hard water with additives diversity as a whole. During flooding, the salt karst gradually erodes that cause earth falls and craters. This is covered with sand, which not only deteriorate water quality, but also is dangerous for exploitation. Thus, why not to consider this `nameless` water after flooding as an freshwater additional source?

Being inspired by microorganisms, pores, plants, geological objects that have great potential in monitoring water, I imagine the crater `architecture` with layers of biomaterials, natural systems to purify water on walls and hydrophobic pattern to water harvesting on the bottom. For example, Floating Salvinia harvests drops by the microscopic hairs, and hydrocarbon-chewing bacteria that transform additives in water to carbon dioxide and biomass, and eichornia — a plant cleansing dirty drains in lakes and ponds, etc. I propose to use bacteria and biomimicry in testing these layers separately, then combining in one prototype of the multi-layer bio-organic `rapid response architecture` on a karst funnel. In this case, then the karst funnel can be consider not as a disaster but as a way to manage urban water resources.

project in progress at BioDesign Challenge

Considering the above mentioned problem of water purification by wall or vertical landscape it is necessary to note the possibility of wastewater recycling by greening. The project is dedicated to water recycling in the building that is connected with `building layers` — energy, water, food, matter. For example, being recycled water can be used two times for gardening or toilet.

Self-sufficient block for 1000 people. Group project, Prototyping future cities master program students, HSE, 2018. Water layer, axonometry — Anna Budnikova. credits — E.Mitrofanova
Self-sufficient block for 1000 people. Group project, Prototyping future cities master program students, HSE, 2018. Water layer, axonometry — Anna Budnikova. credits — E.Mitrofanova

Water recycling. Building metabolism

from the `Self-sufficient block for 1000 people` project, Higher school of economics, 2018 | credits — E.Mitrofanova

Moscow as a city with population of more than 12 million — is also under the problem of poor water management. Despite the fact that water sources’ holding is 2.5-3 times higher than the city’s drinking water needs, natural resources are used extremely irrationally and inefficiently.

Today, average water consumption in Moscow is 147 liters per day, which exceeds human needs in about 2.3 times. Despite the fact that this number decreased by almost 300 liters compared to 2005, cities with water supply’s decentralized and recycling systems have a number much smaller (for example, Barcelona, London or Copenhagen). The rich rainwater and snow can also be considered as alternative sources of water. Today, for example, 35 snow melting stations process up to 14.4 million m3 of snow into thawed water. However, Moscow authorities don’t yet use this snow potential, although they are taking other measures to improve energy efficiency in the Russian capital.

It is proposed to provide a zero wastewater cycle in city on the example of residential block’s prototype for 1,000 people. If water is managed in an intelligent way by functioning in a closed cycle, all the waste water can be treated and the withdrawal rate lowered to meet all the population’s needs. The main goal is to reuse all treated water and also to share water at domestic level in order to lower consumption. It is proposed to use the potential of water resources and its key features in Moscow and Russia in whole. It is based on the existing infrastructure of the city with established service radii and data on their capacity.

It is calculated that daily amount of shower’s grey water with adding of average precipitation can compensate the daily amount of waste black water. Freshwater gained by snow melting or exceed rainwater can be use for irrigation, landscape water storage, food production.

The self-sufficient block in Moscow based on saving natural resources and water smart use demonstrate the solution. The block allows to demonstrate how the water distribution process works in community based on rainwater or snow water collection and wastewater recycling in order to align the amount of water used and collected.

Moscow water infrastructure
Moscow water infrastructure
Zero wastewater cycle. Based on average daily consumption in Moscow
Zero wastewater cycle. Based on average daily consumption in Moscow
Building layers. Metabolism
Building layers. Metabolism


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Theses for Int.Conference. HSE

contact with author


Moscow urban forum exhibition. HSE

Zodchestvo festival.

contact with Shukhov Lab

Water chat bot

Higher school of economics, 2018, credits — Beno Juarez

The main projects challenge — to remind to society about water important role in the modern conditions for sustainability. However, in general, people still do not realize this need — citizens are satisfied with the `endless` water in the crane, and the authorities are not ready to make costly decisions on water recycling, changing infrastructure, etc.

In response to this, I created a kind of a game, a water chat bot, which, depending on how much water you consume, tells you whether this is good or bad for society and nature. Perhaps, some of people will think about water consumption and will want to once again view an article or video about water saving opportunities in a simple way that surrounds us in the form of architecture.

The chat bot name - @hydrologys_bot

How to use:

1. Join @hydrologys_bot

2. Type `/start`

3. Type `hello`, `sensor` or `viz`

4. Type the amount of water that you consume in liters, for example, 120

5. If you consume less than 95 liters, you get `Congratulations! You consume water as you really need. Get your gift` and the green picture that means that your consumption meet really person need

6. If you consume 95-150 liters, you get `Not so bad! You consume water below normal` and the yellow picture that means that your consumption meets the Moscow’s average amount

7. If you consume more than 150 liters, you get `Ooops! You consume You consume too much water. Take care of it, keeping lakes and rivers` and the purple picture that means that your consumption is above Moscow’s average amount

You will have similar view:

Chat bot
Chat bot
Code. 3 type of answers
Code. 3 type of answers
Information recording. Statistics
Information recording. Statistics

As a result, we can see how many people send messages to Bot and know information about their consumption. Dealing with people we can calculate the impact on them by the following formula:

Impact MPI =


(C5) HAVE KNOWN — number of people who send the message to ChatBot (have known what their water consumption means) + number of views of the article and facebook info about the project + who was at conference (anonymous)

(C6) HAVE LEARNED — number of people who have read the article + did comments + + liked the Facebook posts + discuss the topic with author at conference + pc (personal visible impact)

(C7) HAVE REPLICATED — number of people who are ready to collaborate and help in large-scale prototype implementation

at 15.01:

(C5) = 236, (C6) = 1286, (C7) = 17

MPI = 1.782


Arnold. (2011) Self-Healing Concrete. INGENIA, ISSUE 46

Business online. Tatarstan. The last access: 10.12.18. URL:

Levanov V.N. (2002) Resources of fresh groundwater of the Republic of Tajikistan, state and problems of their use. Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan. Georesources 2-10

Orff K. (2013) Shellfish as Living Infrastructure.Ecological Restoration Vol. 31, No. 3. ISSN 1522-4740 E-ISSN 1543-4079

Sokolov M.N. (1963) On some features of the spread of karst on the territory of Kazan // Final scientific conference of the Kazan State. University for 1962 Section of Geographical Sciences, geological and mineralogical. Sciences 1963. Pp. 83-84.

Tatar-inform. The last access: 10.12.18. URL:

Valerie I, Nelson. (2008) NEW APPROACHES IN DECENTRALIZED WATER INFRASTRUCTURE. Coalition for Alternative Wastewater Treatment

Zharkova N.I. (2006) Patterns of formation of engineering and geological conditions of Kazan. KFU, Kazan. Georesources 2-19

by Anna Budnikova

Prototyping future cities master program, Higher school of economics, 2018

Shukhov Lab


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