Washington, DC's First Living Machine™

Jim Laurie and Philip Bogdonoff next to DC's first Living Machine.
Jim Laurie and Phil Bogdonoff next to their Living Machine. Photo (c) M. Frautschi

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Second Living Machine constructed for DC's KIMA School

Jim and Phil helped Ms. Natama Summers and her students at the KIMA Public Charter School construct DC's second Living Machine during the 2000-2001 school year. Many of the school's student participated in a field trip at the beginning of the school year to visit Living Machines at the Darrow School in Lebanon, New York, and in Burlington, Vermont. The staff, teachers, and students of the KIMA school also hosted, with the co-sponsorship of DC's Earth Conservation Corps, a public talk by Father Geoffrey Nzamujo, who, in addition to being a Catholic priest, engineer, chemist, and professor at UC Irvine, is the director of the Songhai Center in Porto Novo, Benin. Father Nzamujo explained how aquaculture is integrated into the sustainable form of agriculture used at Songhai. (The Living Machine is mentioned several times in the KIMA School's 2000-2001 Annual Report.

First DC LM is now Solar Powered!

Washington, DC's first Living Machine has achieved another first: On August 16th, 2000, solar engineer Jeff Gilbert of Chesapeake Wind & Solar connected the water and air pumps to the photovoltaic system designed by him. To our knowledge, this is the first LM system in the U.S. (and perhaps the world) to be completely solar powered! The 60 watt solar panel and battery system powers the pumps for 45 minutes every 4 hours to circulate and aerate the water.

A Quick Overview of Living Machines

Living Machines™ are a technology first pioneered by John Todd at the New Alchemy Institute in Falmouth, Massachusetts. John and his colleagues learned from the fish ponds and aquatic systems used for thousands of years by Chinese and other Asian farmers. A Living Machine is a miniature ecosystem. A number of aquatic tanks provide habitats for many species of organisms, including bacteria, algae, plants, and fish. Through a series of steps, septage introduced at one end of the system is gradually broken down, beginning with anaerobic and aerobic bacteria, into simpler chemical elements that become nutrients and food for higher life forms such as algae, snails, and aquatic plants and invertebrates (snails and bugs). Eventually the water becomes clean enough that fish can live and reproduce.

The basic idea is that Nature knows how to take waste and turn it into food. We just have to learn what Nature needs to do this work!

Design & Construction

Jim Laurie has many years of experience designing and constructing Living Machines. He created systems to treat effluent from five labs at Bayer Chemical in Texas, as well as operated for two years the Living Machine in So. Burlington, VT that treated 80,000 gallons/day of muncipal waste.

With Philip Bogdonoff he helped design and construct the "backyard" Living Machine you see pictured above during July 2000. A similar system is being constructed with the high school students of the KIMA Public Charter School in Washington, DC beginning this fall (2000). It will be the focus of the school's environmental science program.

A diagram of the natural treatment system Jim designed and built for his lab.
A diagram of the natural wastewater treatment system Jim designed and built for his lab.

Course Schedule

From time to time we offer courses in the design and construction of Living Machines. If you are interested, please give us name, phone number, and/or e-mail address and we will let you know the details of the next course.


To schedule a visit to DC's Living Machine, please contact one of us below.

Contact Information

Philip Bogdonoff, tel: +1 202 363-1306, pbogdonoff@igc.org
Jim Laurie, tel: +1 781 698-9746, jimlaurie7@mac.com

Note: "Living Machine" is a trademark of Ocean Arks International.

Copyright (c) 2000-2003 Philip Bogdonoff
Last updated: 24 May 2003 + 8 Dec 2004