We wish we could take credit for being the first to ask of the world’s tallest building: “where does all the poop go?” But we can’t. Terry Gross from America’s NPR radio station did that for us. Actually, before her, Kate Ascher from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture wrote everything you ever wanted to know about skyscrapers in a book called The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper.
All due credit aside, did you ever wonder what happens when a toilet is flushed on the 100th floor of a high-rise? And where all that poop and pee lands up when it finally makes it back down to earth? If so, read on…
After having a hefty meal at the restaurant on the top of the World’s Tallest Building in Dubai, maybe you even secretly indulged in Hamour – one of the UAE’s most endangered fish species, you excuse yourself from the table and head to the W.C.
You do what everybody does and without even thinking about it, you flush the toilet.
Your number one and two then travels 160 floors at breakneck pace, gravity interrupted by a sophisticated system of bends in the pipes that slows it down. These pipes are soundproofed by the way, because nobody wants to listen to traveling waste all day.
Anywhere else, the waste would land in a septic system and then slowly make its way to the municipal wastewater treatment plant. In greener buildings, it might even go through a network of filters so that it can be re-used for landscaping or flushing more toilets. But this is not what happens at the Burj Khalifa.
Some unfortunate soul – mostly likely several actually – collect the waste in trucks. Gizmodo estimates that at full occupancy that could amount to a good 13 tonnes of human excrement every day, but the Burj isn’t operating at full occupancy, so let’s reduce that number. Let’s cut it down to 8 tonnes – a very conservative number. You have to admit, that’s still a lot of sh#t.
Ok, what then?
Well, since the Burj Khalifa was built in such haste that nobody thought about where the poop would go, those souls have to drive this high falutin’ waste to a wastewater treatment plant, where they often stand in line for up to 24 hours to deposit their pungent truckload.
That’s one tower down. But Dubai has 63 buildings that stand taller than 656 ft, and hundreds more that are smaller than that.
Tafline Laylin writes for Green Prophet, from where this article is adapted.