34 buildings in Vancouver are heated with human poo

Locals dubbed it the “poo fingers” because the installation’s sculpture is meant to resemble a hand and sewage runs underneath.

Did you know that there are 34 buildings in and near the Olympic Village in Vancouver that are heated using human excrement?

It’s true.

The heating comes from what is called the False Creek Neighborhood Energy Utility (NEU), which is located just east of the Cambie Street Bridge. Locals dubbed it the “poo fingers” because the installation’s sculpture is meant to resemble a hand and sewage runs underneath.

The process is called waste heat recovery, and the NEU takes the heat from the wastewater flowing below and pumps it into nearby buildings. Of course, it’s not just poop, but also hot water from showers or kitchens – like when people strain their macaroni in the sink.

In theory, it is intended to reduce the use of fossil fuels for heating, but when there is not enough waste nearby, the heat is supplemented by a natural gas system which acts as a kind of backup .

When there is a lot of energy used by the houses connected to the system, the lights at the top of the “Poop Fingers” sculpture turn red. When there is not as much use, they turn blue. You’ll see it when you head north across the Cambie Street Bridge to downtown.

And now you know.

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