Test facilities

Unique in Europe, Aquasim enables full-scale water cycle experiments and simulation in the building - site - environment system. This major CSTB facility brings together a large number of researchers and engineers from France and the rest of Europe to study sustainable water management. Through collaborative research projects and expert missions, the CSTB guides public authorities and municipal and construction stakeholders in improving the sanitary quality of water and reducing the environmental impact of buildings. It also supports industrial companies in the development of operational facilities.

Aquasim: sustainable water management

Challenges: environmental and sanitary quality as well as sustainability

Water, the most fundamental component of life, is also a potential vector of disease and pollution. Providing people with quality water and maintaining the ecological balance, while promoting innovation, are major challenges to sustainable development. To tackle them, the CSTB offers the capabilities of Aquasim for a comprehensive approach to the hydrologic cycle, at the scale of the building and its site:

  • Water harvesting and production;
  • Transport and water use;
  • Treatment, purification and return to the environment.

Aquasim enables full-scale experiments under realistic and controlled conditions for all types of water (drinking water, rainwater, greywater, wastewater, road runoff, pool water, thermal waters).

The sanitary quality of drinking water, its odor and taste can be assessed at any stage of its use with conventional pollutant measurement methods or special patented analyses methods.

Aquasim makes it possible to analyze the interaction mechanisms between water and materials used in indoor piping networks. The CSTB assesses their impact on water quality and the durability of piping networks.

Testing and simulating the hydrologic cycle with Aquasim contributes to improving sustainable water management (treatment, recycling, purification, storage).

Finally, the CSTB assesses the quality of facilities: public water supply systems, on-site sanitation systems and rainwater storage systems.


  • Total surface area of research and test facility: 2300 sq m
  • 4 storage basins (100 to 200 cubic meters)
  • 20 tanks (1 to 6 cubic meters)
  • 5000 sq m of land plots
  • 7 km of piping
  • 8 water treatment units

Exploring water sanitary quality and developing sustainable management

To protect water resources, the CSTB guides stakeholders in their innovation efforts. It conducts collaborative research in areas such as analysis of health hazards associated with indoor piping networks; characterization of the risks associated with recycling alternative water sources (rainwater, greywater) and experimentation with solutions for purifying water and reducing the release of polluted water into the environment.

The CSTB’s Aquasim facility boasts a broad range of special equipment:

  • Materials analysis laboratory, specifically for the study of water/material interactions;
  • Microbiology laboratory for the study of health hazards;
  • Drinking water treatment units;
  • Plant bed (80 sq m) and experimental (150 sq m) filters and a green wall (80 sq m) to study water management in green roofs and facades;
  • Plot of land with water table (38 sq m, 70 cubic meters) and plots of land with groundwater discharge for stormwater management analyses;
  • On-site sanitation receiving area to measure the performance of wastewater treatment systems (small-scale wastewater treatment plants with activated sludge or filter beds; compact filters; constructed wetlands; etc.). Tests are performed as part of an R&D process or for CE marking. These operations are COFRAC No. 1-0304 accredited (scope available on www.cofrac.fr).

Energy recovery from wastewater

Heat recovery systems can instantaneously capture energy from household wastewater to improve the thermal balance of buildings. The CSTB uses COFRAC-accredited tests to measure the actual performance of such systems, depending on their configuration (Recado Laboratory).

Assessing the durability of facilities

As part of R&D projects and assessments, the CSTB analyzes the quality of materials and facilities (water supplies, sewage network, on-site sanitation, stormwater storage systems). To conduct these tests, the CSTB has the following:

  • Physicochemical analysis laboratory;
  • Laboratory for mechanical measurements and metallographic analysis;
  • Test sump pit to study the sturdiness and sealing of underground structures;
  • Climatic pit (96 m³ with controlled temperature of air, ground and used water, and humidity of air) to assess the performance of facilities in varying and sometimes extreme climates.