The Center for Urban Waters is a 51,000 square-foot environmental services and research laboratory. The building will house government and higher education groups that collaborate on policy making, research and enforcement designed to address the pollution problems facing urban communities. It is located in Tacoma on the east shore of Thea Foss Waterway with unobstructed views of downtown.
After years of planning and complex construction, the City of Tacoma and its project partners have begun moving into the Center for Urban Waters. The building and its research labs intend to have an important impact on the restoration of Puget Sound and the revitalization of an economically depressed area. This public/private partnership will house labs for research initially focused on urban storm water run-off and finding the best tools to reduce it. Storm water run-off is the single largest pollution problem in Puget Sound. The labs will also be used by the City of Tacoma for ongoing and regularly scheduled water and air testing.
The building includes several green building features incorporated into the design. The architect, Perkins+Will, and contractor, Turner Construction, anticipate the Center for Urban Waters will obtain the LEED Platinum certification.
While it makes intuitive sense that an environmental lab should be environmentally friendly, lab requirements are often at odds with green building goals. For instance, a green building typically features operable windows and comprehensive energy efficiency measures, while Labs have lighting constraints and use significant amounts of energy to filter and purify outside air (strict testing and safety requirements do not allow re-circulated air as in most commercial buildings). Early and comprehensive pre-planning with all project team members at the table using next-generation Building Information Modeling (BIM) techniques successfully facilitated the marriage of these conflicting needs and goals.
This integrated design process involved much collaboration between project partners to address a variety of unique challenges. For example, the architect, landscape designer and civil engineer worked together on the design of a water reuse strategy that was first proposed by the lab users, who wanted to capture the clean reject water.
The sophisticated techniques and tools used to make this lab “green” provide new sustainable possibilities for a variety of similar projects in the bio-tech and high-tech building sector.
The centerpiece of the building is an environmental services and research lab, which will focus on water and air quality. While the building itself is not particularly large, its unique elements pose far more difficulties than the average office or condominium project. “The sophistication of the labs, along with the tight site, gave the design team an interesting challenge that yielded a flexible layout and efficient floor plan,” says Kay Kornovich, Principal at Perkins+Will. “The needs of a variety of scientists working in a small space with highly specialized, sensitive and expensive equipment, as well as “clean room quality” indoor air requirements, fully engaged our creativity and design skills.”
The Center for Urban Waters is expected to trigger a re-birth of commercial activity in the area, bringing in a wide variety of marine-science related activities. It is also expected to attract the public with an esplanade for strolling and signage explaining the research and testing underway, the pollution challenges in Puget Sound and the building’s green features.
The Center for Urban Waters’ building is designed to use 36-percent less energy and 46-percent less water compared to current Washington State building code requirements. Green building features include:
· A 12,000 square foot green roof will help absorb storm water run-off.
· A smaller green roof ― visible from the second and third floor conference rooms ― will be used by the City of Tacoma to test storm water flow rates from the green roof.
· A rain garden will also help clean and absorb storm water run-off.
· Two 36,000 gallon above-ground water storage cisterns will capture rain water and clean water rejected from labs for re-use in toilets and drought-tolerant landscaping.
· Operable exterior solar shades on the west elevation will be programmed to automatically adjust to light and heat throughout the day.
· Fixed exterior solar shades on the south elevation are designed to maximize views of the Thea Foss Waterway and Mount Rainier, while minimizing unwanted solar heat gain.
· High-efficiency geoexchange loop with 84 bore holes, some as deep as 282 feet.
· Radiant floor heating and cooling.
· Water-side operable windows and industrial ceiling fans will allow for natural ventilation in office and public spaces.