Launch Slideshow

The Water Resources Center has to lead by example in the drought-prone and water-conscious Pajaro Valley. To that end, the landscaping features native and drought-tolerant plantings that require less than 70 percent of typical water usage. These plants are watered only when recycled water is available.

Watsonville Water Resources Center

Watsonville Water Resources Center

  • Outside the reception area.

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    Outside the reception area.

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    Bruce Damonte

    Outside the reception area.

  • The Water Resources Center has to lead by example in the drought-prone and water-conscious Pajaro Valley. To that end, the landscaping features native and drought-tolerant plantings that require less than 70 percent of typical water usage. These plants are watered only when recycled water is available.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE880%2Etmp_tcm20-604803.jpg

    true

    The Water Resources Center has to lead by example in the drought-prone and water-conscious Pajaro Valley. To that end, the landscaping features native and drought-tolerant plantings that require less than 70 percent of typical water usage. These plants are watered only when recycled water is available.

    600

    Bruce Damonte

    The Water Resources Center has to lead by example in the drought-prone and water-conscious Pajaro Valley. To that end, the landscaping features native and drought-tolerant plantings that require less than 70 percent of typical water usage. These plants are watered only when recycled water is available.

  • The water feature in front of the building entrance also uses recycled water. When there is a surplus, the water runs constantly; when there is none, the fountain remains dry.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE883%2Etmp_tcm20-604806.jpg

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    The water feature in front of the building entrance also uses recycled water. When there is a surplus, the water runs constantly; when there is none, the fountain remains dry.

    600

    Bruce Damonte

    The water feature in front of the building entrance also uses recycled water. When there is a surplus, the water runs constantly; when there is none, the fountain remains dry.

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    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE87F%2Etmp_tcm20-604802.jpg

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    Courtesy WRNS Studio

  • Operable windows throughout the building allow for natural ventilation, and several public areas feature indoor-outdoor space, including this employee dining area.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE87A%2Etmp_tcm20-604797.jpg

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    Operable windows throughout the building allow for natural ventilation, and several public areas feature indoor-outdoor space, including this employee dining area.

    600

    Bruce Damonte

    Operable windows throughout the building allow for natural ventilation, and several public areas feature indoor-outdoor space, including this employee dining area.

  • The reception area serves as the main point of entry, not only to the operations and laboratory area, but also to the education area, which is the part of the program most accessible to the public. Visitors enter into a space lined with Heath Ceramics tile, another local resource, and can proceed to conference rooms and other areas beyond.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE87C%2Etmp_tcm20-604799.jpg

    true

    The reception area serves as the main point of entry, not only to the operations and laboratory area, but also to the education area, which is the part of the program most accessible to the public. Visitors enter into a space lined with Heath Ceramics tile, another local resource, and can proceed to conference rooms and other areas beyond.

    600

    Bruce Damonte

    The reception area serves as the main point of entry, not only to the operations and laboratory area, but also to the education area, which is the part of the program most accessible to the public. Visitors enter into a space lined with Heath Ceramics tile, another local resource, and can proceed to conference rooms and other areas beyond.

  • Outdoor space is a critical element of the building program. Patioslike this one off of the employee dining roomprovide permanent outdoor seating, while benches and pathways encourage visitors and staff members to engage with the surrounding landscape.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE879%2Etmp_tcm20-604796.jpg

    true

    Outdoor space is a critical element of the building program. Patioslike this one off of the employee dining roomprovide permanent outdoor seating, while benches and pathways encourage visitors and staff members to engage with the surrounding landscape.

    600

    Bruce Damonte

    Outdoor space is a critical element of the building program. Patios like this one off of the employee dining room provide permanent outdoor seating, while benches and pathways encourage visitors and staff members to engage with the surrounding landscape.

  • The long, barlike volume of the building is only 38 feet wide, so the interior of the single-story structure is airy and daylit from both sides. This reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day, especially in the relatively densely packed operations area, where there are no walls to inhibit daylight penetration. White walls and neutral finishes highlight the Douglas fir ceiling, which is constructed from tongue-and-groove decking over glulam beams. Often there is so much attention paid to photovoltaics or geothermal as a way of saving energy, Souza says, that low-tech solutions such as these are ignored.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE87B%2Etmp_tcm20-604798.jpg

    true

    The long, barlike volume of the building is only 38 feet wide, so the interior of the single-story structure is airy and daylit from both sides. This reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day, especially in the relatively densely packed operations area, where there are no walls to inhibit daylight penetration. White walls and neutral finishes highlight the Douglas fir ceiling, which is constructed from tongue-and-groove decking over glulam beams. Often there is so much attention paid to photovoltaics or geothermal as a way of saving energy, Souza says, that low-tech solutions such as these are ignored.

    600

    Bruce Damonte

    The long, barlike volume of the building is only 38 feet wide, so the interior of the single-story structure is airy and daylit from both sides. This reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day, especially in the relatively densely packed operations area, where there are no walls to inhibit daylight penetration. White walls and neutral finishes highlight the Douglas fir ceiling, which is constructed from tongue-and-groove decking over glulam beams. Often there is so much attention paid to photovoltaics or geothermal as a way of saving energy, Souza says, that low-tech solutions such as these are ignored.

  • Image

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE87E%2Etmp_tcm20-604801.jpg

    true

    Image

    600

    Courtesy WRNS Studio

  • In the water-testing lab, high-efficiency mechanical equipment provides the services needed by a traditionally power-hungry setting without blowing the energy budget. Occupancy sensors ensure that the lights are off whenever the lab is empty.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpE87D%2Etmp_tcm20-604800.jpg

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    In the water-testing lab, high-efficiency mechanical equipment provides the services needed by a traditionally power-hungry setting without blowing the energy budget. Occupancy sensors ensure that the lights are off whenever the lab is empty.

    600

    Bruce Damonte

    In the water-testing lab, high-efficiency mechanical equipment provides the services needed by a traditionally power-hungry setting without blowing the energy budget. Occupancy sensors ensure that the lights are off whenever the lab is empty.

Few issues are as critical in California’s Pajaro Valley as water: 85 percent of the valley’s water use supports its $400 million farming economy. So when heavy demand for water led to saltwater intrusion in the local aquifer, three public agencies—The City of Watsonville Waste Water and Water Departments and the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency—pulled together to address the problem, and in so doing formed the Watsonville Area Water Recycling Project, based at the new Watsonville Water Resources Center in Watsonville, Calif.

Designed by WRNS Studio, of San Francisco, the center is both a functional and didactic extension of the water recycling plant it supports. The 16,000-square-foot building joins three separate but related departments to coordinate action on issues of water management and quality in coastal areas of south Santa Cruz and north Monterey counties. Administrative offices, a water quality lab, and education space form a comfortably scaled complex designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. The building and landscape weave a narrative about water use and conservation that raises public awareness through exhibitions and tours. “On the experiential side, the entry sequence focuses on water,” notes project designer Adam Woltag. “Cars circle around a detention bioswale and, as people approach the building, they cross a footbridge over water. That really sets the tone.”

Active participation by the client group enriched a collaborative process with clear goals from the outset. “The layout of the plan was a critical first step,” says project manager Pauline Souza, WRNS’ sustainability director. A public patio divides the building into two parts, separating the office-heavy operations center from the laboratory. This yielded huge energy savings, allowing for energy-gobbling mechanical systems to be dedicated to the lab space while relying on natural ventilation in the office wing. In addition, the site afforded the long, narrow building a favorable east-west orientation, allowing for large glass surfaces on the north façade and small punched windows and long roof overhangs on the north and south. Interior planning took its cues from the resulting distribution of daylighting and views.

The building configuration, in tandem with landscape screens, creates exterior spaces protected from chilly ocean winds. Both the large public conference room and an employee dining room are placed next to exterior patios. With accordionlike glass walls, each of these rooms can be opened to the landscape, creating interesting indoor-outdoor relationships and accommodating public gatherings.

When possible, design elements were finessed to convey the idea that water is a finite, precious resource. A water feature in the main courtyard, for example, operates only when recycled water is available. During rainfalls, water flows off the shedlike roof, down rain chains, and into rock-lined swales, where it is directed to retention basins and treated before infiltrating the ground. Even the use of native and drought-tolerant plants reinforces the message. Along with the use of low-flow fixtures, such steps lower potable water consumption by half and reduce the need for energy-intensive water transport. “Seventy-five percent of the cost of water is tied to energy—how you clean it and move it from place to place,” Souza says. “People don’t normally connect that.”

The facility’s heating and cooling system is all about energy conservation too. Most of the building is tempered with a radiant floor system that circulates heated or cooled water; air flows with ceiling fans and operable windows. Vent stacks on top of the operations wing draw warm air out, while high-efficiency mechanical equipment in the conference room and lab reduces energy loads.

WRNS designed the center with materials selected for durability and low maintenance. Placing 2x6 studs at 24-inch intervals reduced the number of support members needed and allowed for more insulation. California redwood was an ideal choice for the exterior rainscreen, in part because of its resistance to mildew and decay. The wood was offered to the team when the city decided to clear several trees for fire protection. “They were going to use it for mulch,” Woltag says. Because it was sourced locally, the wood didn’t need to be acclimated and was milled nearby.

All of which adds up to a boon for a public project predicated on demonstrating environmental stewardship in ways that are apparent and direct. “It was really the simple things—the orientation, the thermal envelope, the tweaks on the mechanical system—that made this building a success,” Souza says. “That’s why the client bought in.”


Project Credits

Project City of Watsonville Water Resources Center
Architect WRNS Studio, San Francisco—Sam Nunes (principal in charge); Pauline Souza (project manager, sustainability director); Adam Woltag (project designer); Eileen Ong (senior technical architect); Lihsing Kuo (project architect); Jeff LaBoskey (junior designer)
Landscape Architect Bellinger Foster Steinmetz
Contractor Devcon Construction
Electrical Engineer and Lighting Designer Integrated Design Associates
Structural Engineer JEC Structural Consulting
Civil Engineer RI Engineering
Commissioning Agent Rick Unvarsky Consulting Services, San Francisco
Mechanical & Plumbing Engineer Rumsey Engineers
Size 16,000 square feet

Materials and Sources

Building Management Systems and Services Automated Logic Corp. automatedlogic.com
Exterior Wall Systems Rainscreen with locally-sourced redwood; Trespa (Meteon) trespa.com; VaproShield (WrapShield) vaproshield.com
Flooring Heath Ceramics (tile) heathceramics.com; Daltile (Porcealto, Glass Reflections) daltile.com
Furniture Herman Miller (Vivo, Intent, Aeron, Eames) hermanmiller.com; Custom Desk customdeskinc.com; Bernhardt Design (Balance) bernhardtdesign.com; Krug (Dorso E) krug.ca; Allseating Corp. (Inertia) allseating.com; Humanscale (Saddle) humanscale.com; Nienkämper (Vox and Vox Fliptop) nienkamper.com
Glass PPG Industries (Solarban 60) ppg.com; Lane-Aire (flat skylight) lane-aire.com
Lighting Humanscale (Diffrient light)
Millwork SierraPine (Medite II) sierrapine.com; Environ Biocomposites (Dakota Burl) environbiocomposites.com; Thomas Fisher Scientific (oak veneer) hamiltonlab.com
Paints and Finishes ICI (low-VOC paint) icipaints.com; Cabot (low-VOC stains) cabotstain.com
Plumbing and Water System CustomCascade (2000 Series) oreqcorp.com; Sloan Valve Co. (WES 111, WES-1000, EAF-275) sloanvalve.com; Takagi (T-K3 and T-KJr) takagi.com
Roofing Firestone Building Products (UltraPly TPO Roofing) www.firestonebpco.com; Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp. mtlsales.com
Walls Kawneer (Flushline and Wide Stile Doors) kawneer.com; NanaWall (SL70) nanawall.com
Windows, Curtain Walls, and Doors Kawneer (8225T, 7225, Trifab 451T)