Watsonville Water Resources Center

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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