While fences bar the public from most wastewater treatment plants, a new Olympia, WA, facility will engage its community with visitor-friendly educational space, an exhibit gallery, and even a future Children’s Museum.
The LOTT Clean Water Alliance’s new Regional Services Center, which opened this month, includes a Water Educational and Technology (WET) Center and facilities for producing Class A reclaimed water.
"This new building portrays all the good things about community stewardship,” said Robert Hull, a founding partner of The Miller Hull Partnership, the architectural firm that designed the project, which is expected to gain LEED Platinum certification.
A ‘new public face’
“It’s no longer just a sewage treatment plant,” said Hull. “It becomes the new public face of LOTT in the community.” The LOTT Clean Water Alliance is a partnership of three towns and one county.
Class A reclaimed water is water that has been used and then cleaned to high-quality standards to be returned to the community for irrigation, toilet flushing, industrial and manufacturing purposes, and many other uses. The reclaimed water for LOTT’s new facility is used for a pond surrounding the center, for irrigating the grounds and the building’s green roof, and for toilet flushing inside the building.
“Common themes that run throughout this project include education, environmental sustainability, and the value of reclaimed water as a beneficial, safe resource for our communities,” said Scott Wolf, partner at Miller Hull.
Benefits include wastewater and water-supply management, and environmental enhancement such as using reclaimed water for wetlands restoration or stream-flow augmentation.
“By showcasing Class A reclaimed water in these water features, LOTT provides the public with an opportunity to see and experience the water up close, reinforcing the themes of reclaimed water as a valuable resource and its contribution to the environmental sustainability of our communities.”
Multipurpose design challenge
The scope of the project included renovating the administrative and laboratory building and creating a new four-story Regional Services Center to house administrative offices, an emergency operations center, boardroom and education center with interpretive exhibits and a classroom.
Designed with a contemporary, industrial aesthetic, the building is meant to complement its surroundings, while its height acts like an iconic symbol for the neighborhood. The facility is coordinated with other projects planned in the area, including a hands-on Children’s Museum to begin construction in the fall and the East Bay Public Plaza.
The water in the pond is Class A reclaimed water and moves slowly around the front of the building to the east. The edges of the pond are lined with plants, and a smaller pond within the larger water feature supports water lilies. The pond’s water is recycled, requiring minimal make-up water to sustain it.
Two walkways were constructed over the pond leading people to the building entrances. A water fountain sculpture resembling a large cup pours reclaimed water into the pond, symbolizing the return of treated water to the community for reuse. The landscape designer was Murase Associates.
Other sustainable elements of the project include reused timbers from a port warehouse that was demolished near the site. The energy use for the project is 50 percent less than that of a typical building, the architect says. Natural light in the office spaces reduces or eliminates the need for artificial lighting during most of the day. Lastly, external louvers control sunlight and minimize solar gain, which reduces the need for air conditioning.
The city of Olympia, WA, built the original sewage treatment plan in the early 1950s. The city of Tumwater and the Olympia Brewing Company were both connected to the system in 1955. Later, in 1969, the city of Lacey also contracted with Olympia for service and connected to the system.