Move-in begins at $22M Center for Urban Waters

After years of planning and complex construction, the City of Tacoma and its project partners announced today organizations have begun moving into the Center for Urban Waters. When it opens to the public this spring, the public/private partnership will house state-of–the-art labs for research initially focused on urban storm water run-off and finding the best tools to reduce it.

The Center for Urban Waters is located on the eastern shore of the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma. Planning for the three-story, 51,000 square-foot, $22 million building began in 2002. Groundbreaking occurred in March 2009. The construction cost is $22 million.

The architect, Perkins + Will, and contractor, Turner Construction, anticipate the Center for Urban Waters will be certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum, the highest green building standard set by the U.S. Green Building Council. The City of Tacoma, University of Washington Tacoma (UWT), and the Puget Sound Partnership will share the building.

The centerpiece is a world-class environmental services and research lab, which will focus on water and air quality. UWT’s Dr. Joel E. Baker, a leading researcher of water pollution in marine environments, is the first to hold the Port of Tacoma endowed chair in Environmental Sciences at the Center for Urban Waters. His focus is measuring the wide range of chemicals that are released into the air and water and end up polluting Puget Sound. Dr. Baker’s group wants to determine where the chemicals are coming from and how to minimize them. Millions have already been spent on clean up so the focus is preventing new pollution.

Additionally, the Center for Urban Waters will host a think tank funded with federal money, where experts from around the world will help analyze and synthesize information and actual performance data.

The City’s Environmental Services utilities will contribute practical field experience to research and policy discussions.

And, with the latest research at its fingertips, the Puget Sound Partnership will have the best possible scientific and technological information for use in implementing restoration efforts.

Innovative tools and strategies applied to this project include an off-site buffer to stage materials and equipment; significant off-site fabrication; LEAN construction techniques; on-site computers in the building throughout construction that provide detailed information about scheduling, work requirements and real-time updates on project status; and mobile tool and equipment stations. The Center for Urban Waters’ building is designed to use 36 per cent less energy and 46 per cent less water compared to current Washington State building code requirements. Stand-out 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.

For more information, visit

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of the Center for Urban Waters, click here:

Seattle Aquarium honors UW Tacoma professor (02/08/10) —

Center for Urban Waters on course for spring completion (12/18/09) —

Urban Waters groundbreaking ceremony April 15 (04/03/09) —′

City seeks artists for Urban Waters project (11/25/08) —