California Utility Opens First Sustainable Campus as Model Utility Site

© RCruger -- A former electrical substation is repurposed. Soon it will be covered in vines as outdoor shade for eco-campus park.

Three LEED Platinum structures, including California’s only LEED warehouse, three rooftop gardens, an extensive storm water capture system, a solar array car port, a green street, renovated art deco building, and reclaimed substation. And that’s just phase one of Burbank Water and Power’s impressive transformation of its 100-year-old industrial relic into a model sustainable site and award-winning plant. A decade ago the deteriorated buildings were scheduled for demolition. On January 28, the Burbank utility showed off its model EcoCampus with a green fair where the community could tour the sustainable facility.

© RCruger -- Sarah Backhouse dedicates the Eco-Campus flanked by solar carport arrays.

Sarah Backhouse of Future360 and formerly on Planet Green, hosted the event, highlighting all the features at a dedication. Attendees included the Department of Energy which also contributed funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the impressive venture. But it all began more than a decade ago with the vision of general manager Ron Davis and innovative funding to modernize the worn-out plant and save the taxpayer money. Today BWP has a smart grid and leases its fiber optic system to nearby film studios. The new design features a wide-ranging portfolio of renewables to reduce energy use and conserve resources.

© RCruger -- Solar-powered fountain in water capture garden of native plants and permeable pavers.

Water Reclamation System

BWP’s extensive EcoCampus has been selected as one of 150 international projects selected for the SITES pilot program. Like LEED ratings, the Sustainable Sites Initiative, from the American Society of Landscape Architects, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and U.S. Botanic Gardens will establish an environmental rating system for landscaping. Calvin Abe, the grounds' landscape architect, has integrated five different water filtration systems and storm water capture systems along the 3-block long "Green Street" of native vegetation, a phyto-extraction canal and underground cisterns that return rainwater to the aquifer.

© RCruger -- Green roof gardens with sedum and recycled glass mitigate urban heat and rainwater runoff.

Reclaimed Substation

In its Centennial Park, the focus is on the old electric substation which has been repurposed as a “super trellis.” Nine types of vines will climb the metal skeleton to offer shade and serve as an outdoor meeting space. Other “ruins” have also been fashioned into art spaces.

On the campus, BWP’s power plant won 2005’s Global Power Plant of the Year as the only steam generating plant using 100% recycled water with zero-water-discharge into storm drains.

© RCruger -- Art deco lobby of admin building renovated to LEED platinum.

Among the many features, bicycles are supplied for employees between the various buildings, located near the Metrolink train and bus center. The warehouse, which I toured, included recycled content in the flooring, skylights, a white roof, and efficient space usage implemented with vertical storage and computerized shelving.

Solar Array Carports

The solar array covering the parking lot will power the LEED electrical equipment building set to open in 2013. “It’s a gateway intended to telegraph the technology to the community,” said Hraztan Zeitlian of Leo A. Daly who created the carports fashioned after Roman aqueduct arches that hold the photovoltaic panels.

The booths at the fair showcased all the technology as well as information about drought-tolerant plants. At BWP's booth, customers could sign up for "Free House Calls" for an audit with several energy efficiencies, from weatherizing to AC tune-ups and water saving products. A pocket park also explained the complex rainwater reclamation process.

© RCruger -- Centennial Park on EcoCampus and site of future vertical farms.

In addition to the low-hanging fruit, like LED lighting, daylighted offices, modular office walls, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, landscape architect Abe even has designs on turning the old tower structures into vertical farms.

Tags: Recycled Building Materials | Renewable Energy | Reusability | Utilities