A new view of water
Since last summer, Rock River (Ill.) Water Reclamation District staff have been welcoming residents and managing operations from a nearly 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art administrative headquarters. The building, which earned Silver LEED certification from the Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council, replaced the former 80-year-old headquarters, includes space for 111 personnel who were previously scattered among multiple locations and incorporates educational features.
“It was obvious a few years ago that we needed to improve our capabilities,” says Steve Graceffa, district director. “Our personnel were located in multiple buildings, and the physical plant needed upgrading.”
In addition to creating enough space for personnel, district managers wanted the new facility to serve as a community center for the thousands of residents who visit to pay their bills and school groups that attend to learn about water reclamation. They also wanted the building to be as energy efficient as possible in keeping with the district’s eco-friendly philosophy. In 2006, the district contracted with locally based architectural and engineering firm Larson & Darby Group to design the new building.
The result is a glass, masonry, block and stone building located next to the treatment plant that sits on a hilltop overlooking 7 acres of rain gardens, prairie grasses and natural landscaping. Its physical orientation maximizes the sunlight to illuminate the interior, and effluent water from the 35-million-gallon-per-day treatment plant is channeled to 27 heat pumps throughout the building that automatically adjust and control the facility’s energy use. The methane gas generated on-site is converted to electricity for the plant and administrative offices.
In the lobby of the U-shaped building is an 18,700-gallon, fresh-water fish tank, behind which is a 10-foot-long scale model of the water reclamation process. “The more people understand the need for and the process of water reclamation, the more supportive they are of the district and what we do,” Graceffa says.
Built for just under $9 million, the administration building also includes fiber optic technology so staff can monitor and control the district’s 31 pumping stations from anywhere — even from home, if necessary — based on real-time data. The building is one element of a 10-year, $100 million capital improvement program that also includes sewer rehabilitation and plant upgrade projects.
Project: Water agency building
Jurisdiction: Rockford, Ill.
Agency: Rock River Water Reclamation District
Vendor: Locally based Larson & Darby Group
Date completed: July 2009
Cost: $9 million