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Water district to get green building

Structure will be built to standards that signify use of high-tech efficiency, conservation methods

Posted: May 11, 2009 10:37 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2009 8:00 a.m.
The Newhall County Water District plans to break ground for a lean, green new administration building on Wednesday.

The Water District's new 14,500-square foot building will serve all staff housed in current administrative building and a group of employees that work from trailers dotting the district's Newhall headquarters, said Steve Cole, Newhall County Water District general manager.

The new administrative building will be built to Leadership Energy and Environmental Design structure, or LEEDS Silver standards, as certified by the United States Green Building Council.

LEEDS standards are aimed at improving the energy savings, water efficiency and indoor environmental quality of residential and commercial structures, as well as reducing those buildings' carbon emissions, according to Cole. When construction is complete, the Green Building Council will perform a site inspection to certify the administrative building, Cole said.

LEEDS provided a blueprint for eco-friendly design of the administrative building, but the Water District didn't focus solely on earning the certificate, Cole said

"What we tried to do is not get hung up on the certification," he said.

The Water District design focused primarily making its new administrative building more energy- and water-efficient, he said. But Water District officials say they are unsure about how much energy and water will be saved by the $4.7 million building's LEEDS construction. Water District officials think the building will stand as the model for future eco-friendly construction in the Santa Clarita Valley, however.

"Homeowners can look at bits and pieces that they can incorporate into their homes, like permeable pavement," said Maria Gutzeit, Water District board president.

The Water District's new building incorporates permeable pavement and other high-tech conservation technology, Cole said.

Permiable pavement allows the passage of water through it.

The walls on the Water District's building will be one foot thick and will be made from insulated concrete forms.

"The technology is commonly used on the east coast, where it keeps buildings warm in the winter," Cole said. The same technology will work to keep building warm in the winter and cool in the extremely hot Santa Clarita Valley summers, he said.

Styrofoam, which is an insulation material, is married with concrete to make the energy-efficient walls, Cole said. The concrete is poured into a Styrofoam mold, where it fills the pores of the foam and improves the insulation rating of the building by twofold, he said.

While the insulation of the new building will improve by double, the Water District plans to slash its electricity use in half by using solar panels, Cole said. The Water District will place 230 panels, each measuring 32 inches by 62 inches, that will produce a combined 81,000 kilowatts of power annually. The district could realize a savings of $12,000 per year in electricity bills, he said.

Water savings is always high on the list of the Water District's priorities and the permiable concrete that paves the new building's parking lot makes the lot a water-manager's dream, Cole said.

Permiable concrete allows rainfall to penetrate the lot and percolate back into the groundwater supply. "That's probably the most exciting part of the project for me," Cole said of the parking lot.

The Water District isn't the only government agency to use eco-friendly construction. The city of Santa Clarita, which just received a gold LEEDS certification for its transit building, is enthusiastic that the environmentally conscious construction is becoming the standard for public agencies.

"(The city) likes the fact that as new buildings are needed by public agencies, they are thinking about green projects," she said.

The groundbreaking for the Water District's new administrative building is at 10 a.m., Wednesday, at 237870 North Pine Street in Newhall.


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