April 04, 2012

Photo Essay: Burbank Water and Power Eco-Campus

I have to admit it. It's weird. I love infrastructure. I love public works.

I love governmental (and military) buildings.

But unfortunately, those are often the ones that are under-appreciated, underfunded, and - as in the case of Brooklyn Navy Yard - often decayed, demolished, or otherwise lost.

Burbank Water and Power - which is about to celebrate its centennial - is a rare example of the triumph of historic preservation for a government building, and, intriguingly, a forerunner in the movement towards water conservation and environmental sustainability.

I mean, shouldn't it be? Shouldn't the public works departments set a good example for their corporate and residential neighbors?

With its LEED Platinum certified administrative building (and more buildings to come)... roofs...

...creative uses of outdoor space... panel-topped carport...

...and employee courtyard, a striking and creative example of adaptive reuse (turning a 1930s lattice work industrial ruin from a former substation into a trellis)...

Burbank Water and Power has turned its utility yard and surrounding facilities into a real eco-campus, and for me, a veritable tourist attraction.

Renovated in close consultation with a landscape architect, the BWP has led the charge in not only capturing local stormwater (which normally just runs off into the Pacific Ocean), but also filtering it and recycling it throughout the city, maximizing the usability of non-potable water within the municipality's public spaces (for irrigation, and so on).

Oddly, in the snowmelt-driven society of Southern California, no one else is bothering to capture the little rainfall we do get.

Unlike the impervious clay that is ubiquitous throughout Los Angeles (causing massive flooding after not-that-heavy rainfall), the Burbank region has particularly permeable soil, allowing the city to recycle 8% of its water supply, partially by allowing much of it to become reabsorbed into the ground water supply rather than being discharged out to sea.

And the eco-campus, while also functional, is also quite beautiful to visit.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

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  1. It was about 1945 when I was in sixth grade that a class mate, whose father was an engineer or manager at the Burbank power plant, arranged for a class trip to the power plant. I found it to be fascinating, including the large panel with labeled switches that controlled all the street lights.