Tacoma Green Lab aims to take pollution research to new level


by Ed Muir / NWCN


Posted on March 19, 2010 at 12:17 PM


TACOMA, Wash. -- On Tacoma's industrial waterfront, a shiny new environmental lab is growing, in some cases from the ruins where it sits.

Take the recycled wood from the old municipal dock.

"We took these materials and had them sent off to be milled down and the finished project is this beautiful wood paneling you see in the whole lobby space," said general contractor Eldon Kiel.

About 20 percent of the 51,00 square-foot Center for Urban Waters is made from recycled materials. In attaining the highest green building standard, the building features a rain-absorbing roof, tanks that will recycle rainwater while taking advantage of geothermal heat. Tree snags will provide perches for raptors.

"So these fume lids are designed so that air from the lab will go into the fume lid and then up through an exhaust fan," said UW-Tacoma environmental researcher Dr. Joel Baker.

He'll spend a lot of time here. This will be a state-of-the-art place to study water and air pollution, on a waterway the city spent $100 million cleaning up. It's a collaboration among the university, the city of Tacoma and the Puget Sound.

"By having the university and the laboratories physically adjacent in the same building, it really facilitates coordination between the city labs and the university," said Baker.

It might seem obvious that an environmental lab would be environmentally friendly. But with all the energy and water that these types of facilities use, they're often energy hogs.

But this building is designed to use 36 percent less energy than state code requires.

"Because it uses 3-5 times the energy of an average office, it becomes kind of an opportunity to reduce an energy in a lab, it's that much more beneficial," said Devin Kleiner, project designer.

It's also hoped the center will be just the first project of its kind in this area, according to Tacoma City Engineer Jim Parvey.

"We're hoping we'll invigorate a sort of environmental, green technology evolution within the Tacoma area," said Parvey. 

The Tacoma Green Lab is scheduled to open in spring.