Talk about a smart building! The new Tacoma Center for Urban Waters goes beyond clever design and construction techniques. The recently opened research center and environmental laboratory actually has the capacity to react to its environmental conditions and alter itself in order to minimize its energy use. With a laundry list of green building features, the City of Tacoma’s newest facility is aiming for LEED Platinum certification, plus it has the monitoring and measuring capabilities to keep it running at its greenest possible performance.

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Tacoma’s Center for Urban waters was completed this spring and is now occupied by the City’s Environmental Services Division labs and offices, University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) research labs, and an office for the Puget Sound Partnership. Perkins+Will designed the new 50,000 square foot, three-story living laboratory, which boasts a remarkable array of sensors and systems that keep the building’s environmental footprint to a minimum. The smart building includes real-time monitoring and measuring of energy and water use, which is displayed on monitors in the lobby. Depending on the environmental conditions, the building can automatically alter external shades to help cool or heat the building via sunlight, reducing the need to use energy.

Tacoma’s high-tech laboratory is located on the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway on a superfund site. Some of the other sustainable features included are a green roof to infiltrate storm water, solar passive design, daylighting, natural ventilation, geothermal heating and cooling, rainwater collection, grey water recycling for irrigation, a photovoltaic system, electric car charging stations and more. The Center for Urban Waters also includes “clean rooms” and a 75-foot dock has been constructed to accommodate water-monitoring vessels.