Water efficiency is a fundamental goal in any desert environment, but for a city’s water utility, it takes on even greater significance.
The Tucson Water Department decided to create a benchmark for intelligent water use and sustainability when it commissioned a satellite facility to serve its growing customer base on the east side of town.
A metal building system with a no-maintenance metal roof was the logical choice for this 21,127 sq. ft. municipal project, which includes an office building, a shop building and a warehouse. All three buildings are single-slope structures with a roof that rises to the north to reduce the area exposed to the desert sun.
“Metal is an inherently sustainable building structure, as it has at least 80 percent recycled content and is 100 percent recyclable,” says Elizabeth Tipton, operations manager at Steadfast Structures, the supplier and installer of the metal building system fabricated by Star Building Systems.
Water harvesting is a key sustainable feature of this LEED Silver project. A series of 12 large vertical corrugated pipe cisterns on the south side of the buildings collects water for use in irrigating the property. These galvanized steel tanks also double as passive shade for the buildings' south side.
“Because the roof is a factory-sealed steel panel, it makes it very easy to collect particulate-free rainwater, not just now, but 10 years from now,” Tipton says.
Efficiency is emphasized throughout the facility, with separate buildings constructed to accommodate the unique ceiling heights and functional requirements of each, thereby reducing heating and cooling demands. The office and shop buildings share a common wall, and the office building features an exposed web barge joist rafter system for aesthetic appeal.
Colored masonry accent walls of varying heights along the lower level of the building exterior evoke a diamondback rattlesnake pattern.
“It provides a neat visual element and is easy for the owner to maintain for the long-term,” Tipton says.
The interior spaces are generously illuminated by daylight. Glass is the primary material on the north side of the office building, providing city employees with natural light and breathtaking views.
“The mono-pitched roof rises to the north, which allowed us to install glazing so employees can enjoy the incredible view to the mountains without the associated heat gain,” says Preston Godfrey, who served as project manager for architect Albanese–Brooks Associates.
The facility's steel shade fins deflect direct sunlight away from windows, while canopies below the eaves maximize natural light.
A ‘Day Brite’ skylight system in the warehouse radiates the sunlight more broadly throughout the facility than standard skylights.
The designers created a raised mezzanine system to accommodate the mechanical system, rather than placing it on the roof and requiring extra reinforcement to handle the additional load. The system is also less expensive, easier and safer to maintain than the standard mechanical configuration.
The center, which accommodates 75 employees, includes an outdoor storage yard and sits on a 25-acre site.