New NE community building teaches smart water use

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November 6, 2012 by Sarah M

By Amelia Kaderabek // Murphy News Service

If you want to learn how a rain garden helps reduce storm water runoff, you can now do it on the rooftop of the new community building on Marshall Street and Lowry Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis.

The building, which opened to the public Oct. 27, is not only “green” in its design, but also was built to educate the public about how the landscape saves, cleans and reuses storm water. It combines the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization staff offices on the second floor, with interactive exhibits, classrooms and other educational resources for students and the public on the first floor.

The grand opening on Oct. 27 also included a celebration of the new Lowry Avenue Bridge near the new community building.

“The facility is meant to be interactive and will have self-guided tours and water exhibits, along with wet and dry classrooms for kids to learn about water resources,” said Doug Snyder, the executive director of the MWMO.

“Instead of putting storm water in a pipe where you lose any chance to treat it, we want to try to keep water on the surface to collect it, clean it, and reuse it once or twice,” Snyder said.

The architecture of the building includes a rooftop garden that captures and filters storm water and a 4,000-gallon cistern that collects rain water. The overall design goal was to contribute to a long building life, reduce heating expenses, improve ventilation for a better indoor air quality, and keep the building occupants comfortable year-round.

“It’s always a layered solution because there are many different aspects related to any design. It is a layer of thoughts that go into the solution,” said Michael Huber, from Michael Huber Architects Firm.

The building also uses geothermal energy – heat and cooling from the earth – to heat and cool the building, and the floors are heated in the winter and chilled in the summer.

“It moves heat from the earth to the building in the wintertime and vice versa in the summertime. You’re recycling the heat back and forth between the ground and the earth depending on what season it is,” said Howard Ko, a mechanical engineer from KFI Engineers.

Windows in the facility are 10 times tighter than average casement windows and are designed to last 50 years. “The worst thing for a building is air and filtration, like a zipper on a coat,” said Paul Kellner, the building’s window supplier. “We’re trying to build better environments and not use as much energy.”

The facility opening showcased a number of projects funded by the MWMO aimed at efficiently managing storm water. One project was the St. Anthony Village water reuse facility, which is a half-million gallon reservoir located under a storm water pond near the City Hall.

It collects storm water runoff from the City Hall campus, city streets and a portion of St. Anthony High School, and also collects water from the city’s water treatment plant, said Todd Hubmer, the city engineer of St. Anthony Village and vice president and manager of water resources at WSB & Associates.

“Then it uses that water to irrigate about 20 acres of City Hall campus and park space. It’s using anywhere from 6 to 7.5 million gallons of reused water,” Hubmer said.

It’s that kind of smart water use that the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization wants citizens to understand, and that’s why it wants its new community building accessible to all.

The building is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Amelia Kaderabek is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.

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