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The Water + Life Complex | Making A Good Thing Out of A Reservoir

Posted By G Living Staff Monkies On December 12, 2008 @ 11:36 pm In Architecture / Interior Design | 1 Comment

Man-made reservoirs don’t exactly bring a soft, fuzzy image to my mind, so when I heard what’s happening in Southern California in the hills between L.A. and San Diego, my skeptical side kicked in.

Metropolitan Water District (MWD) is the top dog in securing water for L.A. and its suburbs. They don’t have a great track record in terms of being kind to the environment, draining natural lakes and damming rivers to create man-made reservoirs to help quench the thirst of millions of people living in the desert. One area targeted for a reservoir was Diamond Valley, just outside of Hemet, CA, and construction of the 4,500 acre site began in 1995. Almost immediately, crews began unearthing prehistoric creatures and American Indian artifacts. There was no place to put the over 1 million pieces until recently when the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology opened its doors.

The Western Center, which is part of the larger Water + Life complex that includes the Center for Water Education, is located on 17 acres in Hemet’s desert climate. The twin museums are unique in that they are the first museums to earn LEED’s platinum rating, the highest award given by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Designed by LA’s Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build at a price tag of $40 million, the buildings are models of sustainability. The most impressive feature is the 540-watt, 3,000-panel solar array that covers the building’s roof and provides over half the electricity. It shields the building from intense sun (actually using the energy) and provides plenty of natural lighting for spaces below. Other green elements include heat-blocking glass, smart interior lighting, radiant floor heating and cooling, drought tolerant landscaping and drip irrigation that uses reclaimed water.

It’s a somewhat happy ending to what could have been another environmental disaster for Southern California. I’m still not sure that disturbing all the artifacts and burying what wasn’t found under water is the best solution to water issues. The public must reap more benefit than just the water from projects that create these kinds of large-scale environmental issues.

(via Jetson Green)

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