Its central administration building at its 34.6-acre campus southeast of downtown, between West Sixth and West 12th avenues just east of the freight railroad tracks, pre-dates the computer age.
Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO, says the administration is the “nerve center” of the organization, and “in the ‘70s, when we built this building there were no computers — now there are.”
The average age of the buildings on the campus is 55 years old, and one of the buildings is 130 years old — an old pump station now converted into a conference center.
So when Denver Water decided that it needed to upgrade for the 21st century, the biggest question was whether the agency should leave its historic location, or stay, Lochhead said.
After a review, the decision was that it was more cost efficient to stay, he told the Denver Business Journal.
So Denver Water is embarking on a four-year, $195 million redevelopment of the campus — and in the process building a showcase for state-of-the-art energy and sustainable water conservation practices, Lochhead said.
Construction is slated to begin in January 2016 and finish in the summer of 2019…
Denver Water has hired Trammell Crow, a real estate developer; Mortenson Construction, which will be the prime general contractor; and RNL Design, which will be the prime architect on the project.
Money to pay for the project will come from the agency’s capital fund, which is supported with bonds that are repaid using revenues from water sales to customers, he said.
Construction will focus first on consolidating equipment, warehouse and maintenance buildings on the north side of the property into new, dedicated buildings on the southern edge of the property, near the Sixth Avenue side. The new administration center will be on the north side of the property, along West 12th Avenue.
Lochhead said Denver Water hopes the new administration center will be certified as LEED Platinum, the highest certification under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council for buildings that have taken steps to cut water and energy usage at the site.
Lochhead said Denver Water wants the new campus to demonstrate state-of-the-art water conservation techniques, including the capture, treatment and reuse rainwater to irrigate landscape on the site.
That will require the agency to seek a water right for the rainwater from the state’s water courts, he said.
Also, the agency wants to build a mini-water treatment plant to collect and treat water used at the new administration building — and reuse that water, such as from toilets and sinks, for irrigation purposes.
And Lochhead said plans also are in the works to tap into a Denver Water pipeline along West 12th Avenue and couple it with a geothermal heating and cooling system for the new administration building.
After the water is piped through the building to heat it or cool it, depending on the weather, the water will be sent back to the larger pipeline for use by customers, he said.
“We want to be financially responsible and we also have a commitment to sustainability, we’re building a campus that will be here for decades, with the water and energy use that mirrors that sustainability,” he said. “These are concepts that we can prove out and others can use.”
On the revitalized campus, graywater, the gently used water from sinks, clothes washers and showers, will be treated and reused in toilets and irrigation, where potable water isn’t necessary.
Stormwater runoff will be minimized and collected for reuse in irrigation. Rainwater will be harvested.
A geothermal well system, tied into a water conduit on 12th Avenue, will allow the utility to “extract energy from our own drinking water,” Lochhead said.
An “eco machine” in the new administration building’s lobby will look like a greenhouse but will be a working biotreatment system, treating wastewater on-site for irrigation or discharge into the South Platte River.
“We think we can be at the cutting edge, to help prove out a lot of the technology and sustainability concepts that can be replicated at other major developments in the city,” Lochhead said.