Click on an interpretive sign symbol in the image above to view the sign.
Tacoma Municipal Dock, the first publicly owned dock in the state, gave the city its link to maritime activities on the downtown waterway in the early 1900s. The facility served as a terminal for cargo ships and the “mosquito fleet,” the numerous small passenger ferries traversing Puget Sound.
By the late 1930s, cars overtook ships as the primary transportation mode and the dock was no longer needed. Attempts to restore the landmark ended when the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake left the building too damaged to repair.
The historic timbers were salvaged and reused at the Center for Urban Waters for conference room walls and the walls and ceiling in the lobby.
The Center for Urban Waters brings together environmental scientists, analysts, engineers and policymakers who are developing creative and sustainable solutions to restore and protect Puget Sound. The founding partners – the City of Tacoma, the University of Washington Tacoma and the Puget Sound Partnership – are committed to providing a collaborative environment where the best-available science forms the basis for policy development and implementation. The Center for Urban Waters is the result of years of work by the Urban Waters Board of Directors and other community leaders who dreamed of a world-class research center on Commencement Bay dedicated to finding solutions for urban bay communities.
Building for the future:
The Center for Urban Waters is a showcase for the City’s commitment to sustainability. The building has been certified LEED Platinum® by the Green Building Certification Institute. This is the highest possible rating under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council. Interpretive signs around the site describe how the Center for Urban Waters incorporates the five environmental categories shown on the right.
LEED® environmental categories:
The building's entire roof, with the exception of mechanical areas, is a green roof. It is covered with soil and plants over a waterproofing membrane.
The green roof:
How it works:
The green roof was replanted in 2015 with succulent Sedum Tiles®. Watch a video.
Rain gardens are shallow depressions landscaped with native plants. They’re designed to catch rainwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as roofs, walkways and driveways. The rain garden on this site collects and filters runoff from the parking lot.
Look for these native plants in the rain garden on this site:
The combination of water reuse and efficient plumbing fixtures means the Center for Urban Waters uses 46% less water than a conventional facility. This saves about 400,000 gallons per year, enough to fill more than 8,000 bathtubs.
Water storage tanks collect runoff from the roof and water rejected by the laboratory’s pure water system. Water collected in the tanks is used to flush toilets and irrigate plants. The green LED lights on the water tanks show the water level.
The Center for Urban Waters saves 36% in energy costs compared to a standard building.
Energy efficient elements:
A ground source heat pump uses the relatively constant temperature of underlying
groundwater to help heat and cool the building. This system consists of 84 wells, each approximately 280 feet deep, under the esplanade and parking lot.
Materials and products that were sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported are featured in the Center for Urban Waters. Waste reduction, reuse and recycling were maximized in construction and building operations.
Recycled content materials include:
More than 99% of the waste generated during construction was recycled.
The pervious pavers used to construct the esplanade and the parking lot allow water to pass through and infiltrate the soil. Unlike typical asphalt, these pavers allow rainwater to penetrate and drain into the soil, naturally filtering some pollutants. This helps reduce the need for and the size of the surface water collection system.
Because they are gray, pervious pavers help reduce the heat island effect that commonly occurs when asphalt is used.
Two pipes − each 96 inches in diameter − discharge stormwater into the Thea Foss Waterway. Stormwater collects pollution from lawns, streets, parking lots and highways and carries it into waterways.
Landscaping has a major impact on the natural resources a building uses. This site incorporates landscape materials that are easier on the environment, restoring natural ecological functions and reducing the effect on surrounding natural resources.
Native and adapted plants:
Look for these native plants in the landscaped areas:
Solar shading reduces heat gain in the building. This facility has fixed sunshades on the south building façade and motorized shades on the west. These shades are designed to prevent sunlight from directly landing on the windows and heating the building interior. Perforated screens on the east reduce the glare of the early morning sun.
Windows on the south and west sides of the building can be opened to allow natural ventilation and the breeze off the Thea Foss Waterway to cool the building. Indicators inside the building show occupants when to open windows to maximize cooling.
Daylighting reduces energy consumption by using windows and reflective surfaces to light the facility.
Views and lighting:
Rooms with a view:
Light shelves are used in open office areas to bring natural light deeper into the building. These shelves, placed above eye level near the windows, are made of reflective materials. They reflect daylight onto the ceiling, sending light further into the space.
Sustainably harvested cedar and Douglas fir snags (dead trees) provide staging, feeding and nesting habitat for birds and small animals.
Snags provide some protection from attack and a good view for hunting prey along the waterfront.
Look for kingfishers, hawks, falcons, eagles, cormorants and herons:
Wood-boring beetles, termites and other insects provide a feast for bats and birds.
Tree snags recycled as habitat:
The Douglas fir snags were removed from a site being developed for housing. The cedar snags had been identified as danger trees – meaning they could potentially strike occupied buildings in a storm – at an already developed site.