Seattle Public Utilities South Transfer Station

In the summer of 2012, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) celebrated the completion of the new state-of-the-art South Transfer Station in the South Park neighborhood. The 100,000 square foot, 50-year facility replaces the 1964 recycling and disposal station located across the street.  It also represents the first step of a complete redesign and rebuild of both of Seattle’s recycling and disposal stations to create the infrastructure for “zero waste.” The new station is designed to better serve residents with recycling, composting and garbage disposal, expecting to receive about 550 tons of various materials a day but is capable of expansion as the City’s population grows.  It consists of a spacious tipping floor, serving both self-haul and commercial users. Below the tipping floor is a drive-through load-out tunnel, which allows for safer and faster maneuvering of transfer vehicles. There are pay booths and weigh stations on the site, as well as a staff administration building.

O’Brien & Company worked with the design-build team to win the project and collaborated with the team to integrate sustainability into the design process from the beginning.  At the project’s goal setting meeting, the project team established common ideals and clearly articulated goals to help integrate all future design ideas.  One over-arching goal that emerged was a motto of “Make It Work, Make It Speak, Make It Flexible” to address all design solutions.  This rubric was pertinent to the integration of the sustainability strategies of the design; features have been included that meet multiple objectives.

For example, the 43,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system reduces the amount of stormwater that needs to be managed onsite and, through reuse of an estimated 300,000 gallons of water a year, minimizes the amount of potable water that needs to be processed and delivered by the city.  The water is used for garbage truck tire wash, washing down the tipping floors, and supplemental irrigation for the extensive, water-wise, natural landscaping.  This one strategy improves water quality along the nearby Duwamish River and increases the availability of scarce resources; both potable water and energy, saving in total as much water as 30 Seattle homes use in a year.  O’Brien & Company lead the team’s work to select this strategy by showing how it supported a LEED Gold pathway and doing preliminary sizing and reuse potential calculations.

After award, the design-build team and SPU worked towards a goal of LEED Gold certification with additional features.  As an example, the abundant use of translucent panels in the metal skin of the building bring in so much daylight that the interior lights will only need to be used on the darkest, shortest days of the year. O’Brien assisted the architect in coordinating with the Integrated Design Lab to fine tune the daylight design with the translucent panels; recommend lighting control settings, and estimating savings.  SPU also selected a variable pressure compactor model that will save about 35% of the energy used by constant pressure models. Combined, these and other energy efficiency strategies are predicted to reduce energy use by about 42% over a standard design for a transfer station. The team supplemented that strategy with low-flow sinks, showers, and toilets to use 40% less water than regular fixtures and save additional energy in water conveyance and processing.

During construction, over 578 tons of material were diverted from the landfill, over 90% of all waste generated on the project. Recycled materials used in the construction make up over 20% of the cost of building materials and include the metal transfer building skin, concrete and rebar, doors, carpet, wallboard, wall and flooring tiles, cabinetry, counters, paving materials, topsoil and fencing. The team salvaged components from the old South Park Bridge, including the “teeth” where the bridge sections met that were used by an artist as part of an art installation. Old street signs from the Seattle Department of Transportation were used to clad the pedestrian entry to the administration building.

O’Brien & Company handled LEED Project Management throughout and advised SPU on green building education signage.  The new Seattle South Transfer Station earned LEED Gold certification in late 2012 and received a Merit Award in 2013 from the Design Build Institute of America for Industrial/Process/Research Facilities.

Design/Build Cost:  $48 million
Construction Complete: 2012
Owner: Seattle Public Utilities
Design-Builder: M. A. Mortenson Construction
Civil Engineer and Design-Build Partner:  URS Corporation
Architect: Miller Hull
Mechanical Contractor: University Mechanical
Electrical Contractor: Valley Electric
Metal Building Supplier: PHI Construction
Landscape Architect: Swift Company
Commissioning: Engineering Economics Inc.