For the WSP professionals working on Watershed, the project represented an exciting challenge and career milestone.
“There aren’t a lot of people who’ve been able to deliver on Living Building Challenge projects,” said Chester Thompson, WSP senior architectural lighting designer. “Architecturally speaking, the standard’s requirements are far ahead of what is being done internationally with regard to energy savings and water conservation.”
The building boasts 25 percent less energy usage than code baselines, a cutting-edge stormwater retention and treatment system, castellated steel beams, a bicycle locker room and showers and other green features. And to meet the Living Building Challenge’s requirement for materials—known as a “petal”—required extraordinary diligence by the WSP team.
“We had to dig into all the materials and products used on the project and make sure everything was sustainably sourced and nothing was on the so-called ‘red list’ of toxic or ecologically harmful materials, many of which are still widely used in construction,” said Zach Stevens, WSP lead sustainability consultant.
Thompson and Stevens corresponded extensively with vendors and manufacturers to vet materials. While time consuming, this level of engagement helped spread awareness in the industry.
“As a firm, we’re trying to move the industry, increase awareness about how prevalent these types of materials still are, and demonstrate that there’s a demand for environmentally friendly, sustainable alternatives,” Stevens said.
For lighting systems, meeting the materials petal required finding alternatives for “about 70 percent of the originally specified lighting fixtures,” Thompson said. And lighting plays an especially important function at Watershed: drawing attention to some of the cutting-edge features, such as the exterior bioretention planters that treat not only onsite stormwater but the runoff from the adjacent Aurora Bridge.
“Designing lighting to help tell this story was among the most interesting portions of the design challenge,” he added.