County campus rising off Tilley Road

Thurston: Solar panels, geothermal wells among features

April 13, 2011 

Green county campus rising

Capital projects manager Marc Kowalewski walks through the site for the new emergency services center at Thurston County's Tilley Road complex. It was designed to withstand bit earthquakes and for energy savings.

STEVE BLOOM — The Olympian

Thurston County's public works campus off Tilley Road will be a feat of environmental engineering, complete with geothermal wells and solar panels, when it opens next spring.

For now, it’s a loud, muddy construction site, with crews working on new buildings and drilling for the wells, which will heat and cool several of the structures.

The property already is home to the county’s maintenance/operations and traffic divisions. About 200 public works employees currently working in other locations, including satellite campuses and leased space at Heritage Court near the county courthouse, will be moved to the campus when it’s ready.

Despite weather delays and the discovery of soil not suitable for compaction, the $14 million construction project led by Panattoni Construction is on schedule, capital projects manager Marc Kowalewski said.

An expiring lease, $1 million in federal grant funding for an emergency services center and favorable interest rates made now the right time to build, central services director Mark Neary said.

On the north end of the campus, wood framing for a new emergency services center reveals the beginnings of a structure designed to withstand bigger earthquakes and keep the county communicating during emergencies. Mazama pocket gophers, a species under consideration for federal endangered species listing, were found near the site. As a result, two acres behind the structure are off-limits, Neary said.

Covered walkways with solar panels will connect the new facilities.

Nearly all public works employees will be housed in a three-story facility. A 9,000-square-foot pre-manufactured building will store equipment sensitive to freezing temperatures.

Because of the solar and geothermal elements of the project, two of the buildings could reach one of the highest green-construction certifications. Solar panels will adorn the 12,000-square-foot emergency services center; the power will be sold back to Puget Sound Energy, Neary said, with the goal for the site to produce as much as it uses.

Crews are drilling geothermal wells that will harness the earth’s temperature to heat and cool the public works administration building and Building A. Crews will drill 63 wells about 30 feet apart, each about 300 feet deep.

“We are hoping to have substantial savings,” Kowalewski said, adding that the heating technique could save up to 60 percent compared with traditional energy.

Work also includes some old fuel tanks that the county hopes to use in tandem with new tanks to harvest rainwater and store it for landscape irrigation and flushing toilets.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it all works out,” Neary said.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 nhulings@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/outsideoly

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