portrait, rachelwicks@blackspectacles.com


Chris Heidrich of JLG dives deep into the Design Development phase of the Grand Forks Regional Water Treatment Plant.  He explains why the building configuration is crucial to the operation of the plant, as well as incorporating industrial size building systems into the project.  He also covers site issues and how the soil conditions impacted the structural design.

Practical Applications

It was a project that we partnered Advanced Engineering and Environmental Systems with, and it is designed to be a 20 million-gallon per day water treatment plant to replace the existing facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

And currently the existing water treatment plant is located in the heart of downtown, approximately right here where it says Grand Forks. And in 1997, there was a hundred year flood that inundated almost the entire city. But the infrastructure, mostly the water treatment plant, really felt it because the flood waters came rushing in and filled all the basins with sludge and mud, and all kinds of things that you wouldn't want in a clean water supply.

So it made a lot of sense to shoot for Type II B, just because we didn't have to fire proof anything and because we had unlimited provision, we didn't have to deal with any of the tricky detailing that a fire wall typically comes with along the way. Type II B is usually what architects shoot for in a non-combustible situation. You can't use wood framing along the way, you can use steel, you can use concrete, anything like that.

The benefit of having American Iron and Steel again is keeping the products domestic, it's an opportunity for a city or state based project to really take advantage of products that are made here inside the US and really showcase that within an infrastructure project.

We were able to play with the pattern and colors and really give life to a water treatment plant, which is not typically a project that would get a lot of architectural treatment along the way. The other thing to note is that the administrative portion, which is what is shown right here, is framed with just traditional steel framing. And the reason we wanted to do that was to give the operators who work at this plant full time, they're there day and night, give them the opportunity to bring in a lot of natural light.

And every room or space planned for this project has a major piece of equipment inside of it, and they all do different things along the way, primarily geared at removing sediment from the project, and then as we move along, further into the treatment process it becomes more of a chemically treated process, where there's injection streams and everything to get that final drinkable, pure water along the way. So if we're looking at the floor plan you'll see these grayed out dashed lines here. Those are al major pieces of equipment, a lot of them look like paddles that turn very slowly through the water, and actually get sediment to drop out, and then they scrape it and it goes into a pipe and it's dealt with in what they call a sludge line.

The other material that we utilized and we'll see it in the renderings is actually polycarbonate, and that's at a lime silo storage and lime is, it's a corrosive material, it's not really harsh but we needed to find something that could hold up to that environment and bring light into a showcase space inside of the building, and we actually had that material third party tested to make sure that it could hold up to the environment that it was gonna be exposed to. And that really takes care of it for the assemblies along the way, we wanted to keep it to two or three, really minimal and let the materials and what they wanted to be do the talking for the project. So each one of these is a section through what would be a typical assembly in the building.

Now we're dealing with three floors so this is the basement, and primarily what we're seeing is the bottom of water basins, so you'll see that there's not a lot of doors into those spaces, that's because it's essentially equivalent to a big swimming pool, along the way it's just filled with water that's somewhere along the way in the treatment process. This about mid-span, the water actually comes into the building at the west side and goes through these tanks or these tanks down here, and ends up as crystal-clear drinkable water at the other side. The basement doesn't have too much going on but there is a lot of pipe and pumps and things along the way.

Most people haven't seen the inside of a water treatment plant, but once you do, and you see the kind of rigor and organization that those pipes have to go through, and then the rainbow of colors that's involved, they actually become really dynamic spaces and I don't think people are necessarily aware of that all the time. So, we said "why not let that be exposed "and let them do the talking along the way?"

And, like most projects too, we had to go through a value engineering process, and the owner had very specific ideas about what they wanted from their water treatment plant systems. But they also had a very specific dream about what they wanted this thing to look like, and early conversations about creating a warm environment, and creating a dynamic facade. So, we were really trying to balance what we were doing from an aesthetic standpoint versus what needs to happen inside of a water treatment plant.

So this project is primarily precast concrete along the way which tends to take care of it's self, and the way that we handle precast from a specification stand point and a structural stand point is that we have, our engineer of record for the structural design along the way and they're setting up the parameters about what that should be, but the Pre casters, the people who are making the panels and the Precast tees are actually responsible for the full engineering of the project, so detailing precast can be kind of tricky along the way to make sure that happens. And there's also certain things that we wanted to pull off that aren't necessarily always done on precast from a thermal stand point partially because we have a really humid environment. We didn't want that to become an issue on the interior of the building, something that you wouldn't usually see in precast detailing are thermal breaks on that exterior wall of precast.

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