A New Life for an Industrial Landscape in California


California’s Burbank Water and Power (BWP), one of the first power companies in the U.S. to procure a major chunk of its power from renewable energy sources and develop an ambitious carbon reduction plan, is transforming its main campus from an “industrial relic” into a “regenerative green space,” bringing the utility to the forefront of sustainable landscape design. The new landscape is among the 150 sites selected around the country to participate in the Sustainable Site Initiative™ (SITES®) pilot program. Los Angeles-based landscape architecture firm AHBE Landscape Architects was hired by BWP to create an ambitious “EcoCampus.”

Already, the new campus has three of the 50 LEED Platinum buildings found in California, including its first super-sustainable warehouse. Beyond the buildings, though, the campus offers green roofs, which were designed to “reduce the urban heat island effect, help channel and filter storm water, and reduce the building’s air conditioning requirements;” water reclamation and filtration systems, and new employee green spaces carved out of a reclaimed substation.

The green roofs were installed across three buildings in the BWP campus. According to the utility, “the timing was perfect as our aging roof needed to be replaced.” Adding green roofs also saved the company, which is promoting energy conservation as a key cost savings measure, a bit of money themselves, some $14,000 annually.


AHBE Landscape Architects designed a number of filtration and stormwater capture systems that compliment each other. Green streets with permeable pavers and “infiltration bump outs” along three city streets filter runoff before it enters the campus’ stormwater system, where it’s then captured by the built planters and trees set within silva cells, which enable the trees to grow taller. Roof runoff is filtered down to the landscape, where it’s used up by the greenery. “By California law, all projects are required to mitigate at least the first ¾ inches of rainfall. Thanks to the innovative technologies that AHBE has integrated into the design, the BWP EcoCampus already mitigates the first inch.” The end goal is zero runoff on site.


A substation structure was left in place, providing a repurposed outdoor meeting room. “The skeletal remains of the substation will soon be covered in living vines, creating a poignant juxtaposition of industry and environment.”


Calvin Abe, FASLA, President, of AHBE, made the case for transforming the utility’s industrial landscape into a productive one: “Landscape has a key role to play in the regeneration of our cities. Beyond the aesthetics, it can proactively counteract many of the problems that we face in urban environments.”


But their job was made a lot easier because their client’s vision is a bold one. Ron Davis, BWP General Manager, said: “BWP chose to do this to show that sustainability is not just about a single action or decision; it’s about the ripple effect that consistent, sustainable decisions can make. BWP’s EcoCampus is literally powered by innovation. We want this to cause a ripple.”

Watch a video about the BWP’s new campus.

Image credits: © Sibylle Allgaier, Heliphoto

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