New HYDRO Building at CSU Highlights Water Conservation

By Eric Althoff

DENVER—At the CSU Spur school at the National Western Center, the new Hord Coplan Macht-designed HYDRO Building offers students and the public interactive exhibits and other amenities to teach them about water conservation. The $85 million HYDRO Building features public art, interactive exhibitions and laboratories also focused on the important issues surrounding water use.

The design by Hord Coplan Macht features a large lobby and three levels connected via a “river eddy” staircase to a bridge on the top floor. The architects seamlessly integrated the 1930 McConnell Welders Building into the new structure, which emphasizes the importance of water sustainability especially in drier states such as Colorado. Furthermore, keeping the old McConnell Welders Building in place headed off the emissions equivalent of nearly 400 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

On the outside, the designers have incorporated a concept called “One Water,” a technique that shows, via educational materials, how interconnected the entire planet is in terms of the limited amount of water that exists.

The motif for the HYDRO Building entails a metal scrim artwork that mimics the look and flow of water itself. The building’s exterior features a textural concrete panel in a flowing pattern, while the upper levels entail gray and blue glass. The construction materials offer those inside the building the ability to see for some distance on the outside as well as for people on the outside to observe what is happening within.

The HYDRO Building emphasizes stormwater usage and other innovation techniques. A green roof encompassing 7,500 square feet will support CSU Spur research on water reuse and vegetation, while promoting habitat for local wildlife to thrive. The building’s innovative systems save over 20 percent of energy and use less water, while the exterior lighting scheme meets LEED requirements.

“We wanted the Hydro building’s design to encourage visitors to enter the building and learn about the importance of water in the West,” Jennifer Cordes, principal at Hord Coplan Macht and market sector leader for the firm’s higher education practice, said in a statement emailed to School Construction News. “We designed the building to make sure that the building stood as a beacon of sustainability within the campus by featuring thoughtfully chosen materials and environmental impact.”

SmithGroup served as associate architect on the project. JE Dunn was the project’s general contractor.