Prescriptive Hydrologies


Prescriptive Hydrologies


Brie Jones
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


Pablo La Roche
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


JUROR COMMENTS   This project stood out for its creative use of water, discovering intelligent and creative new ways of deploying water. The student’s diagrams are strong and show a commendable view at larger environmental issues. The scuba tanks are an entertaining idea on user experience which could be expanded.


Measure 1: Design for Integration
The concept for this project was derived from looking at ways in which architecture could play a roll in watershed management. The idea was to allow infrastructure to become architectural and habitable. It is about engaging the public in the discourse of climate change and what the future of infrastructure can look and feel like. The systems of the building are exposed much like the hydrological systems of the Los Angeles River. The water filtration is a rooftop amenity, the holding tanks are points of circulation, and product of the entire system is the clean water that provides irrigation to the two anchoring parks.

Measure 2: Design for Community
The massing of the building in relation to the River was derived from choosing two anchoring sites on either side of the Los Angeles River. The first site, Albion Riverside Park, serves as a public amenity to the Lincoln Heights district which is a low-income neighborhood with little pedestrian access to downtown L.A. The second site, Los Angeles State Historic Park, serves as a social gathering and concert venue for the downtown community. Connecting both of these parks through a housing community was seen as on opportune way to activate the riverfront while restitching its fragmented neighborhoods.

Measure 3: Design for Ecology
The downtown reach of the Los Angeles River is hydrologically engineered so precisely through a tightly bound urban space that hopes of restoring its banks is somewhat unrealistic —perhaps even unsafe. This project, instead, glorifies the act of flood control by preserving its channelization and designing a layer of spaces and systems that create a certain synergy. The building’s filtration system is responsible for processing 73,278 gallons per day of LA River water, which creates a rooftop wetland habitat for migrating species as well as lush park space on either sides of the River’s banks.

Measure 4: Design for Water
Water was the driving force for this project. After enduring one of the worst droughts in California’s recent history and learning that Southern California still imports 86% of its fresh water, it became apparent how fragile and un-resilient this system has become in the face of climate change. This project was based on a series of calculations starting with a basic supply and demand exercise. In a worst case scenario, the LA River only supplies 39,425,329 gpd. The combined irrigation demand for LASHP and Albion Park is 72,636 gpd which is only 0.18% of the River’s daily discharge. The architectural concept was centered around ways in which locally recycled water could serve as a learning experience, social space, and practical amenity to the surrounding community. 

Measure 5: Design for Economy
The City of Los Angeles has documented that every mile of a recycled water distribution system costs $4 million. The nearest reclamation facility to this project’s site is approximately 6 miles away which means that it would cost $24 million to provide recycled water irrigation to both LASHP and Albion Park. This project demonstrates localized reclamation by building the infrastructure into a housing community and using the presence of water as both a public and private amenity. In addition to recycled water, the Atmospheric Water Generators are also providing potable water which allows the building to operate off-grid.

Measure 6: Design for Energy
The site’s annual EUI was calculated using a Sefaira energy model, which resulted in 9.6 kBTU/ft2/yr. This results in an annual energy consumption of 780,690kWh which is 100% offset by the rooftop photovoltaic array that produces approximately 781,540 kWh. In order to achieve net zero energy and carbon, strategies such as high performance windows, operative shading, passive solar gains, and natural ventilation are used in each housing unit.

Measure 7: Design for Wellness
The building site was carefully chosen to act as a public connector between two major Los Angeles parks that have been fragmented by the River. Essentially every unit of this housing community has a view of either the parks or river. In addition, the elongated massing of the building allows for optimum daylighting and cross ventilation, which not only improves psychological health but increases unit value. The rooftop living machines serve as a private park where naturalized swimming ponds and vegetable gardens are fed from recycled river water. This not only promotes a healthy outdoor lifestyle, but also allows residents to partake in the sustainable practice of localized water and food production.

Measure 8: Design for Resources
This building is unique because of its location and the demand for it to operate under hydrological pressure. The entire building is essentially operating as a bridge with the first floor dedicated to steel structure. This steel structure spans between steel box truss columns that meet a concrete pier which are able to come into contact with the River. The Army Corps of Engineers dictates the bridge construction portion, but the next three floors of housing are treated as Type V (wood construction) over a concrete podium.

Measure 9: Design for Change
This project was developed under the idea that its systems could be replicated and integrated into new or existing buildings along River. It could serve as a new typology for the increasing housing demand in Los Angeles. The site is disaster resilient in the sense that loss of city power or water does not effect its systems. It can act as a disaster relief center by providing recycled water to the community through the public fill station or biofuel and electricity for cars through the algae tanks. It also provides food to the community through the rooftop vegetable gardens, which are irrigated by the locally recycled water.

Measure 10: Design for Discovery
The complexity and interrelationship of the systems in this building would require extensive post-occupancy evaluation. It is important that water treatment levels are evaluated on a continual basis, especially with changing weather conditions as the River tends to be more contaminated in storm events. The passivity of these systems allows natural forces such as gravity and bioremediation to do the work; it would just be essential that they are never compromised through human intervention or lack of maintenance.