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Houston’s reputation for tearing down historic places and spaces is being turned on its ear with the renovation of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. The subterranean expanse is an otherworldly nod to the past, preserved for Houston’s future in the most innovative way.
Above ground, you’d never know an 87,500-square-foot cavern sits below. The former City of Houston underground drinking reservoir was renovated by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership after the organization discovered it in 2011 while developing the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park Project.
The renovation stayed true to the cistern’s moody architectural feel, updating the space to include railing around the perimeter, low level LED lighting and other compliance needs. The 8-foot thick concrete roof and substantial concrete walls shut out sounds from above, providing a truly transportive experience.
The stars of the cistern are the 221, 25-foot-tall columns that peek from around one another, reflecting light and sound. A thin layer of water lines the floor of the cistern, catching an occasional beam of light. It’s a blank canvas and one, Buffalo Bayou Partnership president Anne Olson, says will draw from artists from around the world, while maintaining a historic piece of the city.
“Houston does not do enough to save its historic sites. We paid a lot of attention to not destroying the roughness of the space,” Olsen said. “It’s such a special space. This will put Houston on the map.”
Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art recently visited the cistern and was wowed by the renovation, calling it “the best industrial space I've ever seen.”
The connection between art and history has already been realized by New York artist Donald Lipski, whose installation, "Down Periscope" gives park visitors, as well as those holding their phones, a look into the space. Above ground, guests can duck under a jasmine-covered arbor and see the cistern through the 7-foot periscope. Lipski’s installation is the first, but certainly not the last for the reservoir, built in 1925.
The BBP plans on a rotating cadre of artists to play with light and sound in the cavernous space. Considering the cistern’s 17-second echo and contemplative lighting, an artist will certainly be limited only by his or her imagination.
The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern opens to the public this Friday and thereafter will be open on Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 7 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $2 for a 30-minute docent-led tour and free on Thursday. Reservations are required and they are going fast for this weekend. Reserve your time slot here.
This year's ASPE Product Show and Techncial Seminars will be held at the Westchase Marriott on Wednesday April 13th with the Technical Seminars taking place from 8:00am-4:00pm followed by our annual Product Show from 4:30-8:30pm.
On January 31, 2012, the US Coast Guard (USCG) broke ground on their new sector headquarters at Ellington Field in Houston, TX. The need for the new 117,000 square foot, multimillion dollar facility was due to the USCG outgrowing the aging Galena Park Facility, which incurred damage from Hurricane Ike. The new facility will house the USCG’s sector command center, investigative services, electronics support, public affairs and the regional civil rights office.
As part of the specification for the relocation project, the new building was to achieve LEED Silver Status. In order to meet this goal, it was suggested that a rain water harvesting system be included. With rain water harvesting design standards still being new, engineers called upon ParkUSA for advice on how this system should be designed. With basic guidelines from the engineer of record on how the system was to perform, ParkUSA set to work designing one of the largest rain water harvesting system in the state.
The pretreatment filter is designed so that coarse debris is removed prior to entering the cistern. The 50,000 gallon cistern tank is a battery of three concrete structures with the first featuring a calmed inlet and the final tank housing the cistern pumps. The cistern pumps are controlled by sensors that detect the pressure on the water going to the rainwater filter system. The filter system starts by feeding all the water through a 10 micron and then a 5 micron self-cleaning filter. The next step in the process involves the rain water passing through an active carbon filter. The filtration is completed by the water circulating past a UV filter for bacteria and ozone treatment. The water is then injected with a 12.5% chlorine solution and blue dye to indicate its non-potable status. The 900 gallon day tank is the next stop for the rain water. Here it is stored so that the building has a large retention of water if needed. From the day tank, the water then passes through the booster pump system to maintain pressure on the building’s non-potable water system.
The whole system is monitored and maintained by the Rainwater Management Panel. This panel utilizes a digital touch screen display to relay information about the systems operating conditions. It monitors the cistern tank and day tank levels, filter system water pressure, building water pressure, and usage of both rainwater from the cistern and city water from public works. The management panel also displays a visual alarm when the water levels in either the cistern or day tank fall below acceptable levels.
This project is the largest and most complex rain water harvesting system completed by ParkUSA to date. This is an example of our ever-evolving product line and the experience we gained in the design and manufacturing of this system will help launch us into new product markets.
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