One-Star Certified Pilot Project

Location: Burbank, California
Project Size: 3.2 acres
Project Type: Industrial
Site Context: Urban
Former Land Use: Greyfield
Terrestrial Biome: Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands & Scrub
Budget: Confidential
photo by: Heliphoto-135

Project Overview

The Burbank Water and Power (BWP) EcoCampus project transforms the utility company's Magnolia Power Plant site from an industrial complex into a regenerative green campus. The campus features one of the longest green streets in Southern California. The Lake Street Green Street showcases products and techniques for stormwater treatment within a public right-of-way, including permeable pavers, manufactured bio-filters, filtration planters, Silva cells, and planted infiltration planter bulb-outs. Other sustainable features on the campus include three vegetated green roofs, a photovoltaic array that hosts a rainwater catchment system, a canal that uses plants to treat storm water, LED lighting, a solar powered fountain pump, and salvaged and repurposed concrete and gravel. The project has also implemented five different water filtration technologies, including infiltration, flow-through, detention, tree root cells, and rainwater capture. The hallmark of the new campus is the Centennial Courtyard, a green space within the footprint of a decommissioned electrical substation. Part of the industrial structure still stands, acting as a giant super trellis and creating a poignant juxtaposition of industry and nature.

Regional Context

Located within the City of Burbank, the project site is completely surrounded by industrial landuse and is located within a functioning electric power generating station and surrounded by industrial land uses. Asphalt and concrete surfaces covered the site with no vegetation other than an occasional weed. The City of Burbank has a Mediterranean climate with average summer temperatures in the 70's and average winter temperatures in the 50's. The annual average precipitation is 17.49 inches. Winter months are usually wetter than summer months; the wettest month of the year is February with an average rainfall of 4.2 inches. According to the United States Census Bureau, The City of Burbank is 17.4 square miles in total area. It is bordered by Glendale to the east, North Hollywood and Toluca Lake to the west, and Griffith Park to the south. The Verdugo Mountains form the northern border. Elevations in the city range from 500 feet in the lower valley areas to about 800 feet near the Verdugo Mountains. Most of the area features a water table more than 100 feet deep. The City of Burbank is also located within a seismically active area that includes at least eight major faults within 13.5 miles of the civic center. 

SITES Features + Practices

Water Treatment and Conservation: An abandoned utility tunnel was repurposed into a stormwater treatment system using plants to clean water through phytoextraction. In addition, the project uses reclaimed water instead of potable water for landscape irrigation and water features. Stormwater treatment products and techniques, such as permeable pavers, manufactured bio-filters, Silva cells, and infiltration planter bulb-outs, are showcased on Lake Street.

In 2002, BWP installed an innovative recycled water treatment system within their on-site power plants. This system reduced BWP's use of potable water by as much as 100,000 gallons a day. This water treatment system takes reclaimed wastewater (previously discharged into a storm drain after being cleaned at the sewage treatment plant) through a series of micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, and demineralization processes producing de-mineralized water pure enough for use in BWP's power plants. This water is used throughout the facility's combustion turbine generator, heat recovery steam generator, steam turbine generator, cooling towers, a zero liquid discharge system, and the control and services building and stack. After the water is utilized for all operational needs, the closed-system treatment process still leaves the BWP EcoCampus with an excess of non-potable water.

Energy Conservation: Photovoltaic panels are used to generate electricity and provide shade within a surface parking area. LED lighting has been installed throughout the site and a solar powered pump runs a water feature. In addition, three green roofs save the facility over $14,000 annually in energy costs.

Material re-purposing and resource conservation: Components of a large electric substation were re-purposed into an outdoor meeting area. The structure was saved from the junkyard and transformed into a massive planted super trellis and provides shade for the courtyard space.


The EcoCampus is comprised of several projects within the Magnolia Power Plant site, each of which had separate design teams. Combining the series of projects made earning SITES credits possible, and each project contributed a unique aspect to the accreditation.

Local codes, zoning, and regulatory requirements helped lay a foundation for some of the sustainable techniques implemented. For example, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requires a base line level for stormwater management. Since these systems can be costly, convincing a client to increase the treatment capacity (to meet SITES standards) was more achievable. In addition, the use of a native, drought tolerant plant palette is required under local landscape ordinances and water use requirements such as AB1881.

Maintenance + Stewardship

BWP is committed to being at the forefront of sustainability leadership. The projects' goals are fully integrated into BWP's larger mission and commitment to the environment. Therefore, BWP has made a commitment to follow the SITES generated maintenance plan in order to maintain the site and ensure its long term sustainability. As previously described, the project has become an educational model for tangible techniques that a homeowner, a local agency, or even a municipality could pursue and implement.

The owner has also made a commitment to monitor the project and share their findings with the public. The following are three of programs that have been put in place to monitor site features:
- The availability of non-potable water will be assessed on an annual basis and compared to the midsummer baseline estimate of irrigation water needs to ensure the BWP Campus is able to meet its irrigation needs without use of potable water.
- A survey has been developed by the project team to review the level of education and sustainability awareness that was experienced from visiting tour groups and annual festival attendees. The survey works to understand what individuals learned from their experience on the campus and how this gained knowledge might change their behavior in everyday life. It also serves as a tool for them to provide feedback on additional sustainability elements they would like to explore.
- As part of the maintenance plan BWP has committed to conducting annual soils test to monitor the performance and quality of the restored soils within the project site. View of seatwall/vegetation beds planted with drought tolerant species

Site Challenges

The big challenge was that the site had to remain as a working power plant. Thus, this created many constraints associated with the site due to its industrial context including, the lack of existing vegetation and healthy soils, and the presence of large impervious surfaces accounting for 79% of the cover types. The site's natural climate was also a challenge. High temperatures and an abundance of blue sky days make shade an absolute necessity when designing spaces for people to gather in and enjoy. Low rates of precipitation also limited what plants would be suitable for the site.

Project Goals + Successes

The primary intent of the BWP Campus design is to transform an aging industrial site into a regenerative greenspace, creating an “EcoCampus” that supports environmental and social health. The primary program elements set forth to achieve this mission were: 
- Foster community among BWP employees by creating gathering spaces for mental restoration and social interaction.
- Utilize natural systems processes to improve water quality and recharge groundwater aquifers.
- Re-purpose culturally and industrially significant on-site structures to create amenities that provide opportunities for human use while speaking to the history of the site and its uses.
- Utilize the campus as a demonstration site that can provide educational opportunities for the community to engage in sustainable technologies and learning experiences.

These main program elements were the catalyst for establishing the project's sustainability principles and goals. One of the main successes of the design is its ability to act as a model for sustainability and as an educational tool for the public. It is a hallmark for leadership in sustainable design and provides tangible examples for local residents, agencies, and municipalities alike. Site tours, informational videos, brochures, and interpretive signage are available to further educate people about the project and its details.

Lessons Learned

Plan ahead. For this particular project, we filled out SITES credit forms after the project was constructed. Being more aware of particular requirements and documentation from the beginning stages of design could have increased the number of points achieved.

Project Team

Burbank Water and Power – Client
Ronald Davis, Burbank Water and Power General Manager
Jorge Somoano, Assistant General Manager/Electrical Distribution
John Cassidy, Manager/Telecommunications and Facilities
Michael Thompson, Principal Civil Engineer
Bassil Nahhas, Principal Civil Engineer
Joe L. Flores, Marketing Associate
Phillip Clifford, Owner’s Representative (Clifford Development Group)

AHBE Landscape Architects – Landscape Architect
Calvin Abe, Principal-In-Charge
Evan Mather, Project Manager
Kiku Kurahashi, Project Designer

Fuscoe Engineering – Civil Engineer
Andrew J. Willrodt, Senior Project Manager

Tyler Gonzalez Architects – Architect
Robert Tyler, President

Leo A Daly – Architect
Stan Kiernicki, Project Architect

Sweeney + Associates – Irrigation
Daniel ZumMallen, Vice-President and Production Manager

Insight Structural Engineers – Structural Engineer
Brent Blackman, President

Kipust Engineering Inc – Electrical Engineer
Raymond Kipust, President

Wallace Laboratories – Soil Specialists
Garn Wallace, Owner

KPRS - General Contractor

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