WALLA WALLA, WA. --
How do you save the community of Walla Walla nearly one million gallons of drinking water a year?
If you are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District officials, then you include environmental sustainability elements into the headquarters building’s updated landscaping plan.
In March 2017, the Assistant Secretary of Defense sent a memo to all Department of Defense facilities, directing them to reduce domestic water use for landscape maintenance.
Samantha Handcox, who was named project manager for the construction effort that began in June said, “The new landscaping will utilize plants and trees that require less maintenance and water in order to meet the requirements of the memo while balancing the park-like aesthetics of our community.”
The modifications featured cost efficiencies, safety updates and a more aesthetically pleasing environment for people.
“Before the landscaping project, the Walla Walla District Headquarters campus used an average of 2 million gallons of filtered water a year for irrigation,’ Handcox said. “Now that will be reduced nearly by half to almost a million gallons. We project we’ll save 967,000 gallons of drinking water every year for the city of Walla Walla.”
This amount of water is the equivalent to about 1.5 Olympic swimming pool. Previously, maintenance on the 1.68 acres landscape resulted in a high cost for the Walla Walla District operation budget. Activities such as mowing, fertilizing, and irrigation are not sustainable in the southeastern Washington arid climate without considering rainwater or snow water cisterns to reduce demand on potable water sources. The Corps substituted lawn with mulch and concrete in order to reduce the consumption of drinking water.
Another improvement focused on security concerns.
“Antiterrorism/Force Protection directives required the Walla Walla District Headquarters building to construct vehicle barriers in front of the north and east entrances. In addition, we removed large evergreen shrubbery that reduced visibility to enhance site safety for security guards and cameras, she said.”
Adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act/Architectural Barriers Act of 2015 (ADA/ABA) resulted in better access and circulation including easier access to most entrances for those in wheelchairs. It also features more circulation without having to walk in the grass, mud, or snow.
Handcox said “the final improvements are experiential, visual, and practical. More self-sustaining features such as paved areas, pathways, gathering spaces and an outdoor amphitheater are now accessible.”
She added “the outdoor improvements promote strolling, eating, and gathering areas for social events which is an important factor for a healthy staff environment. It also includes attractive elements when attempting to recruit new staff. Overall, it has become a more people-friendly experience for our community.”