In September of 2008, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus broke ground on a brand new, state-of-the-art maintenance facility. With the city of Santa Monica having its Sustainable City Plan, the civic design goal was to create a distinctive landmark for the city, a showcase for the Big Blue Bus transportation program and the city’s commitment to sustainability.
On the operational side, the facility was needed to allow the Big Blue Bus to expand its current bus fleet size to better serve its community. Outgrowing its current facility, the new facility will be nearly twice the size at 65,000 square feet.
“To increase maintenance we needed to have more bays – working bays – office space and a parts room, because of all of the different parts that we have for the LNG and CNG,” says Facilities Maintenance Superintendent Johnny Nettles. “It’s going to take up a lot more space so they roughly almost tripled their size for just the parts room itself.”
The facility is being built on the site of the current maintenance yard. It will feature 20 bays, including 12 standard repair bays, three of which are designed to accommodate articulated buses.
Eight specialty repair bays include an A/C bay with pneumatic rolling life and repair mezzanine, two fire bays, two body shop bays, a tire shop and two chassis washes.
The facility also has an inspection pit with a pneumatic rolling lift, integrated CNG/LNG gas detection system, parts equipment lift, monorails in repair bays, toolbox storage area, battery room, tire storage for new and used tires, lube and compressor system, locker rooms, a training room, a library, parts storage and other specialized areas.
“We realized that over the years we have to clean the earth that we’re living on,” says Director Stephanie Negriff. “Some of it is just the wear and tear of operating a couple hundred vehicles on this facility for almost 75 years.”
When I ask Transit Maintenance Manager Ralph Merced what was done to make the facility sustainable he smiles as he slides a stack of papers across the table and says, “Well I’m glad you asked.”
The building was designed to take advantage of the city’s climate by maximizing the use of natural daylight and by providing an energy-efficient exterior.
The construction is being done with 70 percent recycled materials. Some of the major items include concrete, structural steel, insulation, gypsum board and miscellaneous steel. They are also practicing good waste management, recycling about 70 percent of the materials they’re moving.
Photovoltaic solar panels, an 80Kw system, is expected to save 15 to 20 percent of the total utilities cost on the facility. Photovoltaics use solar cells to convert energy from the sun into electricity. The solar cells are joined together to create the solar panels that absorb the energy.
The office spaces will be air conditioned, but the remaining garage and repair areas will rely on fans to circulate the air, but they will not be air conditioned.
The property will utilize water-efficient landscaping, they will rely on reclaimed water. No potable water will be used for irrigation. They will also have storm water management and site filtration.
Negriff says, “The first thing that we did was we dug up the ground here and we put in a water infiltration system and when we go to the last phase of the project, which is demolition of the old maintenance building, we’re going to put another one over there so we’ll be done, when we demolish this building. We’ll dig under and put in a water infiltration system here so that we are ensuring that in the future we’ll be able to clean the soil, whether it’s something that we’ve generated from our business or that comes from some place else.”
The bus yard will be concrete, as opposed to asphalt. The lighter-colored concrete reduces the “heat island” effect, reflecting the heat instead of absorbing it. In a similar style, the single-ply roofing will be white, a “cool” roof design. The cool roof reflects solar energy away from the building and prevents the energy from translating into the building as heat energy.
Also helping building insulation is low-emittance (low-E) dual-glazed windows for office spaces. The microscopically thin coatings control heat transfer through windows. Coating a glass surface with the material and facing that coating into the gap between glass layers blocks heat transfer and lowers the heat flow into the building.
Reflecting the “green” nature of the building will be the Digital Divide by artist Dan Corson. The Digital Divide is a glass wall that will be a deep-frosted blue curving surface that will become transparent deep blue in individually controlled panels. With sequences programmed in and the glass able to switch between transparency and translucency in milliseconds, the wall will be a moving façade, rippling with light and pattern.
Negriff adds, “Those were things that we set up before we ever awarded a contract, ever broke ground on this facility, that we were going to practice sustainability as we moved ahead with this project.”