Submitted by FTR International

The new 39,000-sq-ft Advanced Quality Assurance Laboratory, developed by Orange County Water District (OCWD), prominently serves more than 350 sq mi and supplies water to more than 2 million customers in Orange County, meeting nearly 70% of the current water demand.

The LEED-silver facility enables OCWD to manage a groundwater basin that provides high-quality water to 20 affiliate cities and water agencies.

To treat water, the lab uses a microfiltration process, followed by 100% reverse osmosis. In addition, the plant allows for conducting 18,000 groundwater samples a year, requiring 350,000 different tests. This will increase by as much as 50% the district’s ability to test drinking water samples for a variety of contaminants.

The water quality lab facilities include state-of-the-art analytical equipment capable of establishing water quality to the parts per million level and beyond. Labs are dedicated to the analysis of organic and inorganic testing and monitoring water samples continuously throughout the year.

The facility includes a “clean lab” to support the careful monitoring of trace metals at the parts per billion level, insuring that drinking water is always delivered in full compliance with local and federal regulations.

Besides hi-tech, the project is also green. Sustainable design elements include low-flow plumbing fixtures, reclaimed water for landscape irrigation, natural light and sun shading. Other strategies include high performance glazing and building envelope insulation, locally manufactured materials with high recycled content and low emission of volatile organic compounds, energy efficient HVAC equipment, and high performance lighting and lighting control systems.

To meet challenges and avoid delays, the FTR team put special emphasis on coordination and communication with the designer, construction manager, owner and subcontractors.

One challenge the team overcame was in the laboratory where German-made shutoff valves with long-lead time had to be installed into high-purity gas piping. Without expert management, completion of the lab gas system might have been delayed.

FTR overcame the challenge by installing temporary valves for passing initial tests and then replacing them with the German-made valves to pass the final pressure tests.

Another hurdle involved the laminated wood cabinetry inside laboratories that mandated the air-conditioning system to be running prior to installation of the cabinets. FTR underwent the extra cost of installing special temporary filters for the HVAC system and running it for the purpose of reducing air moisture so it would allow for the lab cabinets to be installed without delaying the project.

Completed in September 2009, the lab is a showcase for advanced water quality treatment measures. Public tours for numerous agencies, scientists and school groups are conducted on a regular basis to observe the operations of the lab. The building is designed to circulate tours through the building without doubling back.

The two floors of labs are arranged between a private service corridor and a public accessed hallway within adjacent office space. Hallway walls are glazed for unobstructed views between labs and open office space to also make it easier for staff to move between workspace areas.

– Greg Aragon

Project Team

Developer/Owner: Orange County Water District, Fountain Valley
General Contractor: FTR International Inc., Irvine
Construction Managment: Butier Engineering Inc., Fountain Valley
Architect: RNL Design, Los Angeles
Civil Engineer: PSOMAS, Costa Mesa
Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef & Associates, Los Angeles
MEP Engineer: IBE Consulting Engineers, Sherman Oaks