Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Holidays from the EcoCenter

It is pretty quiet at the EcoCenter these days. Since elementary through college students are on break, there haven't been any programs held at the facility.  Welcome rains have nearly filled our rainwater harvesting tanks but keep the battery storage system below 100% charge. So it is perfect timing that not much is going on these days.  Events will be back in full swing and CCSF students return the the week of January 14th. Until then, we wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.  Come see us and have a look around Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 10 am to 3 pm and Saturdays 10 am to 1 pm in 2013!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

CCSF Sust 91 Presentation of Learning and Lunch

Today CCSF Sust 91 students and volunteers gathered one last time this semester to share their work and experiences with Wendy Brummer, LEJ Board Member and Ellen O'dea, LEJ Finance Manager.  Lunch was vegetarian pizza from Goat Hill along with salad and pasta prepared by Julia (also known as JET).  After lunch, each student talked about what they worked and what they got out of their experience at the EcoCenter this semester. Also, great to know that most will be coming back in the spring.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pond Critters Arrive at the EcoCenter

22 different common pond organisms found a new home in the acrylic tanks and constructed wetland at the EcoCenter this week.  When the system was installed, only snails from another treatment system and rosy red minnows from the aquarium store were added.  Generally, pond sediment rich in organisms are used to seed a new onsite wastewater treatment system such as ours.  This past semester, CCSF students worked with me to research common native pond organisms that could make a more complete food web and help better facilitate the breakdown and absorption of nutrients in the WWTS's effluent.  We also had to chose those that would be readily available from biological supply companies. Several species of algae and cynanobacteria including spirogyra and nostic were added to the acrylic tanks as well as several species of protozoans including paramecium, euglena, vorticella, and amoeba.  Tiny animals such as rotifers, gastrotrichs, and water bears along with crustaceans daphnia, ostracods, and amphipods also were also added.  The fish were more active than ever and had a feeding frenzy. Hopefully some of the organisms managed to survive and will reproduce.  We plan to acquire more critters in the Spring semester and culture them onsite at the EcoCenter so we can continually seed the acrylic tanks and use them to create slides and share with visitors to the facility.  Below are a few photos taken by CCSF student Tom Nguyen. Tom also started shooting videos of the organisms that will be uploaded to the Sust 91 website shortly.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The EcoCenter Living Roof, Research, and the Cities Alive Conference

Lisa Lee Benjamin of EvoCatalyst and the designer of the living roof and constructed wetland came to the EcoCenter this week to discuss with Peggy and CCSF students work on the living roof.  This work will include using the rooftop as one of several research sites across the cities to examine the best plants to use under shallow substrate and drought conditions. Insect traps will also be used to study the pollinators and other six-legged visitors to the living rooftops.  More information on the use of the rooftop for research will be forthcoming in the Spring.The EcoCenter will also be a site for the Cities Alive 2013 conference that will be held in San Francisco next fall!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The EcoCenter is Part of GreenBuild

This year, the U.S. Green Building Council hosted Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco.  Greenbuild is the world's largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. Building professionals came together from all over the world for educational workshops and seminars, to hear renowned speakers, network, and attend green building tours. 

Green building tours allow visitors the opportunity to see first hand the best of the city’s sustainable buildings and neighborhoods.  The EcoCenter was selected as a tour site together with the Hunter’s View Development Project.  On Saturday, November 17th from 9:30 am to 1 pm, LEJ Board Chair Milton Reynolds, CCSF students and instructor/LEJ staff Peggy Lopipero-Langmo hosted building professionals from as close by as Bernal Heights and as far away as Brazil, Japan, Iceland, Italy, and Trinidad.  Tour attendees first visited the Hunter’s View Development Project and then made their way to the EcoCenter.  Milton introduced the visitors to the history and mission of LEJ and the EcoCenter followed by a detailed explanation of each sustainable design feature of the facility by CCSF students and faculty.  Attendees were also given time to roam the facility and ask questions regarding research, operations and maintenance, and environmental education efforts.  Feedback from visitors was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  Click on this link to see a slideshow for photos of the event.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rooftop Parapet Gets a Makeover

This week painters and licensed contractors Teresa Romaine and Joan Weir returned to the EcoCenter to help with some needed repairs and paint for the rooftop parapet and ceiling entryway.  In the original design by Toby Long, the rooftop parapet had reclaimed wood in a mosaic on its surface similar to the exterior walls of the entryway to the facility.  Because the parapet is coated with an impermeable sealant that should not be punctured or penetrated, the wood had to be glued onto its surface rather than nailed.  The sun, wind, weather, and salty air conditions were not kind to the reclaimed wood.  Over time the wood weathered grey whereas the reclaimed wood on the wall surfaces remained an orangey brown.  The wood also started to fall off, sometimes leaving holes in the water-proofed coating.  The remaining pieces of wood were finally taken down by CCSF students last spring.  Likewise, the conditions at Heron's Head Park were hard on the ceiling above the entryway.  It also needed to be resealed and painted.  With the generous support and donation of the Hanley Foundation, a small family foundation dedicated to supporting sustainable building and development, we were able to give the rooftop parapet and entryway ceiling a makeover.  Note that this same foundation provided funds so that CCSF faculty and students could set up an field laboratory at the EcoCenter to monitor its sustainable systems.  Following LEJ's Executive Director Patrick Rump's advice, the parapet and ceiling were painted the same russet orange as the other exterior walls.  The choice was an excellent one and now the aluminum heron and moon really "pop" against the vibrant color and the building stands out beautifully from a distance.  The following photo is a "before" image of the building followed by "after" photos of the roof and ceiling.  A sincere thank you to all that made this work  possible!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Jeffrey Ludlow and Shant’e Austin From Treadwell and Rollo Give a Presentation to CCSF Students

Today, Jeffrey Ludlow, Vice President and Intern Shant’e Austin of Treadwell & Rollo, a Langan Company, visited to give a presentation to CCSF students about the work they performed to ensure that the EcoCenter would be safe and strong.  Treadwell and Rollo’s research of the site led the company to recommend that a shallow mat foundation would be the most cost-effective and efficient solution.  The alternative was the more expensive pile foundation that is most often used for buildings on closed landfill sites.  The pile foundation was also not a good alternative as its construction would puncture the geosynthetic clay liner several feet under the building.  The liner serves as a cap to prevent stormwater infiltration into the fill that created Heron's Head Park.  Water seepage could cause unsafe leachate that could make its way into the surrounding soil and water.

Mr. Ludlow also discussed the company’s design of a methane mitigation system that was installed by KLM Builders to minimize the possibility of this common landfill gas from migrating into the building.  The system is located beneath the concrete slab foundation and is composed of a methane-impermeable membrane.  Beneath the membrane is a layer of crushed rock that contains a network of horizontal perforated pipes that lead to vertical risers that vent to the roof.  The system allows any methane gas to be trapped and move through the rocks and pipe to the building’s rooftop exterior.  For over a year, former LEJ youth intern Shant’e Austin under the supervision of Jeffrey Ludlow has come to the EcoCenter to measure methane levels in the building and on the rooftop.  Ms. Austin showed students the meter used to measure both methane and oxygen levels and how it is calibrated before each use.  The methane levels have been non-detectable and the public health requirement for monitoring will sunset April 2013.  All in attendance were very grateful for this very informative and interesting talk that helped deepen understanding of the building of the EcoCenter and important maintenance and monitoring requirements.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Constructed Wetland Gets a Makeover

Lisa Lee Benjamin, the designer of the constructed wetland and living roof returned to the EcoCenter to donate her time, materials, and expertise to redesign the constructed wetland.  Together with CCSF students and faculty, the original plants were removed and new ones planted (from Bay Natives of course!) with the addition of a lot more gravel and even some moss on the floating logs.  The plant list at present is minimalist (6 Juncus patens, 2 Scirpus spp. and 1 Juncus effusus) in part to see which of those removed might actually regrow.  Students will also conduct environmental monitoring on the wetland and acrylic tanks this weekend and compare to last weeks results.  We even spotted a fish in the wetland!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Digging Trenches at the EcoCenter

CCSF students helped dig a trench for an irrigation line to water the native landscaping surrounding the EcoCenter until it has time to establish itself.  About six inches deep, the trench leads from a pump that is connected to the rainwater harvesting tank that collects water from the "clean" roof (i.e., the aluminum rooftop).  The water from that same tank will hopefully be used one day soon to also plumb the facility's toilets. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

First Corporate Work Day of the Rainy Season

LEJ's Patrick and Charles, Geoff from Bay Natives and CCSF students work alongside employees of Price Waterhouse for the first workday of the rainy season.  Work included weeding the drainfield to make way for new plants in the butterfly meadow, digging holes for manzanita and other shrubs, and digging a trench to install an irrigation system linking the rainwater harvesting tanks to the landscape surrounding the EcoCenter.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tracy Zhu returns to help train CCSF students give tours of the EcoCenter

Today Tracy Zhu returned to the EcoCenter to work with CCSF faculty and students to share her experience in training students to give tours of the EcoCenter.  Given Tracy's years of experience as a former LEJ employee and program manager of the facility, she is the perfect person to share the history of the organization and the creation of the EcoCenter and its mission.  Students will incorporate this information together with their research and understanding of the sustainable systems at the EcoCenter to help conduct tours ranging from K through 12 students to working professionals. Thanks to Tracy we can make sure that the history of the EcoCenter, especially the environmental justice component of its story continues to be communicated to future visitors.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ever Wonder How to Clean Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels?

Very carefully given that you have to get up on the rooftop and there is glass and electrical wiring involved!  After inspecting the panels to ensure there were no cracks or loose wiring, CCSF students Ivan Hu and Toby Taylor climbed onto the roof and washed and dried the 24 pv panels. Using a soft cloth scrubber and water with a little vinegar and biodegradable dish soap added, Ivan and Toby scrubbed the dirt and bird poop that accumulated on the panels since the summer.  Keeping the panels clean is important so that they do not lose efficiency and produce as much electricity as possible.  Ivan and Toby will be writing up a standard operating procedure and will make "how to" videos so that future students working at the EcoCenter can follow in their footsteps.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The EcoCenter and Heron's Head Park is a part of the world's largest volunteer effort: Cleaning up the coast

Did you know that the largest volunteer effort in the world is International Coastal Cleanup Day? Locally, it's known as California Coastal Cleanup Day, and this year, LEJ is continuing the tradition it started on the eastern San Francisco shorefront by coordinating efforts at Heron's Head Park and Candlestick State Recreation Area. 

Over 150 people came out to Heron's Head, mostly dominated by CCSF students and faculty. The students who are taking the CCSF sustainability course at the EcoCenter joined in cleanup and gave tours of the EcoCenter afterwards to public and other CCSF students and faculty from Environmental Science, Biology and English departments.

Thanks to all of those who came out and supported! Much appreciations especially to the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy for stepping up coordination efforts across the whole city!

Source: CA Coastal Commission

Monday, August 20, 2012

CCSF class returns!

CCSF returns for second semester of Applied Research in Sustainability taught by instructor Peggy Lopipero-Langmo. 11 students enrolled this semester and are ready to dig deeper than the previous class by picking up where they left off. Students will conduct research on sustainable systems as well as get down and dirty with operations and maintenance! CCSF is provided much needed support for LEJ staff in taking care of the facility.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer monitoring continues

CCSF finished acquiring supplies and equipment for more extensive monitoring of the wastewater treatment system, wetlands, and energy system to be used in the fall! In the meantime, the supplies and equipment is currently aiding monitoring that has been conducted all summer long. These students are taking water samples, which are being tested for microorganisms such as E. Coli and enterococcus. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Weeding the Living Roof

LEJ's Executive Director and Nursery Manager Patrick Rump works with CCSF student Jonathon Greer give the living roof some tender loving care. They're pulling out some of the plants that aren't intended to be there while replenishing the roof with some native plugs. Even though the semester is over, a few CCSF students are so committed to the EcoCenter that they are doing work throughout the summer with either LEJ staff or instructor Peggy Lopipero-Langmo.

Seaside daisies are blooming the background (light purple flowers) while the Douglas irises will soon be flowering.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CCSF's Presentation of Learning

The academic semester is coming to an end for CCSF students, which means it's time to wrap up their final projects! They blew away LEJ youth, staff, board members, and prospective students of the sustainability course in their Presentation of Learning on May 15 at the EcoCenter!

Facilitated by former EcoCenter Programs and Operation Manager, Tracy Zhu (right), the Presentation of Learning featured students projects on specific EcoCenter green systems: energy, building materials, wastewater, wetlands, rainwater harvesting, native landscaping/living roof, and environmental monitoring.

It was evident how much the students researched each of their topics using the EcoCenter's past history as well as outside sources, going through user manuals and documenting best practices. It was especially clear how much sweat equity each student dedicated: from cleaning the floors and bathrooms to cleaning the solar panels, weeding on the living roof, planting native plants in the landscape, and leading volunteers.

BIG THANKS TO CCSF STUDENTS AND INSTRUCTOR PEGGY LOPIPERO-LANGMO! Without your expertise, passion for learning and genuine commitment and partnership, the EcoCenter wouldn't be in half as good of shape as it is! You truly are bringing learning to life in this "living classroom," harking back to the EcoCenter's original name and intention.

Looking forward to the ongoing relationship into the summer and next fall!
Wendy Brummer, LEJ Board Member (front right) attends
CCSF's Presentation of Learning

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bay Natives donates a meadow made of native grasses!

Bay Natives is deepening its relationship with the EcoCenter and its footprint! Yesterday, Bay Natives and students from CCSF planted plugs of native grasses that Bay Natives donated in the area in front of the entrance to the drip field. When the plugs are fully mature, it will develop into a meadow of hearty native grasses that will need very little irrigation! In the meantime, LEJ staff and CCSF students will be water the lawn with rainwater caught from the EcoCenter's living roof to make sure the grasses get to where they need to be in order to sustain themselves. Thanks Bay Natives for continuing to help enhance the EcoCenter's native landscaping!

Patrick Rump (far left) and CCSF students lay out plans for the native meadow.

Planting native grass plugs donated from Bay Natives

CCSF students hard at back breaking work, while the rainwater catchment tanks (silver tanks in the background) provide water to irrigate the seedlings.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Work, work, and work at the EcoCenter!

Our great friends, Rebuilding Together were back! Remember two years ago when Rebuilding Together brought out hundreds of volunteers from Salesforce's Dreamforce conference to bring the EcoCenter to near completion? This time, they partnered with Walmart and St. Ignatius Church freshen up the EcoCenter's aesthetic, inside and out! Together they: 
  • Planted approximately 6000 seed pods in prepared landscape areas
  • Planted seed pots (at Bay Natives facility across the street)
  • Cleaned and re-painted interior walls & door/floor trim in classroom, rest rooms, mechanical room and interior walls of sun room
  • Developed design solutions to re-mount repurpose wood flooring on exterior parapet wall and re-install wood slats

For more pictures, check out Rebuilding Together's blog post and Flikr!

PS Shoutout to Salesforce and Accenture for making it out to the EcoCenter for corporate work days earlier in the month!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bay Natives Nursery spreads its knowledge and seedlings!

Our neighbor, Bay Natives Nursery, have been hosting awesome workshops like edible native plants and pruning and propagation by cuttings at the EcoCenter. Since their grand opening last November, not only can you purchase San Francisco native plants online from Bay Natives but you can come down to their location at 10 Cargo Way, directly across the street from the park entrance, to check out plants up close and personal.

Next Wednesday, they'll be back at the EcoCenter for another workshop! Check them out on Facebook for more details. 

Stay tuned for future collaborations between Bay Natives and the EcoCenter!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Urban Permaculture Institute lends a hand at the EcoCenter

On the first Saturday of the month, the Urban Permaculture Institute led by Kevin Bayuk did a work exchange with the EcoCenter: in exchange for the use of space, Bayuk and students of UPI put some sweat equity into the native landscape surrounding the EcoCenter. This is the third year in a row that UPI has come out to the green building; we love folks who continue to deepen their relationship with this piece of land over time.

Source: Picture Actors

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A "hot time" at the EcoCenter

Infrared thermography was used to help CCSF students understand how the EcoCenter responds to daily termperature changes and the efficacy of the passive solar design features, such as the concrete flooring and Trombe wall design. The Trombe wall is a series of windows that allow heat to enter the building and be absorbed and reradiated. This mid-day image shows how the tank room’s window frames are hotter than the high-performance glass.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CCSF sustainbility course finds a home at the EcoCenter

The City College of SF spring semester began earlier this month - and one of its courses will be taught at the EcoCenter! In the Applied Research in Sustainability course in the Department of Engineering and Technology, students come to the EcoCenter to help with operations and maintenance of the facility and to develop educational programming. With 14 students enrolled in the course, environmental studies instructor Peggy Lopipero-Langmo provides student with practical work experience as well as exploration in academic research methods and inquiry. By the end of the semester, students hope to have completed group or individual projects that include research on an EcoCenter sustainable design feature and hands-on experience assisting in its operations and maintenance. Welcome CCSF!