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True Blue

Regional water utility office makes a strikingly hued visual statement.

By Henry Burke

No matter how advanced human civilization becomes, we still share something in common with ancient nomadic peoples. Cities or settlements, large or small, require a reliable source of clean, fresh water. As famed explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau once said, ”We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.“

With populations growing and urban developments spreading out in all directions, establishing this water supply becomes much more complicated than finding the nearest river. People take for granted that when they turn on the tap or step into the shower, the water that comes out will be safe and usable. It is the work of municipal and regional water utilities to ensure that our cities and communities continue to thrive and survive.

In the East Texas town of Lumberton—located about 20 miles from Beaumont, Texas, and 100 miles from Houston—the local water authority needed a new office facility from which to carry on its work. The town wanted an eye-catching building, but it had to be more than just a pretty face. Particularly in a place like Texas, which recently endured a period of extreme drought, resource conservation and efficiency were also top-of-mind.

After interviewing a number of interested architects, the Board of the Lumberton Municipal Utility District (LMUD) selected Beaumont-based Long Architects Inc. to design the facilities, recalls firm president Phillip B. Long. LMUD’s mission statement pledges constant improvement in efficiency and effectiveness, and it was important for the new building to reflect those values. Long Architects designed with those concepts in mind.

”From the beginning of the project, the Board of Directors for LMUD were adamant that the new facilities use all available means to make the building highly functional, very efficient, and particularly attractive,“ Long says. ”To that end, we outfitted the building with high windows to provide passive lighting throughout the building, all of the light fixtures were LED, and we provided full-depth foam insulation in all exterior walls.“

Special attention was given to water efficiency. ”We also included a 50,000-gallon water-harvesting silo, which captured all rain runoff from the single slope roofs,“ Long adds. ”The water captured is used to irrigate the lawn areas.“

A metal exterior wall system was central to the design strategy of the Lumberton Municipal Utility District Office. Its ability to deliver both performance and a bright, attractive appearance on the building’s exterior made it an ideal material choice for the project.

”The use of the linear metal panels provided excellent durability and brought a beauty to the building that is stunning,“ Long says. ”Many people have complimented the beauty of the building's exterior panels and the openness on the inside. Even the subcontractors were interested and excited about constructing the building. They understand how special it was.“

More than 12,000 square feet of 22-gauge Concept Series CS-200 concealed fastener metal wall panels from CENTRIA were used to achieve the striking blue aesthetic that makes the building so memorable. The panels feature a smooth finish and Kynar coating, and the architects utilized a variety of colors, including Fashion Gray, Chromium Gray, Deep Blue Sea, Arabian Blue, and Slate Blue.

”CENTRIA and those who worked with them were always ready to answer questions and provide solutions that worked,“ Long says. ”They were all excellent to work with.“

The 18,000-square-foot office opened in January 2014 and has been a point of pride for all involved. The close relationship between the owner and building team was an important part of the project’s success.

”The owner was fantastic,“ Long says. ”They were always thoroughly involved in every decision and very protective of the importance of an exceptional, handsome building being built in their city.“

Now operating for nearly two years, the Lumberton Municipal Utility District Office is hitting on all cylinders. ”The building has been received by the staff with open arms, and the community has embraced it because of its fluid beauty and sustainability,“ Long says. ”Everyone in Lumberton knows the building.“

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