Hart Wright’s Environmental Systems Demonstration Garden

Reclaiming Undeveloped Land

Hart Wright Architects recently completed work on a project for the College Hill Reservoir site, a PUC owned, previously empty piece of land, that has now been transformed into an outdoor classroom and environmental systems demonstration garden. It is for the benefit of the neighboring schools and community.  The PUC, working with the San Francisco Unified School District and Green Schoolyard Alliance, came up with the idea of a garden and outdoor classroom designed to serve students during school hours while also allowing nearby residents, not affiliated with the schools, to access the garden in the afternoons and on weekends.  There are few school gardens in San Francisco that also provide gardening space for community members.

We were grateful to be a part of a project that has such an innovative use of public land. Hart Wright Architects, as part of a team, led by Jeni Webber Landscape Architect, and Pam Nagle Landscape Architect, designed this site to serve both students and the general public and we are excited to see a site and a design project dedicated to building awareness of environmental systems and environmental issues.

Below are photos of some of the elements in the design.

Environmental Systems Demonstration Garden

pre-fab shipping container building

The container building and main gathering space.

The modified shipping container serves as an office and logistical staging area for the teachers. Its right beside the main central space which is the outdoor classroom, pictured in the foreground. On the roof are painted metal brackets that extend out to provide a structure for photovoltaic solar panels. The energy generated by these solar panels powers the container building lighting and the entire site. Inside the container building is a closet for batteries that store electricity generated by the panels, in what is known as an off grid solar installation.

To demonstrate a “green roof”, planters sit on the container building roof and are planted with butterfly attracting wildflowers. At the base of the container downspout is a rainwater storage barrel demonstrating rainwater harvesting.

Prefab container building

Side view of the container building

environmental systems demonstration garden

The waterless composting toilet

The onsite facility does not use any water. It is a an M54 Trailhead model by Clivus Multrum, also known as a waterless composting toilet. There are only two other facilities in San Francisco like this that do not use water. Waste is collected in a tank as compost.

The gathering area up hill from the main classroom space is surrounded by garden with native plantings. The small elevated building in the background is a rabbit hutch.

log seating environmentally friendly materials

The second outdoor classroom area

Additional features of the site include a small grey water collection trough, a pond, planted with wetland plants, a rain garden, run off water storage tanks, swales, a rain water barrel, habitat gardens and observation areas. Various types of water pumps are sprinkled around the site.

pond feature, water feature

The pond installation demonstrates water ecosystems

This waterless composting toilet is an example of a way to be environmentally sustainable in this green design project

The rain garden area, so new the plants haven’t filled in yet.

The College Hill environmental systems demonstration garden educates students and the public about Earth’s systems, biological cycles, green design, and encourages a sensitivity towards the environment. This project shows a range of cutting-edge, site-specific, ecologically-based strategies known as “green infrastructure” on a micro-scale and provides a resource for students to learn about the ways that caring for our water, wastewater and power systems can help create healthy, vibrant communities. The various installations demonstrate San Francisco’s water, wastewater, renewable energy and energy efficiency systems. Programs will allow for hands on exposure to healthy food cultivation and sustainable living practices.

A green design project, teaches environmental awareness

Before photo of the College Hill site