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The expanded Big Blue Bus facility was recognized for its environmentally friendly features, including 600 solar panels. (photo by Photo Courtesy Gary Kruger)

DOWNTOWN — The Big Blue Bus has been honored with the 2010 Project of the Year award from the Southern California chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA).

The award was given in recognition of the public transit agency’s environmentally-friendly 66,000-square-foot maintenance facility expansion project, which was completed in the fall of 2009.

“Each year, the APWA recognizes public agencies for their outstanding achievements, and also for the wealth of good ideas they share with others,” said George Alvarez, president of the Southern California chapter of the APWA.

“The Big Blue Bus facility expansion project has earned this recognition for its demonstrated awareness of the need to protect and enhance the environment, while also contributing positively to the community it serves.”

The $60 million project, which was financed entirely by public transit funds, features the latest in sustainable transit maintenance technologies, including the ability to service every type of alternative fueled vehicle in the transit agency’s fleet. The project was a collaborative effort between the Big Blue Bus and City Hall’s Department of Public Works.

“The city’s architectural and construction management on this project was outstanding, and we owe a lot to them for having this project turn out so exceptionally,” said Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services for the Big Blue Bus.

“This award is a great honor for the city, and also for the Big Blue Bus employees who provided valuable input towards the final design of the project,” Negriff added.

The expansion project included the construction of 21 high-tech service bays, which can handle the maintenance and repair of up to 20 buses a day, and also the demolition of the previous 40-year-old maintenance building. Two of the new bays are dedicated to Santa Monica Fire Department vehicles, while three others are extra-long to service the new 60-foot articulated buses on order.

“The new facility has everything we need now to maintain and house our larger, more technically diverse fleet,” said Negriff, “including the electric hybrids we recently put into service and also the articulated buses that will arrive in a few months.”

In keeping with City Hall’s commitment to sustainability, the facility includes many eco-friendly and energy efficient features, such as 600 roof-mounted solar panels, minimum energy water heaters to help reduce operating costs, and an urban runoff system to filter storm water.

In addition, recycled content was used extensively in a variety of construction materials, including concrete, structural steel, carpeting, gypsum board, finishes and insulation.

“The quality of the design, materials and detailing raise the bar for a maintenance facility,” said Miriam Mulder, project manager for City Hall’s Architecture Services Division. “It’s not only highly functional but beautiful, as well.”

A very visible and distinctive feature of the facility is the 200-foot long programmable glass art wall situated along the perimeter, which contains special translucent panels that change colors and patterns to simulate movement along the glass skin. The wall helps provide privacy for the expanded bus yard, and also incorporates a bus stop at one end.

The Los Angeles office of HOK served as the facility’s architect, and Morley Builders handled the construction.

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