Learning Place

A vacant administration building becomes a world-class environmental education center with LEED certification.
Learning Place
The learning center building and grounds incorporate many green features.

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

The old administration building at the Hyperion Treatment Plant in southwest Los Angeles sat empty for 10 years after a new facility was built in 1998.

Through collaboration between the Public Works Department and the mayor’s office, the building became an environmental education center that achieved LEED Gold certification. The $11.5 million, 20,000-square-foot Los Angeles Environmental Learning Center was dedicated last September.

The Hyperion Plant, one of four treatment and water reclamation plants serving more than four million people, is the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi and the sixth largest in the world. Almost 400 employees manage full secondary treatment, biosolids handling and biogas generation. Green practices are important to the region, beset with years of drought.

Teaching Sustainability

Sustainable practices and learning experiences were built throughout the learning center. Besides illustrating how wastewater is cleaned and recycled, the center preaches the virtues of watershed protection and sustainability, including the tenets of reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.

Green building features demonstrate sustainable principles while reducing energy use. A green roof is irrigated with recycled water, skylights provide natural light, photovoltaic panels generate electricity and water is solar heated. The entrance walkway is made of permeable pavers, and drought-tolerant landscaping includes a stream and terraced wetland fed with recycled water and stocked with mosquito fish. An observation deck overlooks the treatment processes.
Planning the educational content was another collaborative effort. “We gathered input from subject matter experts and the entire operations staff, from managers, engineers, operations and maintenance staff to public affairs,” say Ronald Mayuyu, project engineer for the Bureau of Sanitation. “Then we brought in a firm with experience around the world designing exhibits that successfully engage and connect with young kids.”
An 87-seat auditorium and learning lab classroom accommodate lectures and hands-on learning. Exhibits and interactive displays teach sustainable resource management. They include exhibits on clean water and watershed protection and a gallery shows how Los Angeles is on the “Road to Zero Waste.” Although all grades are welcome, the exhibits — some of which combine education with video gaming — target grades 4 through 8.

Future Stewards

Careers have a place in the exhibits, too. Job descriptions and life-size cut-out photos of a treatment plant operator, wastewater plant manager, engineer, lab technician, inspector and plumber create interest; kids can have their pictures taken next to the photos.

One goal is to give visitors a greater understanding of all the city does to protect public health and the environment, and of the need to increase recycled water production to 59,000 acre-feet per year by 2035. “Our visitors have no idea what happens to their wastewater or the challenges the city faces,” Mayuyu says. “They’re surprised that most of our water comes from hundreds of miles away, and only one percent comes from recycled water.

“We’ve created an invaluable opportunity to educate about the importance of sustainable water and solid resources management. These kids are users of water but can also learn to be water conservers. We are preparing them to be our future environmental stewards.”   


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.