El Cerrito Recycling and Environmental Resource Center

7501 Schmidt Lane
El Cerrito, CA

  • Architect: Noll and Tam Architects
  • Contractor: Charles Pankow Builders
  • Developer: City of El Cerrito
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Administration building as seen from Exchange Zone shed
Credit: Gina Phelan for Tipping Structural Engineers

El Cerrito's LEED Platinum, net-zero-energy recycling center serves as the sustainability hub for the city's environmental mission and programs.

This unique community resource center consists of an administration building, an operations building, and recycling drop-off sheds. The 2,000 sf administration building consists of two modular structures connected by a central cupola with high clerestory windows.

The 6,400 sf operations building is a tall, open structure, with a twenty-foot clearance under the roof to allow the movement of heavy machinery and tall stacks of material. The recycling drop-off area consists of attractive recycling sheds arranged in a 110 ft-diameter circle. Long retaining walls created “tipping walls” at truck-docking height for recycling trucks to back up and off-load piles of recycled materials.

Project structural features included ternary concrete with high-recycled-slag and fly-ash content and low-Portland-cement content. A significant project challenge was the founding of structures on an old landfill with low, allowable bearing pressures subject to differential settlement. Project delivery was design-build, with special emphasis on value engineering to provide a high-value, low-cost facility to the City of El Cerrito.
With ten kilowatts of solar power, the center produces enough energy to power a hundred percent of the office building’s and approximately thirty percent of the site’s energy needs. Additionally, the building is designed to maximize the availability of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting and saving energy. All the rainwater that falls on the roof of the large operational structure is captured and stored in an 11,000 gallon tank to flush the center’s toilets and irrigate the center’s native plant gardens. Finally, rainwater from the site’s grounds is filtered through natural bioswales: built-in landscaping elements that remove and mitigate pollution before water enters storm water systems.

Executed as Tipping Mar