Alaskan Fish Hatchery Earns Envision Gold

Fishing in Alaska is more than just a recreational sport. The industry provides a total economic impact of $1.4 billion annually and secures jobs for nearly 16,000 people.

Hatcheries are also an important factor in keeping Alaska’s rivers and lakes stocked with catchable fish. Aging hatcheries across the state aren’t able to meet increasing production goals. Recognizing this, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Sport Fish hired HDR to plan and design the $96 million, 141,000-square-foot William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery – the largest indoor sport fish hatchery in North America.

HDR was responsible for the hatchery's design, preparation of construction documents, construction administration and additional services including site analysis, NEPA, permitting, 3-D modeling, utility management and lease assistance. Working on the HDR team was Daniel Bittman, PE and Project Manager during the planning stage; and Paul Witt, PE and Project Manager during construction.

Sustainable Long Before Day One

The 141,000-square-foot hatchery facility contains many sustainable features, including sophisticated recirculation technology that reduces the water and energy normally used by conventional hatcheries by 95%. The hatchery utilizes this state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture technology to raise king and silver salmon, rainbow trout, arctic char, lake trout and arctic grayling. The fish are then stocked into rivers and lakes throughout the south central region of Alaska. 

Additional sustainable features include preserving greenfields, using recycled materials, improving quality of life for the community, reducing energy consumption and protecting freshwater availability.

The sustainable features of the facility and grounds helped earn the hatchery an EnvisionTM Gold award and is the first completed project assessed using ISI’s new Envision™ sustainable infrastructure rating system. As a planning and design guidance tool, Envision™ is meant to provide industry-wide sustainability metrics for all infrastructure types -- an approach similar to its vertical facility counterparty, LEED. (To learn more about the Envision™ sustainable infrastructure rating system, visit the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure or read the article in the Summer 2012 issue of Sustainable Construction.)

“A large portion of the points for the Envision award stemmed from the collaboration and extensive planning on this project,” explains Billman. “The customer spent several years researching a solution before we even began planning the facility, which took a full year. The contractor [Kiewit Building Group] was brought it at 30% design.”

 “The contractor was involved very early on, which saved time and money,” recalls Witt. “We worked closely with them to understand what equipment they had and what construction methods they felt were appropriate. We designed around those methods.”

A Construction Manager General Contractor (CMGC) delivery method was followed for the project. CMGC is a modified Design Build process in which the owner holds the contract for both the design consultant and the contractor. There is an option to go Bid Build at the end of design if the negotiated price is not acceptable to the owner. This puts the owner in charge of project decisions and keeps the cost savings with the owner. The chief benefits of the process for the hatchery were speed of delivery, reduced risk and flexibility.

Infrastructure improvements earn points

The hatchery’s Gold-level Envision™ award represents significant achievements in sustainable infrastructure design.  The project was assessed using the 60 Envision™ sustainability criteria in the categories of Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk. (See sidebar “How to earn Envision points”.)

The sustainability aspects of the Fish Hatchery that garnered high-level ratings included leaving the brownfield site cleaner than before, saving and reusing water, energy efficiency, keeping Ship Creek clean, and building public education into its design. Additional higher levels of achievement were concentrated in several Envision™ structure credit categories, including the following:

  • Resource Allocation Category: Reduced energy use. Recirculation technology greatly reduces heating and pumping costs. The project piloted and later implemented a full scale, highly efficient, recirculated aquaculture system that reduced the energy needed to heat the process water, ventilation and building heating by approximately 88%, while significantly reducing operating costs and maintaining production goals. This technology reduces the volume of freshwater required to raise the same quantity of fish and the energy required to heat water to an optimum fish-rearing temperature. It also reduces the amount of effluent water discharged from the hatchery. “The process of growing fish requires a lot of water and it has to be clean,” explains Billman. “The 54 degree F water temperature in the hatchery allows for 10 to 14 inch rainbow trout to reach maturity in 8 months, versus a full 2 years in the 38 degree F water that occurs naturally.”
  • Natural World Category: Preserved greenfields.  The project included the environmental restoration of a former military brownfield and greyfield site, including the cleanup of contaminated soils. “The original 8-acre site included 4 acres of cooling ponds from a decommissioned military power plant and the other half was an old hatchery that was well beyond its useful life, yet still needed to remain operational,” says Billman. Utilizing a full team of environmental professionals from HDR as well as environmental agencies allowed the project to continue with no delays and it minimized disruptions to the existing hatchery.
  • Leadership Category: Improved infrastructure integration. The project repurposed existing water and sewer infrastructure; created connections to existing bike trails and created a parallel bike trail through a park-like setting, while clarifying traffic flow and protecting the stream. “Reusing existing staff housing, process water treatment, fish ladders and raceways, in addition to utilizing recycled content building materials were an important facet of this project,” says Witt. “Our contractor was and forward-thinking when it came to repurposing materials.”
  • Natural World Category: Reduced pesticide and fertilizer impacts: The project team designed the landscaping to incorporate native plant species suitable to the Alaskan climate, requiring no pesticides, herbicides or ongoing fertilizers.
  • Leadership Category: Pursued by-product synergy. The project formed a partnership to transfer waste from the operations of the facility as input to another facility, and evaluated the potential to make use of warm water from a neighboring industry.
  • Leadership Category: Improved infrastructure integration. The project  repurposed existing water and sewer infrastructure; created connections to existing bike trails and created a parallel bike trail through a park-like setting, while clarifying traffic flow and protecting the stream. It also restored and improved the public park-like setting and viewing areas with trails, a boardwalk and educational signs.
  • Quality of Life Category: Improved the net quality of life of all communities affected by the project and mitigated community impacts. The project improved user accessibility, safety and wayfinding of the site and surrounding areas. It also enhanced public space including improvement of public parks, plazas, recreational facilities, or wildlife refuges to enhance community livability.

“The William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery provides a great fit for the first-ever ISI Envision™ project award,” concludes ISI Executive Director William Bertera. “The sustainability of this project guided the vision and development of every aspect of the hatchery, and all facets of building and site design incorporated sustainability principles that will last far into the future.”

To read the full story, click here to download the Fall 2013 issue of Sustainable Construction.