WaterShed proves that a building can have it all: Beauty, brains, and a light environmental footprint, all under the same water-conserving roof.
When Three Muses Group acquired a non-descript 7,000-square-foot empty lot on the edge of Eugene's tattered downtown in 2001, the owners wanted to make an eloquent statement.
Here it is: You can actually build a commercial project that treads lightly in the environment and still create an urban atmosphere that's so warm and inviting even non-environmentalists will want to move right in.
And what a statement-and what a building-they made. When complete in 2009 WaterShed debuted with rave reviews, earning Eugene's People's Choice Award for its mixed-use development that offers two retail spaces and five apartments with no two spaces looking or measuring anything alike.
The units range in size from 650 to 2,000 square feet. Some are contained on one floor; one apartment spans three levels.
The Green Story:
WaterShed pushes the environmental and aesthetic envelope on all kinds of fronts, from using recycled materials for construction to the artisan-crafted metalwork in its courtyard to radical new ways to conserve water and energy.
Let's start with water. Here in the rainy Northwest, almost no one regards rainwater as a resource.
But WaterShed draws its name from the extensive water catchment system that captures runoff from the building's stainless steel roofs and stores it in two plastic-lined cisterns that together hold 16,000 gallons. They feed the project's dual water system, which filters the runoff and pipes it into bathrooms, kitchens and patios for washing clothes, watering gardens and flushing toilets. The catchment system will save EWEB 50,000 gallons of treated water each year and save on water bills for the residents.
Water is also conserved inside the building. High-end Swedish ASKO dishwashers and washing machines, installed in all the residential units, use only a fraction of the water required by conventional appliances.
Radiant-heated concrete floors draw their energy, as if by magic, from eight 300-foot-deep water wells in the project; a heat pump works off the temperature differential between the surface air and the 55-degree ground water to warm and cool the building.
The walls themselves are built of aerated concrete block - strong, easy to work and highly insulating.
Inside, each of the seven units offers a different layout, but all share several visual and environmental themes. All the wood - largely Douglas fir, Alaskan yellow cedar and Western cedar -- came from recycled lumber and salvage logs.
Green Features for Lush Living
  • 2 cisterns capture 16,000 gallons of water for landscaping, toilet flushing and clothes washing
  • Thermal water heating system
  • PV generation powers exterior lighting and mechanical systems
  • Heat recovery ventilators in each unit
  • Low-flow, energy efficient ASKO dishwashers, washing machines and driers
  • Vestfrost refrigerators
  • Electrolux ovens and magnetic induction range tops
  • Dual-flush Caroma toilets
  • Triple-paned windows
  • Concrete counters
  • Radiant-heated floors
  • Salvaged wood throughout
  • Locking bike storage for convenient access
The Douglas fir came from individual trees cut by a U.S. Forest Service contractor hired to drop hazardous single trees near public campgrounds. The best wood went to Eugene window- and door-maker John Jones, who created the project's 165 wood-framed windows using German hardware that allows windows to be opened on multiple axes.
Once he'd picked the best of the lot, cabinet makers got their shot at the lumber pile. The remaining pieces went for wall paneling.
There was no more than 2 or 3 percent waste at the end at the end of the project - and most of that was recycled.
Plumbing and electrical conduits are nearly all exposed - adding to ease of construction and maintenance and lending a bit of industrial edge to the look of each unit.
Artists and craftsmen worked side by side throughout construction. The local arts council even held a wine-and-cheese reception for WaterShed's opening, with carpenters and plumbers invited as well as metal workers and cabinetmakers.
About the Owners
Three Muses Group is committed to developing long-lived spaces that artfully enrich living, and respect the plot of earth they occupy.
The 'hood: To the west: the historic Skinner Butte neighborhood and the basalt climbing columns. To the east: the Willamette River, Alton Baker Park, the Peter DeFazio bike and pedestrian bridge, Autzen Stadium, and more. To the north: more riverside paths and parks. To the south: 5th Street Market, lots of shopping and restaurants, and downtown Eugene, including Saturday Market. It's easy to get around, with the train station a few blocks away and bus stop right across the street.