As a public building, the Eau Pleine Water Treatment Facility had to satisfy multiple design and construction requirements from a variety of stakeholders. The funding agencies for the building wanted to be sure their dollars were spent in the most economical manner possible. City of Abbotsford officials were concerned that the building be aesthetically pleasing, since it is visible to residents and visitors just outside the city limits. And, of course, the building had to meet Wisconsin code for construction and operation of drinking water facilities.
Function and performance were the primary considerations. It was important to provide safe storage for the chemicals used in water treatment. Many of these chemicals are very reactive. They need to be stored in separate storage areas and protected by interior firewalls. One of the funding agencies would have liked to have seen a metal building due to cost considerations. However in the end they agreed that it was better to go with inert masonry material that won’t react with chemicals and that will provide adequate fire protection.
A number of masonry options were reviewed for their cost effectiveness and aesthetic appeal. The city considered several products, including precast concrete panels, and concrete block with brick veneer. They finally chose a standard masonry block interior with a colored block exterior.
The exterior block sizes and colors were selected carefully to balance the structure visually. The building had to be a certain height due to functional considerations. However, placing large, neutral colored foundation block on the bottom and smaller, more textured, warm brown blocks above made the structure appear shorter than its actual height. The addition of two courses of maroon banding intensified this effect, and lent a decorative touch that was highly appreciated by the city.
Equal consideration was given to the interior. Wisconsin code requires the interior of a water treatment plant to have a sanitary surface. The Eau Claire plant is the most unique water treatment plant in Wisconsin because it collects water from vertical wells not associated with a large body of water. The use of groundwater makes the potential for bacterial contamination an even greater concern than usual. The interior block for the building was accordingly chosen for its smooth, durable surface, and extra care was taken in craftsmanship to ensure that the inside surfaces of the building met sanitary standards for washability and durability.