Isle of Palms Water Treatment Plant

Blending a Public Works Building in with the Community

Award Winning Architectural Design

This project was awarded the 2016 ENR Best Projects of the Southeast, Award of Merit.

The Isle of Palms, a barrier island of the coast of South Carolina near Charleston, is known for its beaches, marinas, restaurants and great vacation rental homes. It is not known for its industrial plants, which is why Swallowtail was asked to help when a local engineering firm was engaged to design a new waste water treatment plant.

The site, on the marsh side of the island near the Isle of Palms Marina, was highly visible from 41st Avenue. Despite its utilitarian function and requirement for a tall boxy shape, the building needed to be considerate of the residential setting to fit in. The Isle of Palms Water and Sewage Commission didn’t want their new and very visible building to be an eye sore. But how do you make a utilitarian building fit the beach character of the Isle of Palms? Being an island loved for its beaches, the Isle of Palms has a certain charm and character–think big porches with wood ceilings and louvered screens. Think metal roofs and island colors. Now imagine a new waste water treatment facility smack in the middle of all of that! It doesn’t sound good, does it?

How Do You Fit a Waste Water Treatment Plant into a Residential Neighborhood?

Answer: With Residential Design Features

Conceptual Drawing for new waster water treatment plant in the Isle of Palms

Conceptual Drawing for new waste water treatment plant in the Isle of Palms

Porches are an important feature for many southern homes–before air conditioning, the porch was usually the coolest place on a hot summer day. Now, the porch not only helps establish the character of a home, it is as well used as an outdoor room. Swallowtail re-interpreted the island porch into a new kind of porch for this building. Added several porch like structure, we also added a 2 story porch on the side of the building. This provided shaded access to the upper floor office and keep the HVAC equipment above flood height.

We used a galvalume metal roof, and traditional island style louvers as screening. The spacing and design of the columns and the use of horizontal louvers to provide visual privacy and shading is a residential design feature re-imagined to help provide detail and texture to this otherwise utilitarian box. The color scheme for the Treatment Plant refers back to many of the residential neighbors: the traditional haint blue ceiling and cream trim and columns.

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From Rachel’s Desk