AlexRenew, the water resource recovery facility for the City of Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County, Virginia, was largely invisible in the community until the last few years. Its citizen board-created “2040 vision” – with a focus on community engagement, as well as a rebranding – were catalysts to AlexRenew throwing off its cloak of invisibility and creating a comprehensive outreach program, including educational centers.
Alexandria is a city built on its legacy of water. With a robust water tourism industry, and visitors and residents regularly enjoying the City’s waterways, it was natural that AlexRenew would create a vibrant and interactive educational lobby that appeals to all ages and inspires a love of clean water and water stewardship.
After two years of planning and fabrication, the educational lobby in the agency’s LEED platinum Environmental Center administration building was completed in the Fall of 2016. The lobby includes five themed areas:
- “Welcome to AlexRenew,” which includes an interactive LEED monitor/dashboard that communicates about the Environmental Center, its features and benefits;
- “Renewing our Connection,” which provides a history Alexandria’s water, community photos via interactive screen, and an aerial floor map of throughout Alexandria;
- “Renewing our Waterways,” which includes a 7,000-gallon reclaimed water fish tank with fish species native to our area; and
- “Renewing our Resources,” which showcases interactive elements that demonstrate – in understandable terms – screening, biological nutrient removal, digesters/energy, a centrifuge to remove water from biosolids, and UV disinfection/water reuse.
Visitors to the lobby become immersed in the water management cycle and the connections between AlexRenew and the community. As a result, they understand the crucial role that AlexRenew plays in keeping local waterways clean and develop a personal connection to the water in their community.
AlexRenew solicited sponsors to help offset the costs of the lobby exhibits to demonstrate to their customers that they do all they can to offset their rates. They secured twelve lobby sponsors at varying levels of sponsorship, from $500 to $5,000 each. Many of the organizations the agency does business with, from engineering firms, to construction firms, to law firms, to architects sponsored the lobby. High dollar sponsors were able to select an exhibit to sponsor, and they were recognized on a sustainable plaque on their particular exhibit. Smaller sponsors received plaques on one large sponsor listing plaque that sits above the reception desk.
Once the lobby was completed, AlexRenew began to incorporate programming to ensure its use. Every tour they conduct starts in the lobby, and the agency offers a monthly “(AlexRenew’s mascot) Moxie Story Time” focusing on STEM. They incorporated the lobby into their first Water Discovery Day – now an annual event – and created Young Problem Solver Tours that includes a scavenger hunt in the lobby space. Future programming for the lobby includes: Quarterly water art classes; lunch and learn programs with STEM experts; and a water-themed fashion show.
AlexRenew’s educational lobby is now the water education destination for the citizens of Alexandria and serves as an excellent example of taking community feedback and making it a reality for education and benefit. In 2018, the project was awarded with a NACWA National Environmental Achievement Award.
Alexandria Renew Creates Water Discovery & Education Destination