The City of San Jose has spent 8 years developing a new facility meant to demonstrate the city’s commitment to a greener and cleaner future. The Center, called the Environmental Innovation Center, is housed in an old paper wax manufacturing facility that has been completely overhauled in order to attain LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council, the highest green certification offered.
The Center features a piece of functional artwork called “Watershed”, essentially a rain canopy that disperses water to irrigate the Center’s olive tree grove. Accompanying the sculpture is a 6,600 gallon water tank that collects rain from the building’s roof and funnels it to the sculpture. The irrigation system used to distribute the rainwater is calibrated with satellite weather tracking. This feature allows the system to restrict water on days where rain is forecast and to release it on dry days.
But the real purpose behind the Environmental Innovation Center is to provide a facility that can foster the development of clean technology startups. The facility provides space for fledgling companies to set up shop and develop their technology before they make the leap to commercializing their products. This includes meeting rooms, workshops, and sophisticated tools that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive to the company’s occupying the facility.
Doug Davenport, the program’s director, is expecting 20 to 30 companies to cycle through the Center over the course of a year. The relatively short stay of these companies is meant to keep their costs low while they simultaneously develop prototypes and pitch their technology to potential partners. It is during this in-between period that many startups fail, something that Davenport hopes will be prevented by providing this space for them.
The Environmental Innovation Center also contains a branch of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, a store that sells refurbished and reclaimed building materials. ReStore provides a perfect venue for diverting both household and construction debris from ending up in one of San Jose’s dumpsters. And patrons who visit the store can also drop off their hazardous waste such as batteries, paints, and oils at the Center’s hazardous waste disposal facility.