Orange Coast College Recycling Center

Costa Mesa, California

Recycling is defined as the effective reuse of existing materials. Michael Baker International and Orange Coast College (OCC) joined forces to take this concept even further, tackling the question: Can a recycling center be recycled? The answer was yes. The OCC Recycling Center effectively reused existing materials, created a flourishing biosphere within a limited space and became the first such location in the world to earn LEED, SITES and TRUE Zero Waste Platinum certification.

Across a tightly compacted, three-acre site, Michael Baker and its onsite partners reconfigured available topography to design a working, living, sustainable system of natural plantings native to the area and able to support various indigenous wildlife, including a now-thriving Monarch butterfly population. In addition, the team drew on its roster of surface water hydrologists, landscape architects, restoration ecologists and environmental planners to consult on the bioswale design and using natural plantings to absorb stormwater runoff into the soil and reduce the amount being channeled into local sewage systems. Working hand-in-hand with OCC, campus involvement remained a top priority, with student interns assisting on the project, student artwork being featured at the center and faculty experts being consulted routinely.

The Michael Baker team assembled a core partnership among a handful of trailblazing engineers, the first anywhere to have been certified as SITES v2 professionals. This core consulted closely with Green Business Certification to achieve v2 status. The end result of these efforts is a Recycling Center that truly lives up to the ideals of recycling – and all while doing so at nearly $300,000 under budget and finishing on time.


“Understanding the site, opportunities and constraints, allowed us to increase sustainability components in every aspect of the project.  We were fortunate to be part of a great integrated design team led by an OCC project manager with a strong environmental passion and vision."

Anisha M.
Project Manager

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