Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources


Buford, GA


Architecture, Engineering, Interior Design, Commissioning, Landscape Architecture


2022 ASCE Georgia Section Project of Merit

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When Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources sought to develop an innovation center that would build on its history while making an even larger impact on the water industry as a whole, they turned to Gresham Smith. Our multimarket team of engineers, architects and designers delivered a one-of-a-kind facility that supports the County’s vision of creating a thriving ecosystem of water innovation that’s fueled by imagination, informed by research and empowered by pioneers.

square-foot global innovation hub
square feet of lab space
Lobby area of The Water Tower Global Innovation Hub featuring monumental stair

A One-Stop Shop for All Things Innovation

Located adjacent to the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center (WRC) in Gwinnett County, Georgia, The Water Tower will provide answers to a multitude of complex challenges facing the water industry through an integrated approach to applied research, technology innovation, workforce development and stakeholder engagement.

What truly makes this global innovation hub different is its access to multiple water sources—including water, wastewater, and stormwater assets and flows—along with access to leading industry experts and resources to help design, test and validate the latest technologies. The ability to create an active network for recruitment and training also puts the facility in a league of its own.

Researchers working in lab space at The Water Tower Global Innovation Hub

Testing, Testing – 1, 2, 3 Labs!

The facility’s first level features 2,460 square feet of laboratory space comprising an experimental lab, an analytical lab and a microbiology lab, along with support rooms for cold storage, laundry, glassware storage and cleaning.

The three lab rooms include both fixed and movable workspaces to provide flexibility in the use of the space, and will be used by visiting researchers and County staff to conduct experiments related to water and wastewater treatment technologies.

Man walking down corridor toward the lobby/pre-function area at The Water Tower Global Innovation Hub

A Bird’s-Eye View

The lobby/pre-function area features an enclosed monumental stair as well as a window that provides a direct line of sight into the experimental lab. Accented by informational graphics, the large window allows visitors to observe the work being conducted inside the lab.

Woman teaching class in smart classroom at The Water Tower Global Innovation Hub

Smart & Multifunctional

The first level of The Water Tower also includes smart classrooms as well as a multipurpose space for conferences, training and large group presentations that holds up to 120 occupants.

Adjacent to the building, a demonstration bay area will provide outdoor space for researchers and vendors wishing to evaluate their systems and perform applied research using pilot systems fed by the process flows from the F. Wayne Hill WRC. Fed by multiple streams, the demonstration bay will enable water treatment and monitoring experimentation.

People in The Water Tower Global Innovation Hub’s administration suite’s reception area

A Nod to History

The Water Tower is named after a pair of iconic water towers that once lived along I-85 and signaled you’d arrived in Gwinnett County declaring “Gwinnett is Great” and “Success Lives Here.” As you enter the administration suite’s reception area located on the second floor, wall graphics pay homage to the landmark towers.

Staff sitting in the break area at The Water Tower Global Innovation Hub

Fostering Collaboration

Featuring views of the surrounding campus site, the administration suite includes an open-office coworking suite replete with conference rooms, collaborative areas and huddle rooms.
Also on the second floor, a shared hub provides a break area for staff. Leased space on this floor will be made available to members of the water industry only who are seeking short-term office space, helping the nonprofit generate additional revenue. The building’s third level will also be available for lease to water-related business tenants.

Exterior plantings area at the Water Tower Global Innovation Hub

A Smart, Sustainable Site

Gresham Smith’s civil engineering team designed the site to sustainably manage stormwater by promoting infiltration and Low Impact Development to improve water quality. Additionally, they incorporated a boardwalk over a semi-aquatic planting area, an amphitheater, water feature, and bioretention ponds. The site work also supports a conveyance network, which brings various process streams from F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center to support bench-scale and pilot-scale studies.

Exterior view of The Water Tower Global Innovation Hub featuring lawn and fountain

A Place to Meet, Ideate & Grow

Completed in the spring of 2022, this new breed of innovation center is set to impact the future of clean water, giving a community of innovators a place to meet, ideate and grow, and helping both small- and medium-size utilities to become more progressive.