A sense of civic pride and community permeates the newly built Samuel Hadley Public Services Building — a fitting atmosphere for the birthplace of American liberty.

The facility's name honors one of the nation's first patriots, a Lexington, Mass., native (and minuteman) who died at the Battle of Lexington fighting for independence from England. Even the town's public works director is a living nod to local history; as a seventh-generation descendant of Samuel Hadley, William Hadley is carrying on a family tradition of public service.

But don't expect this utilitarian building to look like a quaint historical monument. It was built for the future: to take the next step toward sustainable municipal design. Since its August 2009 opening, it's helped the public works department operate much more safely and less expensively than its centuries-spanning predecessor.

Hadley believes that by setting an example, the facility raises public awareness of the need to manage limited local and national natural resources.

Home to the departments of public works and public facilities, the 9.6-acre campus provides numerous examples of conservation techniques: a rain garden shows how to use rainwater and plants to create a verdant landscape; the front green, which long ago was the town's nursery, takes on the feel of a small arboretum, with educational signs explaining the benefits of planting native species; bio-basins, constructed wetlands, and porous pavement illustrate stormwater management concepts.

Perhaps most significantly for residents, offices wrap around the lobby on both floors — a purposeful and symbolic design element to make residents visibly aware that the building's inhabitants are easily accessible and there to serve them.

TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW

In 1929, Lexington bought an 1800s-era trolley barn from the Middlesex and Boston Railway and converted it into a public works building. Other than an addition in 1966, no major upgrades had been made to the facility since then.

“The building was unsafe, unhealthy, and inefficient,” says Janet Slemenda, principal for HKT Architects Inc.

A study by a structural engineer in 1990, for example, found that the vehicle storage area was structurally unsound. Though once useful for housing long trolley cars, the building was inadequate for today's vehicles; the wood-columned service bays were so narrow that everything had to be moved before a vehicle parked in the back of the garage could get out. Several garage doors were too short to provide sufficient access for larger vehicles.