Nobu Restaurant – Malibu, California
Modular Wetlands System Linear – Commercial & Parking Lot Application
“Billionaires, Beaches & Biofilters?”


Set directly on the sand of California’s most high profile and famous beach, Nobu has become a model for contemporary restaurant design, service, and cuisine that lives up to its demanding relationship with the sea. Although Nobu is now an operating success, the developers of Malibu California’s marquee restaurant had some unique challenges that needed both subtle and productive solutions. They responded with an award-winning architectural space and a dynamic stormwater solution saving millions while protecting the very habitat that features and supports them, the Pacific Ocean.

Jay Weston from Restaurant Newsletter writes, “The design of the noted Japanese and sushi restaurant is inspired by Malibu’s panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding bluffs. Complementing the innovative Japanese cuisine served within, Nobu Malibu’s design takes inspirations from traditional Japanese styles…(while) intimate dining nooks and continuous view corridors reinforce the linearity and connection to the outdoors”.


Nobu is set on some of the most valuable square footage in the world and maximizing space and efficiency was a top priority. Design within the building envelope, parking lot, landscaping, and community areas, is a model of Japanese Shibui, a growing theme of Malibu design expressing aesthetically simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.

Located in Malibu, the Nobu Malibu architect “Studio PCH” had an intimate understanding of the expectations of the resident population, tourists, and culture. As Nobu’s lead design team, Studio PCH knew the invaluable role and impression bore by the streetscape. It must be a tightly packaged space of both function and beauty. The Nobu streetscape repeats the theme of Shibui and enhances the idea of a standard landscape median with the integration of the Modular Wetlands System Linear (MWS Linear). Accredited with Washington State’s Department of Ecology approval, the MWS Linear is a stormwater bio-filter uniquely designed to replicate natural processes to remove a variety of pollutants from stormwater runoff. Some of those pollutants include fine Total Suspended Solids (TSS), bacteria, oils & grease, heavy metals and harmful nutrients like nitrate and phosphorus – that are known to overwhelm oxygen levels and devastate fish populations. The MWS Linear is pre-fabricated for cost-effective installation, and it incorporates screening, hydrodynamic separation, sorbtive media filtration, and bioretention into a single system.

“Clean water is everyone’s business. Protecting water quality and ensuring all projects comply with regulations established to prevent environmental degradation are top priorities for the City of Malibu. Studies have shown that urban and storm water runoff is the leading contributor of pollutants to waterways. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that nationwide, storm water is a leading source of water pollution. Storm water and urban runoff carry pollutants including oil, dirt/sediment, animal waste containing bacteria, and chemicals such as pesticides, and fertilizers directly to our local streams and Santa Monica Bay, where they can degrade water quality.”
The City of Malibu, Clean Water Team.


In addition, this is “Billionaire’s Beach” and the cost per square foot of beach front starts at an eye-opening $200,000! If you calculate the value of the Nobu parking lot alone, the real estate value is a staggering 30 million dollars¹. When an average parking space has a ticket price of $500,000 it is easy to see how critical land conservation becomes. While basic non-proprietary bioretention systems occupy an average of 1,795 square feet of space (per impervious acre), the MWS Linear is submerged and takes up a mere 63 square feet. In Malibu-money that is a $1.7 million dollar difference, not including restaurant-guest revenue attached to each individual parking space. Conservatively the MWS Linear saved 8.0 parking spots and after that figure is multiplied by the $320,000 of revenue attached to each parking space the bottom line is a whopping $2.56 million dollars in saved revenue. Land-use efficiency is not the only budget-benefiting characteristic of the MWS Linear. Traditional bioretention systems are heavily weighted when it comes to installation and maintenance. Their investment for excavation and installation reaches over $52,000 but a turn-key MWS Linear nearly cuts that in half at $29,755.

In one year over 215 pounds of trash, foliage, and sediment are removed from the MWS Linear housed at Nobu Malibu, contaminants that could otherwise reach Carbon Beach. Instead dry-weather run off and stormwater from Nobu’s 28,659 square feet of impermeable surface area – the 60 parking spots collecting leaking oil, gasoline, fluids, and trash left behind by an estimated 80,000 cars a year – are being collected, treated, and released into an underground drain field. Other Santa Monica Bay cities like Palos Verdes, Marina Del Rey, Westminster, Hollywood, Torrance, and Manhattan Beach are already using MWS Linear and in all collecting about 1500 to 2000 pounds of contaminants (a year) that would otherwise find their way into Los Angeles canals, rivers, and eventually the ocean.

Modular Wetlands Installation – Nobu, Malibu

Nobu was recently the Jury Winner of an American Institute of Architects Restaurant Design Award. It was called a “100-year-restaurant – a fantastic building that will last forever.” The high-profile restaurant development is just as much a product of its proximity to the Pacific as one of fine cuisine, and is now an institution of style, Hollywood glamour, and innovation. The success of the design and interrelationships is a model “development-ecosystem” that is aesthetically and biologically protecting its exceptional environment.