How UC San Francisco Leads the Way on Green Laboratories

How UC San Francisco Leads the Way on Green Laboratories

UCSF's commitment to sustainability extends to minimizing the environmental impact of its laboratories, which consume significantly more energy per square foot than the average building due to the specialized equipment, such as laboratory fume hoods, minus eighty degrees freezers and other research equipment.

Despite the challenges of greening laboratories, though, UC has committed to build all new laboratories to be LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design new construction) Silver or better and all renovation projects over $5 million to be LEED-CI (commercial interior) certified.

LEED is the nation's preeminent sustainable design rating system for design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

According to Energy Design Resources, it's no easy undertaking to design a high-performance laboratory building that uses very little energy while meeting comfort, health, safety and programmatic requirements. Laboratory buildings typically have very energy intensive heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that operate 24 hours per day and use 100 percent interior exhaust and intake of outside air.

In fact, they report that it is not uncommon for HVAC systems serving lab spaces to use from five to ten times more energy than HVAC systems serving office spaces.

Three New UCSF Green Laboratories

IRM-1UCSF, never one to shy away from a challenge, has recently opened not one, but three new green laboratories:

  • The renovation of the UCSF School of Dentistry Mesenchymal and Craniofacial Research Laboratory, on the 15th Floor of the Health Sciences East Research Tower (HSE-15) at the Parnassus campus recently received LEED-CI Gold certification. This project involved renovating an entire floor of the existing high-rise research tower. It is the first lab renovation on the UCSF campus to receive LEED Gold, proving that green laboratory retrofits are achievable without sacrificing schedule or budget.
  • The elegant and green Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building is the new headquarters of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF. Nestled against the steep slopes of Mount Sutro on the Parnassus campus, the new building is aiming for LEED-NC Gold. The building is comprised of 68,500 square feet, over two football fields long, and designed with communal break rooms to promote collaboration among researchers. It was completed and occupied in November.
  • UCSF's Cardiovascular Research Building (CVRB), designed by SmithGroup with Jim Jennings Architecture and constructed by Rudolph and Sletten, will allow 48 principal investigators to conduct bench-top research and translate findings directly into medical care in the same facility. The CVRB will improve the University's already distinguished program of cardiac research. CVRB is also aiming for LEED-NC Gold. It will be highlighted in a future piece.

These laboratory projects provided UCSF an opportunity to integrate cutting-edge energy and water efficient design and to implement sustainable operating practices, including:

  • Integration of water efficient devices and energy efficiency strategies;
  • Improved recycling programs during and post construction;
  • Use of low-emitting materials, including carpets, paints and adhesives;
  • Use of high-recycled content and recycled materials;
  • Over 75 percent of the demolition materials were reused and diverted from the landfill; and
  • Over 90 percent of spaces have daylight and views.

By using less energy and water, LEED certified labs save money, reduce greenhouse gas emission, and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

A Walk Through the New School of Dentistry Mesenchymal and Craniofacial Research Laboratory

Dentistry-2The $4.985 million renovation of the UCSF School of Dentistry Mesenchymal and Craniofacial Research Laboratory actually was completed two months ahead of schedule becoming the third UCSF laboratory to receive LEED-CI Gold certification.

"The idea of getting LEED certification for a laboratory is a big deal. Doing it in an existing building is a really big deal," explained Bonnie Blake-Drucker, FAIA, principal architect with BlakeDrucker Architects and lead on the recent renovation.

The entryway of the new floor at HSE-15 is light and airy, compared to some of the older labs. A hallmark of a green building is using access to natural light — not only does this reduce the need for lighting, therefore saving energy, it also enhances productivity and creates a healthier work environment. The labs have an expansive feel conducive to research work.

"People are more productive and happier when they can see outside," explained Blake-Drucker.

The floor plan consists of two large open labs with 28 benches separated by a core of common spaces for equipment, cold room, tissue labs, microscopy rooms and a shared histology core, as well as five principal investigator offices, with conference and break room areas.

The design integrates perimeter lighting controlled by photo cells — the lights only come on when they sense that it is dark out. Occupancy sensors automatically turn the bench lights on as you get close to a bench; the lights magically turn off shortly after you walk away. The lab integrated recycled materials, used 40 percent local materials (from within 500 miles), low VOC paints, has designated recycling bin areas and used no materials with urea -formaldehyde.

Behind the scenes, in the design and construction stages, a unique computer-based design model, known as building information modeling or BIM, helped the UCSF/AE/contractor team save time and money by combining the virtual construction model with principles of Lean Construction. "The Lean Constructions mantra is 'go slow to go fast,'" explained Blake-Drucker.

This "lean" approach takes the time upfront to get all the right information, to be efficient and effective and to reduce the typical construction waste. It allowed the plumbers, electricians and flooring team to collaborate together upfront, using a 3D computer model so clashes could be identified early and resolved. A similar process is being used for the design and construction of UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay.

"This was one of the most pleasant construction jobs I have been involved with, everyone knew what they were to do" shared Blake-Drucker.

Ray and Dagmar Regenerative Medicine Building: Elegant Design Meets Green Design

IRMSuspended on the steep hillside of UCSF's Parnassus campus, the new green Ray and Dagmar Regenerative Medicine Building supports 25 UCSF scientists and their teams to understand the basic biology of stem cells and to translate those discoveries into medical therapies for presently incurable diseases and debilitating injuries.

Utilizing the latest green design and construction tools, including BIM and Lean Construction, the design and construction phase took a total of two years, a remarkably short period for such a complex project.

On a challenging site, the New York designer Rafael Viñoly created a breathtaking building that exudes collaboration and interaction. The innovative split-level design addresses environmental and site concerns and allows for easy flow between the labs. The design was made a reality by a collaborative team and integrated process, which was envisioned and supported by UCSF and led by SmithGroup (Architect of Record) and DPR (contractor). The team identified sustainable strategies that pushed the building from LEED Silver to the Gold range.

IRM-3Aesthetic and sustainable principles are reflected in the building's design. Unique green features include: built-in recycling containers in strategic locations, more than 90 percent of areas have access to natural light, and a terraced, green roof that functions as open space for scientists and staff as well as providing additional roofing insulation. This reduces the heat island effect and reduces water pollution.

"The double stacking of the office over the labs, with adjacent break rooms and conference rooms, enhances cross-fertilization of ideas," explained Michael Toporkoff, associate director, Capital Programs, UCSF Capital Programs & Facilities Management.

The result is an award-winning building (American Institute of Architects/New York 2011 Design Award, American Institute of Architects/San Francisco 2010 Honor Award for Integrated Project Delivery and Design and Build Institute of America Western Pacific Region's 2010 Projects In Progress Award) that sets a high bar for all new green laboratory projects. The building is aiming for LEED-NC Gold and awaiting final certification.

During a tour of the building we asked a researcher how he liked working in a green building. He replied, "I certainly recycle more. There are bins all over the place."

Photos courtesy of UCSF.