LEED BD+C: New Construction v2.1
Betty Irene Moore Natural Sciences Building
LEED Platinum 2007
The below stakeholder perspectives address the following LEED credits:
SSc7.1, WEc1, WEc2, WEc3.1, WEc3.2, EQc8.1, EQc8.2, IDc1
Goals and motivations
What were the top overarching goals and objectives?
The major goal for this project was to work closely with the campus to showcase its commitment to sustainability, using the building as a demonstration and teaching tool. An integrated signage and building education program further promotes the relevance of science education, the history of women in science, and the sustainable design strategies employed throughout the building. The lobby features a two-story wall with animation displays depicting prominent women scientists and an interactive building dashboard that allows access to real-time energy performance data.
Photo by Cesar Rubio
The lobby’s atrium features a two-story wall with animation displays depicting prominent women scientists, and the lobby features an interactive building dashboard that allows access to real-time energy performance data.
Another goal was to include sustainable strategies that established strong relationships between the indoors and outside. One example was a connection to existing lab buildings through a series of exterior courtyards and views to the outside from every occupied space. Daylight is provided throughout the building and all non-lab spaces are naturally ventilated. Second-floor classrooms and labs have views through the canopy of a row of existing trees. The building's public spaces also function as a catalyst for impromptu interactions with students and faculty and inspire curiosity about science and the environment.
One additional goal of the project was to reduce water use both indoors and outside. In the central courtyard, a rainwater catchment system was designed in collaboration with a local artist to cycle water for building use. Labs are notoriously known as large users of water due to the laboratory sinks and washing requirements, so the rainwater catchment system was designed to drastically reduce water use. The design team reduced water use by approximately 60% with this system and other water efficiency strategies.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
Among the numerous sustainability features in The Betty Irene Moore Natural Sciences Building are photovoltaic arrays, rainwater catchment and re-use, extensive daylighting, under-floor air circulation, evaporative cooling, and radiant floor heating. Classrooms and labs are on single-loaded corridors, allowing daylight and views to the outside in all spaces. Operable windows allow users to fine-tune for comfort and provide abundant fresh air. The building's energy systems are tied together in the lobby's energy resource monitor, which displays the building's energy performance, comparing it to previous weeks and years.
An innovative rainwater catchment and reuse system reduces water use and, as an attractive sculptural element in the exterior courtyard, acts as an important educational opportunity for the generations of students who will occupy and learn in the building. Water is collected from the entire roof surface to feed the functioning rainwater catchment sculpture. The water collects in a head box at the parapet of the roof, which then directs it to cascade down a folly of bronze vessels to the top of a stainless steel storage tank. The water passes through a sub-micron filter and UV light before being delivered to the building for flushing toilets and trap seal primers. When rainwater is not available, the system is backed up by the city water system. The lobby has a niche dedicated to this equipment and water use data is available on the building dashboard. In combination with other water efficiency strategies - including dual-flush toilets, one-eighth-gallon-per-flush urinals, and sensor-controlled faucets - the rainwater catchment system accomplishes 61% water savings (338,400 gallons annually) which met the threshold for earning a point under innovation and design.
Photo by Cesar Rubio
The building has an innovative rainwater catchment and reuse system that both reduces indoor water use and, as an attractive sculptural element in the exterior courtyard, acts as an important educational opportunity for the generations of students who will occupy and learn in the building.
The Mills College campus has a rich landscape heritage and the landscape master plan features courtyards, gardens, and fountains boasting thousands of exotic trees and shrubs planted by one of the school's founders, Cyrus Mills. The building footprint was constrained to preserve a row of mature London planed trees and a rare dawn redwood of historic significance. The south campus greenhouses were left undisturbed and an existing, overgrown, botany courtyard was refurbished to uncover a collection of diverse plants for study in the surrounding biology and botany labs. In harmony with the existing palette and with a clear message about sustainability, the landscaping in the central courtyard and in front of the building features drought-tolerant, Bay Area native plants.
Building orientation was dictated by the landscape and connection to the original building complex. The narrow footprint allows the opportunity for natural daylight on at least two sides in most spaces. Mature trees protected during construction filter light and provide shade on the prominent and most exposed facade.
Photo by Cesar Rubio
Acting as the front door to the sciences and a kinetic beacon to the campus, the Betty Irene Moore Natural Sciences Building houses the departments of Physics and Chemistry, providing four new teaching labs, five classrooms, and centralized faculty offices.
Energy efficiency strategies
The temperate Oakland climate allowed for the use of energy-efficient indirect and direct evaporative cooling systems for space cooling in lieu of a more typical high-energy, compressor-based chilled water system. This cooling system also avoids the need for a chiller for backup or typical use. The office spaces use low-energy displacement ventilation, a cooling strategy that provides thermal comfort, good air quality, and very quiet operation with minimal fan energy use. The building envelope minimizes external heating and cooling loads with R19 batt insulation, an overall assembly of R12; and a metal roof with 6-inch rigid continuous insulation, an overall assembly of R44. The high-performance glazing prevents overheating in summer and heat loss in winter while allowing ample daylight into the building.
Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?
A clear validation of the College's intent to demonstrate its commitment to a sustainable future is surpassing the Title 24 requirements by 43.3% for building energy. The building performs 89% better than a typical Bay Area lab in terms of energy use. From the outset, a primary driver for this design was that it bring together the disparate disciplines of science under one roof and that it catalyze serendipitous interaction among faculty and students of different fields. The building accomplishes these goals with generous public areas and aesthetic and technological focal points that encourage thoughtful lingering and conversation. The lobby was specifically designed to be the "living room of the building" and is an open, inviting place due to wide stairs, open landings, and outside views from all circulation areas. Vibrant activity in the building is testament to design success.
Photo by Cesar Rubio
Second floor classrooms and labs have views through the canopy of a row of existing trees.
What one thing saved you or the project team the most time, money, or helped avoid an obstacle during the LEED process? What one thing cost you the most?
We saved time and money by hiring an architectural firm and mechanical engineer with in-house expertise designing sustainable buildings. One piece of advice for other project teams is to consider a contractor who has built a LEED building. It was the first time for our contractor and there was a learning curve, but they did a terrific job. One reason a contractor with LEED experience is valuable is that they understand that sustainability is not a layer applying to building design, but a way of thinking that permeates every project decision.
Our most effective strategy to avoid planning obstacles was forming a small core team with a faculty liaison and key constituents from the facilities and administration departments.
The College had a clear mandate to achieve LEED Silver or higher so the commitment was solid before the project started, preventing value engineering that could have cut green features.
We also saved money by taking advantage of rebates offered by local utilities. Mills College was aware of programs offered by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and contacted them directly to find out where they might be able to support the project. PG&E provided a rebate that enabled purchase of our photovoltaic panels, and it also contributed $50,000 toward a building management system that measures real-time energy use.
We were able to reach LEED Platinum due to a concerted effort to add educational features to the project. Working with local artists and exhibit designers, the College created a multi-media exhibit focusing on the history of women in science, a building resource monitor, a sculptural rainwater catchment system, and a chromatic light display using a skylight and dichroic glass. Going for these innovation points was not easy and did add some cost to the project, but we fulfilled a fundamental goal: that the building be used as a teaching tool and that it be interactive to engage students and expand their ideas about sustainability
The rainwater collection system proved to be a challenge because we wanted it to be both a decorative fountain and a water-saving device. We wanted to collect rainwater to offset municipal water use to flush toilets and to put this on display as a teaching tool. This turned out to be a fairly complex design project that involved our mechanical engineer, contractor, architect, and artists. We salvaged a stainless steel tank and retrofitted it to collect water from a sculptural water catchment system, then displayed the water filtration and sterilization in a small exhibit in the lobby. The system is also on a meter so we can track real-time use of city water versus rainwater.
Photo by EHDD
In combination with other water efficiency strategies incorporated in the lab design, the rainwater catchment system reduces water use in the building by approximately 60%.
If we were to do this again, we would make a much larger storage tank, possibly putting it underground. The fountain, although a nice feature, led to evaporation that offset water savings by using captured rainwater, so the pump has been turned off. The interactive building resource monitor has proven to be somewhat finicky and needs software updates, LED screen replacement, and ongoing maintenance. These hidden costs were not fully understood during the design phase of the project. We would most likely not install such a complex interactive device in the future, but would look for other ways to share building energy use with the users. I recommend that project teams look for creative ways to display their green engineering, but to be realistic about how much effort and cost it might entail and to include ongoing maintenance costs to keep the systems running.
What was the value of applying LEED to this project?
The design process was highly collaborative and inclusive. Including representatives from all stakeholder groups from the outset was vital. There were representatives from facilities, finance, administration, and of particular importance, the dean of the Chemistry department served as faculty liaison. This greatly facilitated effective communication with each group.
Photo by Cesar Rubio
Unique to this project is the use of art and technology to deliver the mission of the building, including the supersized periodic table of elements.
The willingness of facilities to be open-minded in pursuing strategies that were wholly new to them was critical, as was the ability of high-ranking administrators to see the bottom line benefits of the sustainable design features. The contractor was involved early and played a critical role. Having a long and vested relationship with the Mills campus and the contractor provided high-quality and timely feedback on constructability, often bringing new ideas to the table. This facilitated working with the architects and incorporating a sustainable agenda.
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