McCarthy Completes Construction of J. Craig Venter Institute’s Landmark Net-Zero-Energy Genomic Laboratory in La Jolla

McCarthy Completes Construction of J. Craig Venter Institute’s Landmark Net-Zero-Energy Genomic Laboratory in La Jolla

Feb 22, 2014  Energy 

McCarthy Completes Construction of J. Craig Venter Institute’s Landmark Net-Zero-Energy Genomic Laboratory in La Jolla
(Photo by: McCarthy)

Designed as one of the most sustainable research facilities in the world, the building is the new home for Venter Institute scientists and staff working to advance genomics

Bringing to life what is sure to become one of San Diego’s most iconic buildings, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. has completed construction for the new J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), La Jolla, located on a 1.75-acre scenic site at 4120 Torrey Pines Road on the University of California, San Diego, (UCSD) campus.

Designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF), the three-story, 45,000-square-foot building is an apt tribute to its prominent, coastal location, with its long, slender shape. Exposed architectural concrete panels, Spanish cedar wood siding, a wood-framed window curtain wall and storefront system, metal panels, and an expansive photovoltaic array give this building its signature identity.

The net-zero-energy facility represents the most ambitious sustainably designed biological research laboratory project ever to be built and is integral to JCVI’s quest to perform the science needed to solve critical environmental and human health challenges. The landmark building has been built to earn LEED Platinum Certification.

“Our new facility was built not only to advance genomic research, but to showcase how science can be compatible with the best of environmentally sustainable practices,” said JCVI Founder and CEO J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. “Construction completion of this remarkable building signifies the fulfillment of a long-time dream to return to the UCSD campus where I began my research career and collaborate with other scientists in the region to find solutions to our most pressing social issues.”

The new JCVI, La Jolla, currently has about 90 employees but is designed to house approximately 125 scientists and staff. The JCVI teams are focused on a variety of genomic research areas including continued work in synthetic biology; sampling and analysis of the world’s oceans, fresh water and soils to better understand the microbes living in these environments; and new analysis on the human genome in the hopes of discovering new insights into disease prevention and treatment. The location of the facility, on land leased from UCSD, was chosen for its proximity to and potential for collaboration with the many renowned academic research centers in the La Jolla area.

The new JCVI facility comprises a three-story, 28,600-square-foot office wing and a single-story, 12,605-square-foot laboratory wing. The laboratory and office wings are perched atop the roof/podium deck of the partially below-grade parking garage.

Solid-core cedar wood frames the windows — some 40-feet high — and bamboo flooring adorns the lobbies and interactive areas. Large conference rooms are equipped with high-tech systems to facilitate video conferencing and collaboration with numerous global collaborators.  The west end of the third floor provides myriad social spaces, complete with a cafeteria and small kitchen for staff, and a private conference room dedicated to Dr. J. Robert and Betty J. Beyster, who in April 2013 donated $2.5 million to JCVI.

The light-filled laboratories have 14-foot-high ceilings, with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides.  A catwalk above the labs enables easy servicing of mechanical systems without disturbing the scientists working below. Energy and water usage is carefully monitored.

The concrete walls, columns, footings, slab on grade, slabs on metal deck, and podium deck utilize 30 percent fly ash, which contributes to the LEED credits in the category of Recycled Content. For optimum aesthetic appeal, the exposed architectural walls and columns use Type III cement and feature outward ribs separating each panel. Concrete cast-in-place stairways further add to the clean, modern look of the building. McCarthy self-performed all the concrete work, drawing on the expertise of the same concrete specialist who oversaw work on the Salk Institute for Biological Studies East Building Addition, which McCarthy completed in 1995.

To meet the client’s goal of creating the most sustainable laboratory in the world, the facility incorporates high performance architecture, low-energy-use systems, water conservation strategies and onsite renewable power generation. The building massing and envelope are designed to maximize the use of daylight while reducing overall building energy use. Being net-zero for electrical energy, the building will produce as much electricity on-site as it consumes annually. This is made possible by integrating numerous energy efficiency measures throughout the building systems and using advanced building technologies such as a Lutron lighting control system that senses when and how much light is needed by occupants at any given time of day. The building also incorporates operable windows.

On-site renewable energy is generated through the sizeable photovoltaic roof. The project team also pursued aggressive water conservation. Rainwater and condensation will be collected and stored in giant underground cisterns with a total capacity of 90,000 gallons. The water will then be filtered and used for operation of cooling towers, toilet flushing and site irrigation. About two-thirds of the building’s water use will be supplied by rainwater.

Other sustainable design strategies include recycled content, natural ventilation and passive cooling, low-water landscaping, high-efficiency plumbing, sustainably harvested wood, and use of regional materials.

“Target value design played the most critical role in the overall planning and coordination of this project,” said McCarthy Project Director Craig Swenson. “McCarthy was brought in early to perform preconstruction with the goal of significantly lowering the initial estimated construction costs while still allowing the client to achieve LEED Platinum status. This target value design approach enabled us to maintain the integrity of the highly sustainable design while also making the budget work for the client.”

Swenson said that target value design also allowed the project team to give adequate time and thought to such items as wood procurement, which was done a year in advance. 

Advanced technology additionally played a key role. The project team utilized Building Information Modeling, Navis Works, and Bluebeam for the electronic plan room, which McCarthy personnel were tasked to manage as one of many ways of keeping project costs in check.

KPFF Consulting Engineers served as the structural and civil engineer; Integral Group was the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineer; Jacobs Consultancy was the laboratory planner; Andropogon Associates and David Reed were the landscape architects; SC Engineers designed the building controls; David Nelson & Associates was the lighting design consultant; and Sustainable SoCal served as the construction manager.

Via McCarthy
Image,video ©: Stephen Whalen Photography, McCarthy