Press Release: 08.07.2013

Countdown to Zero

J. Craig Venter Institute
La Jolla, California

With completion of the new J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) building in November, San Diego County will be home to the most environmentally friendly and only net-zero energy biological laboratory in the world. This new facility will enable the Institute to advance its goals in genomic research and policy while mirroring its core values.

In April, McCarthy topped off the last concrete pour for the three-story, 45,000-square-foot laboratory facility, located on a 1.75-acre coastal site within the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus. The location of the facility, on land leased from UCSD at the Scripps Upper Mesa, was chosen for its proximity to and potential for collaboration with the many renowned academic research centers in the La Jolla area.

"JCVI’s genomic research focuses on both human health and environmental sustainability," said Bob Friedman, J. Craig Venter Institute COO and director of the California campus. "When we started to design the building, we knew we wanted it to be highly energy efficient, enough so that, combined with on-site renewable generation, we could truly minimize our carbon emissions to the atmosphere.”

Accordingly, the $39 million facility was designed to achieve net-zero energy use. The power generated annually by photovoltaic panels within the building’s footprint will equal the amount of electricity the facility consumes in a year. Numerous energy efficiency measures are incorporated throughout the building systems, including an ultra-efficient heating and cooling system using thermal energy storage tanks, advanced building control technologies, operable windows, efficient lighting, and reduced internal plug loads wherever possible. 

The new J. Craig Venter Institute will be one building consisting of a single-story, 12,605-square-foot laboratory wing; a three-story, 28,600-square-foot office wing; a 3,560-square-foot loading dock area; and a partially below-grade parking garage. The laboratory and office wings will sit atop the roof/podium deck of the parking garage.

Designed by the Los Angeles office of ZGF Architects, the building features unusual geometry with varying angles, together with full-height shear walls and architecturally exposed concrete. Other details include cedar wood siding, a wood window curtain wall system, and interior wood flooring.

McCarthy self-performed all the concrete work, including the concrete walls, columns, footings, slab on grade, slabs on metal deck and podium deck. The architectural shear walls utilize 30 percent fly ash and Type III cement that lends to its aesthetic appeal.

“The look and quality of the architectural concrete was intrinsic to the design integrity,” said McCarthy Senior Project Manager Nate Ray. “We engaged the same concrete specialist who oversaw work on the nearby Salk Institute and the same ZGF design team we worked with on the Soka University project to ensure this goal was met.”

Given the building’s location in semi-arid San Diego, the project team has pursued aggressive water conservation. Rainwater will be collected and stored in two giant underground cisterns with a total capacity of approximately 90,000 gallons. The water will then be filtered and reused 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 help to keep costs down. The project team is targeting LEED Platinum Certification.

“McCarthy was brought in early to perform preconstruction on this project with the purpose of lowering construction costs while still allowing the client to target LEED Platinum status,” said McCarthy Project Director Craig Swenson. “This target value design approach is enabling us to maintain the integrity of the highly sustainable design while also making the budget work.”

High performance teaming has played a critical role in keeping the project on schedule toward its planned November completion date. The Realignment Group, McCarthy’s partner firm, has facilitated regular sessions between project team members to help eliminate waste, create team collaboration, and keep all members focused on a successful project outcome.

Advanced technology is playing a key role in this project as well. The project team is utilizing BIM, Navisworks®, and Bluebeam® for the electrical plan room, as well as FTP sites allowing the team to be paperless throughout the LEED certification process.

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

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