Press Release: 10.15.2015

Let the Light Shine In

New Solar Energy Research Lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was built to support the most advanced research methods in the solar energy field.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Earlier this summer, McCarthy’s partners in Northern California finalized construction of a new Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Employees of Berkeley Lab, McCarthy, the project architect SmithGroup JJR, and visiting dignitaries gathered for a ribbon-cutting and grand opening event commemorating the facility’s completion and the unveiling of its new name Chu Hall after former Berkeley Lab Director and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

The three-story, nearly 40,000-square-foot facility will provide Berkeley Lab with laboratories, offices and interactive spaces devoted to researching and developing transportation fuels from sunlight using nanoscale photovoltaic and electrochemical solar energy systems. The building houses Berkeley Lab’s programs in the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a Department of Energy initiative led by the California Institute of Technology in which Berkeley Lab is a major partner.

“Our project team adopted a collaborative mindset, innovative construction methods, and advanced Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology to achieve the unique design and sustainability goals of this project,” explained Rich Henry, president of McCarthy’s Northern Pacific Division. “This amazing new facility will enhance the capabilities of Berkeley Lab’s world-class researchers and enable a significant boost to the study of artificial solar fuels. Chu Hall serves as a great example of using schedule-driven, client-focused building solutions to create a state-of-the-art research facility.”

Chu Hall has the infrastructure to support the most advanced research methods in the solar energy field. The building team implemented a design that will support the team culture of each lab while providing work space tailored to the specific work of JCAP researchers, scientists and engineers. Specialized spaces include enhanced floor slab design to reduce any potential vibrations, ensuring precision with research measurement; large reconfigurable lab space that can be easily adapted to evolving science and technology; and dedicated synthetic spaces with ample high-quality filtration fume hoods. Chu Hall will house approximately 100 researchers in the JCAP project as well as the Kavli Energy Nano Sciences Institute, a program engaging researchers from Berkeley Lab and the University of California, Berkeley.

The building is comprised of renewable or recyclable materials, features a “green roof,” and optimizes energy efficiency by utilizing chilled water coils at the zone level. The sustainable design will reduce water usage by 35 percent through water-efficient landscaping and innovative wastewater technologies. The facility’s exterior skin consists of aluminum composite metal panels, curtain wall and architectural concrete. Chu Hall is aiming for LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Added Henry, “Located on a hillside on the Berkeley Lab campus with limited space, the project site required precise coordination from the construction team, as well as a the highest level of green building practices to match Chu Hall’s purpose of studying solar fuels. It was exciting to celebrate the completion of a hub that will provide technologically advanced and flexible space for this critical area of scientific research.”

The completion of Chu Hall marks another milestone in McCarthy’s history of building educational research facilities in Berkeley; two of which were constructed on the University of California, Berkeley campus, including the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences and Stanley Hall, the University’s biosciences and bioengineering facility.

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