The proposed site for the University of California & Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Chu Hall, an alternative energy research facility focused on next-generation photovoltaic solutions such as artificial photosynthesis, presented SmithGroup designers with a significant challenge.
The crux was to design and deliver 39,000 square feet of research space—adhering to stringent vibration and light requirements—on a small site within a compact core of interactive research facilities, on a sloping hillside.
Technical solutions included an oversized slab for the first-floor plate, built partly into the hillside. Locating the nanoscience and precision measurement labs in this half-buried at-grade portion of the building shelters researchers and equipment from powerful sunlight and provides vibration control. Less sensitive wet labs occupy the top floor, while offices and common spaces between the two lab floors promote interaction and collaboration—a primary key to the success of the client’s mission.
Further complementing the program objective, the design focuses on energy efficiency. Renewable and recycled materials were incorporated throughout the facility, reducing the client’s ecological footprint while increasing self-reliance. A green roof and open plaza, which serves as a connection to nearby buildings, is landscaped with drought-resistant and native plant species.