This world-class science research facility represents a site-specific approach to sustainable design, with architectural features that set a local benchmark for energy efficiency and connect scientists to the environment they are so dedicated to preserving. Challenged to relocate an existing facility threatened by coastal erosion, the team designed a stunning new research environment that appears to grow from the surrounding bluffs. The architecture reacts to the topography of La Jolla Canyon, utilizing massing anomalies to create outdoor gathering spaces, rooftop terraces, and courtyards that reinterpret the beloved “courtyard culture” of NOAA’s former facility.
The 124,000 square foot building was inserted into a steep contour to maintain ocean views from the road above and efficiently accommodate a complex program of offices, laboratories, conference rooms, parking, a library, and a 528,000 gallon ocean technology development tank – the largest of its kind in the world. Through its siting, materiality and use of green space, the five-story building never appears larger than three stories from the exterior or to the scientists who work there, fostering a feeling of scientific community.
For a building dedicated to marine ecosystem health, sustainable design was critical. However, laboratories consume about five times more energy per square foot than a typical office building. To offset this, the LEED Gold Certified building has narrow floor plates that permit daylight to permeate the spaces, fan-assisted natural ventilation, and high-efficiency equipment and lighting. The green roof features a variety of native species, including coastal chaparral and sage. Solar shading on the west- and south-facing windows contribute to reducing the building’s cooling loads to 69% less than that required by ASHRAE 90.1-2004 standard. A large photovoltaic array on the roof offsets 7% of the building's energy needs: equivalent to the energy that would power 40 typical houses in the region. Altogether, these features reduce projected energy use by 33% compared to similar buildings.
Sarah Mesnick, Marine Mammal Ecologist/Science Liaison at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center highlights another important benefit, “Our staff is thriving with the combination of fresh air and natural light in their offices, as well as the open spaces which promote interaction, creating both a wonderfully healthy and scientifically productive place to work.”