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When the building switched users mid-stride, one challenge was to find room for a CT scan lab, seen here. Image: Michael O’Callahan
 
  

With limited campus space and funds, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) frequently repurposes existing facilities. When Building 74 was slated for seismic retrofitting, it was an opportunity to upgrade the 50-year-old lab and office building to meet modern needs and reconfigure a facility that suffered from a lack of common space and clear circulation. In this article we will discuss how the design team was able to modernize Building 74 to become LBNL’s first LEED Platinum-certified facility.

Situated in the Strawberry Creek area of the campus, Building 74 was constructed in increments over three decades in response to changing research agendas and techniques. Given limited funds and requirements for a structural seismic upgrade in the context of an ambitious modernization program, design strategies needed to be responsive to mission needs while bringing about much needed upgrades.

The physical reorganization of the building had to be clearly redefined to co-locate lab and office functions so collaboration was encouraged without sacrificing efficiency. An early decision was made to consolidate multiple mechanical rooms in different parts of the building into one central mechanical room, recapturing space for research use. One of the mechanical rooms became a hydrogeology lab. Office space was also consolidated, and shared instrumentation and lab support spaces were created. Overall, the project realized space efficiencies of over 60%.

Energy-efficiency improvements for the building were designed to maximize utility while conserving energy. Three rooftop direct-expansion (DX) mechanical units were located to “stack” over the reconfigured spaces within the building, with two units serving labs and one unit serving the offices. Solar hot water heating supplies up to 30% of the building’s domestic hot water. Occupancy sensors, coupled with daylighting and efficient light fixtures, completed the energy strategy. Energy modelling predicted 42% improvements over the ASHRAE 90.1 2004 baseline. Actual measured energy savings for the building post-construction versus pre-construction exceeded 50%.

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The building’s new configuration allows for flexible labs with daylight access, including the open lab seen here. Image: Michael O’Callahan
 
  

During construction, the project’s end-users were changed from the Life Sciences Div. to the Earth Sciences Div. This required design changes be identified swiftly and implemented in the field to minimize “redo” work. Some lab research functions were deleted entirely, while new functionality was added due to the new end-users’ requirements. The building design’s flexibility for changing research needs was being tested before construction was even close to completion. The early planning decisions were resilient, allowing for virtually no changes to the planned new office spaces in the building, while the open labs experienced minor revisions. The larger changes occurred in lab support rooms, including the addition of a computed tomography (CT) lab and microscopy lab containing a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and atomic force microscope (AFM). The CT lab required new electrical service to be installed in the building to provide enough power.

The Building 74 project at LBNL yields many insights into challenges facing legacy lab buildings in campus environments. Clearly there’s a place for lab renovation projects despite the myriad of challenges associated with working within existing construction. One of those aspects in favor of renovation over new construction is financial. Early lifecycle analyses indicated savings for the project, and resulted in approximately $14 million saved over a similarly constructed new lab and office building of the same size. Also of note is the sustainable advantage of reuse which, for Building 74, allowed the project to achieve LEED credits a new building would not. These additional credits, coupled with the original goal of LEED Gold, ultimately led to the achievement of LEED Platinum certification. Building 74 is an exemplar of the potential in renovation projects for creating modern, efficient and cost-effective research labs for a venerable institution, such as LBNL.

Stan Lew, AIA, LEED AP, is an architect and principal with RMW Architecture & Interiors in San Francisco. He leads the firm’s environmental initiatives and focuses on technical and high-performance building projects. Richard Stanton, AIA, is a Project Director for facilities design and construction management at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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