Construction is complete on the highly sustainable, $44 million Los Angeles Harbor College Sciences Complex, which may revolutionize the way green structures are built at higher education facilities. Targeted for LEED Platinum certification, the design by HGA Architects & Engineers includes a comprehensive net-zero energy plan. The three-story, 73,767-square-foot complex, which is located in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Wilmington, houses the physical science and life science programs for the college.
This complex was specifically designed and sited on the location to achieve net-zero energy with both photovoltaic (PV) on the building and campus PV systems. HGA’s design incorporates rainwater management, water usage reduction, as well as significant energy self-generation from solar panels, among other methods. The firm expects it to become a model for a holistic approach to sustainability in the higher education world.
The complex consists of two L-shaped, steel-frame structures — a three-story east wing housing laboratories and a two-story west wing with lecture halls, classrooms, and offices. Both wings are connected via bridges over a walkway. The structures also include four, 120-seat lecture halls, administrative offices, an outdoor classroom, and a science court.
HGA said it used science itself as a model for the design. As a result, designers were able to focus on a number of sustainable strategies, including a restorative design incorporating natural ventilation, abundant daylight, and connections to the outdoors to help unburden the building of energy loads. This allowed the firm to target LEED platinum designation.
The building uses about 43 percent less energy than baseline models and produces about 26 percent of its own electricity from solar panels mounted on the building, with additional solar power provided from the campus solar panel system. The building-mounted solar panels are estimated to produce approximately 344,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which will vary based on conditions. Combining all sources of energy generation and energy conservation, annual energy cost savings could be approximately $30,000 to $110,000, depending on energy prices, weather, and use. This equates to about 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide avoided per year, helping offset a portion of the building’s natural gas use. If operated according to plan, this building can be net-zero energy and even carbon neutral under certain conditions.
In addition, the building water use is estimated to be 54 percent lower than baseline, and landscape water use is estimated to be 60 percent less than baseline. The building has equipment installed that will allow it to use zero potable water for landscape irrigation when the future community reclaimed water line is installed. The 95,400-gallon water detention basin will route stormwater overflow to a pond area on the south side of campus for natural filtering before the water is discharged to the surrounding area.
The design goes beyond LEED Platinum and also incorporates a comprehensive plan for a highly sustainable design for a science lab building. HGA’s design is influenced by bio-mimicry. The design emulates nature’s patterns by including open spaces that give form and massing shaped by a response to wind, water, and sun. Advanced controls and sensors help make the building a “living system.”
Building systems are linked for 100 percent active control, so building sensors can read the sunlight and determine if artificial lighting is needed. The building’s lecture halls are sunken into the earth, allowing for thermal massing to reduce cooling loads. Materials are arranged on the façade based on a DNA pattern, and the exterior paint mimics the natural water and dirt repellent properties of a Lotus leaf.
The sustainable design incorporates the traditional brick seen in other campus buildings for durability, while corrugated metal, energy-efficient glass, and PV panels create a modern definition for the upper levels. By keeping the interiors bright and using reclaimed and highly sustainable materials, the classrooms and hallways create an environment conducive to a learning atmosphere.
The design incorporates three times the LEED minimum for recycled content and two times the LEED minimum for local materials. Most of the wood is from certified sustainable forests and nearly all of the construction waste (98.4 percent) has been recycled, thereby diverting thousands of tons of material from landfills, supporting a closed loop for material production.
In addition to James Matson, AIA, the principal on the project, the HGA architectural team includes Satoshi Teshima, AIA, LEED AP, senior project designer; Patrick Thibaudeau, CSI, CCS, LEED AP, sustainable design leader; Kevin Donaghey, LEED AP, project manager; Eric Chang, LEED AP, project coordinator; and Sing-Sing Lee, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP, designer. HGA is working in collaboration with Pinner Construction, the design-build contractor. Arcadis served as the construction manager and program manager.
Information provided by HGA Architects & Engineers (www.hga.com), an integrated architecture, engineering, and planning firm.