UCSF Sustainability Stories

UCSF’s Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building Receives LEED Gold Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded UCSF’s new Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design new construction) Gold Certification last week.  LEED is the nation’s preeminent sustainable design rating system for design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.  To achieve LEED Gold on such a structurally complex building located on a challenging, sloped site is a significant accomplishment. 

UCSF’s commitment to sustainability extends to minimizing the environmental impact of its laboratories, which consume significantly more energy per square foot than the average building due to the specialized equipment, such as laboratory fume hoods, minus eighty degrees freezers and other research equipment.  According to Energy Design Resources, it’s no easy undertaking to design a high-performance laboratory building that uses very little energy while meeting comfort, health, safety and programmatic requirements. Laboratory buildings typically have very energy intensive heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that operate 24 hours per day and use 100 percent interior exhaust and intake of outside air.

Elegant Design Meets Green Design


Nestled against the steep slopes of Mount Sutro on the UCSF Parnassus campus, the elegant Ray and Dagmar Regenerative Medicine Building is the new headquarters of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research.  It is comprised of 68,500 square feet, over two football fields long, and designed with communal break rooms to promote collaboration among researchers.  Completed and occupied in November 2010, the building supports 25 UCSF scientists and their teams to understand the basic biology of stem cells and to translate those discoveries into medical therapies for presently incurable diseases and debilitating injuries.

On a challenging site, the New York designer Rafael Viñoly created a breathtaking building that exudes collaboration and interaction. The innovative split-level design addresses environmental and site concerns and allows for easy flow between the labs.  “The double stacking of the office over the labs, with adjacent break rooms and conference rooms, enhances cross-fertilization of ideas,” explained Michael Toporkoff, associate director, Capital Programs, UCSF Capital Programs & Facilities Management.

RMBThe design was made a reality by a collaborative team and integrated process, which was envisioned and supported by UCSF and led by SmithGroup (Architect of Record) and DPR (contractor).  The team identified sustainable strategies that pushed the building from LEED Silver to the Gold range.  Utilizing the latest green design and construction tools, including building information modeling or BIM and Lean Construction, the design and construction phase took a total of two years, a remarkably short period for such a complex project.

Sustainable principles are reflected in the building’s design which integrated the use of low-emitting materials, including carpets, paints and adhesives and high-recycled content and recycled materials.  Over 75 percent of the demolition materials were reused and diverted from the landfill.  Other unique green features include:  integration of water efficient devices and energy efficiency strategies, built-in recycling containers in strategic locations, more than 90 percent of areas have access to natural light, and a terraced, green roof that functions as open space for scientists and staff as well as providing additional roofing insulation.

By using less energy and water, the LEED certified lab will save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

The result is an award-winning building (American Institute of Architects/New York 2011 Design Award, American Institute of Architects/San Francisco 2010 Honor Award for Integrated Project Delivery and Design and Build Institute of America Western Pacific Region’s 2010 Projects In Progress Award) that sets a high bar for all new green laboratory projects.

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Story:  Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
Photos:  Roberto Yabot and Michael Toporkoff