UC Riverside School of Medicine Research Building

UC Riverside School of Medicine Research Building

Designed to attract faculty to its new School of Medicine, the Research Building at the University of California, Riverside, provides an open and flexible environment capable of accommodating a wide range of biomedical research. The compact, 3-story facility offers stunning views from all office and lab areas and is the keystone on an emerging Science Court. The site is highly constrained on all sides by Picnic Hill to the east, as well as existing roads and buildings.

The building design maximizes the aesthetic impact of the concrete structure, expressing the shear walls on the exterior and tying the structure to its physical setting. As brick is mandated by University standards, the walls are layered with a thin brick skin, held back from the edges to expose the thickness of concrete. An exterior stair and balcony are sheltered by 47-foot-high, single-wythe brick screen walls, laid in stacked bond panels and floated above the ground to accentuate their treatment as screen elements. The remaining exterior surfaces consist of continuous clerestory glazing at laboratory and office spaces, vertical view windows, ribbed metal panels, and night flush louvers at office areas.

Interior spaces expose the concrete structure wherever possible, using wood wall and ceiling elements to reinforce the spatial organization. The cylindrical form of the penthouse, visible at the roof, extends through the building to enclose service elements, the elevator shaft, and office support functions. The office areas are naturally ventilated and include 14-foot-high ceilings, overhead fans, and 9-foot sliding wood screens for sun control.

Perimeter laboratories are grouped into neighborhoods with adjoining support areas. The integration of chilled beams and reduced air changes allows the removal of most intervening doors, creating an unusually open environment and allowing researchers and materials to move easily from one place to another. The labs also feature 14-foot ceilings, optimizing a self-regulating daylighting system that combines clerestory glazing and an automated shade system. Mobile casework and overhead utility distribution allow lab users to quickly configure the space to suit changing research needs and equipment. Collectively, these features provide an open, adaptable, interactive, and highly sustainable research environment.


UC Riversides sustainability goals for its new School of Medicine Research Building were USGBC LEED Silver certification and energy efficiency. The design team sought to create the most energy-efficient laboratory building in the University of California system and meet the 2010 goal of the Architecture 2030 by reducing energy consumption by 60 or more below baseline levels. Since the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey CBECS does not have suitable data for laboratory facilities, the design team worked with Architecture 2030 to establish a baseline that utilized benchmarking data available through the Department of Energys Labs for the 21st Century program. Rather than using national benchmark projects, the design team elected to use a selection of projects normalized for use and climate, resulting in an annual site energy baseline of 300 Kbtu/sf. The 2010 goal was thus established at 120 Kbtu/sf, an extremely aggressive target for a laboratory building.

The design team encouraged the University to pursue the USGBC program of meeting certain LEED criteria on a campus basis rather than through individual building projects. This will result in lower documentation costs for future projects, and has created a framework for certain issues such as open space allocation that will guide future campus planning.

In addition to pursuing energy conservation, the design team strived to reduce water consumption, a particular priority in the arid southern California climate. Although rainwater harvesting was not feasible, the design team targeted irrigation and lab process water for conservation strategies. Irrigation has been eliminated in most areas and minimized in the remaining landscape through a high-efficiency drip system. Water is captured from the flush cycle of the laboratory deionized water system for reuse, a simple but rarely used opportunity. In addition, laboratory sterilization equipment was specified to minimize water use via optional features available from select manufacturers.

The design team pursued the following energy-reduction strategies:

Daylighting achieving a 2 daylight factor throughout perimeter spaces to minimize electric lighting
Dynamic control of motorized shades that responds to actual sky conditions
Night flush ventilation in office areas to pre-cool concrete mass and minimize mechanical cooling
Minimized laboratory ventilation rates to reduce fan energy and heating/cooling loads
Reduced cooling loads from laboratory equipment heat rejection based on actual measurement of comparable lab spaces
Use of active chilled beams for temperature control in lieu of low supply air temperatures
Oversizing of air handling units and main ductwork to minimize pressure drop

An innovative feature of the building is its extensive performance monitoring system. In addition to conforming with the requirements of the LEED Measurement Verification Credit EA5, numerous meters and sensors were installed to disaggregate loads and to compare actual measured values to predicted performance. This system isolates laboratory systems for comparison to benchmark data, and isolates four representative spaces for additional monitoring. This equipment, such as slab temperature sensors embedded in the concrete and BTU meters on the chilled beams in the laboratories, is providing valuable feedback to UC Riverside and the design team regarding operation of the facility while also informing future design work. The design team created an owners manual explaining the sustainability design features of the building and providing a reference for users regarding components e.g. ceiling fans, shade systems, wood shutters, lighting, natural ventilation louvers that are available for occupant control.

The building has recently been awarded LEED Gold certification, exceeding UC Riversides initial request for LEED Silver. The DOE-2 energy model indicates a projected annual site energy use of 128 Kbtu/sf, just shy of the Architecture 2030 target of 120 Kbtu/sf. The design team will continue to monitor the building performance as occupancy is completed to recalibrate the energy model and validate that the building and its systems are performing as expected. Additional commissioning and/or remedial work will be recommended to achieve optimal operation.


Project Type


3615A Canyon Crest Drive, Riverside, 92507,