UCSF Sustainability Stories


Deborah Fleischer and Ana Toepel, Green Impact, August 2018


UCSF’S Smith Cardiovascular Research Building Featured at Greenerbuilder

In line with its robust sustainability goals, UCSF implements green building projects and practices so that its buildings and spaces will have less impact on the environment; all new UCSF buildings and labs must achieve a LEED rating of Silver or better. The Smith Cardiovascular Research Building (CVRB), completed in 2012, serves as an excellent example of UCSF’s commitment to green building.

LEED  stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The CVRB achieved LEED Gold, which is the second highest rating level in the LEED system. The building attains superlative building systems efficiencies through both its cutting-edge energy and water efficient design and its sustainable operating practices, resulting in noteworthy savings in terms of resource consumption and financial costs.

UCSF recently incorporated the new, state-of-the-art Arc online performance platform at the CVRB to track building performance over time and to enable incremental operational improvements. The Arc platform is a technology designed to allow building owners and operators to utilize building performance data to benchmark progress and to make informed decisions about building design and systems.




CVRB Tour at GreenerBuilder Conference August 1 

A tour of the CVRB was held in conjunction with the USGBC’s annual conference, GreenerBuilder, which took at UCSF on August 1. The tour was led by LEED AP and architect Irene Monis from SmithGroupJJR, the firm that designed the building. It allowed participants to experience a LEED Gold research building designed to promote impactful scientific discovery while lessening its burdens on the environment.

Tour Highlights:

  • The building’s key sustainability features;
  • Building Manager, Darrick Lo, reviewed the CVRB’s green lab and energy efficiency best practices and monitoring based commissioning which were implemented after LEED certification
  • Discussion surrounding UCSF’s launch of the Arc platform to measure the building’s sustainability improvements and benchmark its performance against itself and other projects around it.  You can keep an eye out for information from Arc to be posted on the digital display by the elevator in the lobby.

In addition to the tour, Mary Phillips, UCSF Architect, Interior Design & Standards, spoke about healthy buildings and health care at the conference.

CVRB:  Cutting Edge Research and LEED Gold Building  

Founded in 1958,  the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI)  at UCSF is committed to addressing the increased worldwide need for dedicated and comprehensive research into heart and vascular disease.  SmithGroupJJR  designed the new home for the institute to accommodate 48 principal investigators and their teams to conduct bench-top research and translate findings directly into patient care in the same facility,  which involved the inclusion of an outpatient clinic.  The building co-located for the first time clinical and bench-top research under one roof,  offering a multitude of opportunities for collaboration between all the physicians and scientists occupying it.  Lab and research spaces were also designed to foster communication throughout the building and create a collaborative culture.  The original goal of the design was to achieve LEED Silver,  required by UC policy for all new construction,  but UCSF challenged the team to achieve LEED Gold instead.  According to Irene Monis,  Principal of SmithGroupJJR,  an innovative,  collaborative process between the contractor and the architect allowed for the integration of more sustainability features than were originally planned.  Monis also shared that ͞it was an integrated whole-building design process that enabled the creation of both environmental comfort in the building and the achievement of energy savings.

Some of the design features that allow the LEED Gold CVRB to achieve superlative building systems efficiency are:

  • Separation of mechanical systems for labs,  offices,  and vivarium;
  • High use of recycled and locally produced finishing materials;
  • Maximized natural light and use of operable windows;
  • Use of solar shading; 
  • Building Management System controlling HVAC and Lighting Systems;  and
  • Low water-use native planting,  innovative irrigation systems,  and permeable paving in the courtyard and on the green roof.

Many strategies were employed to reduce the building’s impact on the environment. In the construction of the building,  efforts were taken to avoid waste at the job site,  with 78%  of the waste generated being diverted from the landfill.  The building was built with 25%  recycled material,  and 70%  of the wood products used were Forest Stewardship Council certified.  Low-flow plumbing fixtures were installed,  the plaza and walkways were planted with trees,  and a combination of strategies was used to draw daylight into the building while keeping heat out.  An innovative rainwater catchment system was created below the porous surface of the courtyard,  allowing water to seep down into the water table rather than be wasted as runoff.  Additionally,  the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories was consulted to implement sustainability features that are specific to laboratories. 

Due to its sustainability features,  the CVRB achieves the following results:

  • Irrigation water use is reduced by 72%;
  • Total building water consumption is reduced by 45%;
  • Energy costs are reduced by 25%;  and
  • 52%  of the surrounding landscape is restored to open area with native plants.

And,  as of 2017,  69%  of CVRB’s total electricity is supplied by zero carbon sources,  adding to the building’s overall sustainability. 

Energy Efficiency and Green Lab Best Practices 

In addition to the green features of the building,  the tour will highlight some of the facilities and behavioral programs that UCSF has piloted to reduce its energy use,  including Shut the Sash and Adopt-A-Spot.  According to Darrick Lo,  CVRB Facilities Manager,  the following are some of the programs the building has participated in to further energy efficiency efforts: 

Monitoring-based Commissioning: In partnership with PG&E, building operators work to optimized mechanical systems of the building to operate as energy efficient as possible.  Once optimized, operators strive to maintain maximum efficiency. 

Adopt-A-Spot Competition:  Adopt a spot is a 4-week behavior change competition originally sponsored by PG&E and now run by UCSF Sustainability Fellows.  It encourages lab users to turn off lab appliances,  lighting and bench-top equipment when not in use,  as well as shut fume hood sashes.  In 2016,  efforts by building participants reduced energy consumption by 9%  and avoided over 69 metric tons of CO2 emissions.  If best practices continue to be implemented the projected estimated annual savings is $22,715 in costs and 98,330kWh in energy. 

Fume Hood Competition: Each year there is also a Fume Hood Competition between the CVRB and Byers Hall,  which encourages variable air volume hood users to ͞shut their sash͟ when not in use.  This practice saves energy and money by lowering fume hood airflow.  This year the CVRB helped achieve a 10%  CFM reduction,  resulting in $3,048 in annual cost savings.  Together both buildings achieved a total savings of $5,459. 

LivingGreen Certification:  The Office of Sustainability facilitates a LivingGreen certification program that encourages labs to reduce energy,  waste,  and water use within their lab spaces.  The building’s DeGrado lab has been certified at the bronze level and excels at keeping their VAV fume hood sashes closed and freezers properly maintained.  They also run their glasswashers and autoclaves only when full;  eliminate inefficient,  outdated equipment;  and have participated in a waste-reduction training hosted by the Facilities Recycling Program.  Monitoring Based Commissioning Project:  In 2017 a Monitoring Based Commissioning Project (MBCx)  was completed,  resulting in PG&E-verified energy savings of 519,358 kWh and 161,486 therms annually.  That equates to about $239,000 in savings per year.  The MBCx project involved updating control sequences to optimize energy use in the building’s heating and cooling system,  such as reducing airflow in the lab spaces and turning off heat in unoccupied areas.

Lo says that sustainability efforts will continue and that they plan to install water meters in the building soon to identify water saving opportunities.