‘Greener and greener’ Li Ka Shing Center wins LEED Gold

Great expectations surround research to be conducted in the Li Ka Shing biomedical center, the five-story structure that recently opened on the Berkeley campus’s western edge. But for now, as the last of its 400-plus scientists establish home base in its labs and office space, the light-filled facility itself is in the spotlight, thanks to its LEED Gold certification, announced last week.

“During the design the decision was made to go for LEED certification,” notes Teri Mathers, who managed the facility’s construction for Capital Projects. “We just kept making the building greener and greener.”

Li Ka Shing Center

A light-filled stairway in the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences (Courtesy ZGF Architects)

LEED is the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the sustainability certification program of the U.S. Green Building Council. New and existing buildings are rated for sustainability features — “gold” being the second-highest level of certification, exceeded only by LEED Platinum.

The Li Ka Shing Center incorporates sustainable features throughout — from its auditorium’s green roof (planted with vegetation attractive to native butterflies and bees, selected with input from the UC Botanical Garden) to reclaimed-wood paneling (harvested from a local demolished warehouse) and low-emitting office carpeting and rubber lab floors. (See a detailed diagram of its sustainable features here.)

Early in the design process, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were consulted to help develop and evaluate energy-efficiency options for the building, which features operable, user-controlled shutters; real-time monitoring of energy and water use, displayed in public areas; and occupancy sensors tied to the lighting system.

“The building works really efficiently,” says Mathers, “so it’s going to save the campus a lot of money on energy.” Four energy-smart cooling units alone are projected to save $11,000 a year in electricity, paying for themselves in one year, she says.

Li Ka Shing is UC Berkeley’s tenth building to earn LEED certification. At about 200,000 square feet, it brings the campus’s total LEED-certified space to more than 1 million square feet, says Judy Chess, assistant director of Green Building Programs in Capital Projects. On deck for certification in the coming months are several large projects, including Memorial Stadium, which together total another half-million square feet.

The biomedical center “is probably one of our last LEED discretionary projects,” Chess says. That is, building to LEED standards on all major construction projects systemwide is now required under a new UC sustainability policy (PDF here). The mandate went into effect in August 2011, four years after work first began to abate asbestos and tear down Warren Hall, which housed the School of Public Health on the site where Li Ka Shing now stands.

The voluntary decision to create a green building shows leadership on the sustainability front, Chess says. “I’m extremely pleased to see the level of campus commitment.” To create and operate a building to LEED standards, and provide the voluminous documentation needed for certification, “requires everyone to be committed — designer, project manager, construction firm and building occupants,” she adds.

Li Ka Shing, located on Oxford Street near University Avenue, was designed by ZGF Architects and built with a lead donation of $40 million by philanthropist Li Ka Shing, after whom it’s named. It was dedicated last October; courses were held there for the first time in spring semester.

Students involved in the Building Sustainability at Cal program will be holding sessions in the center soon to go over its green features, and how to make best use of them, with occupants.

Related information:

Campus dedicates Li Ka Shing Center (October 2011 NewsCenter article)