digital edition

Carnegie Global Ecology Center

Stanford, California

Computing Climate Change: Innovative strategies serve this small lab and office complex well, though some required slight adjustments.

Originally published January 2007
EHDD Architecture

By Nadav Malin

Carnegie Global Ecology Center
Photo © Peter Aaron / ESTO

Carnegie Global Ecology Center, Stanford, California

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Location Stanford, California (San Francisco Bay watershed)
Gross area 10,890 ft2 (1,000 m2)
Cost $4 million
Completed March 2004
Program Lab, office

Click to enlarge
Annual Energy Use 2009-2010

Owner Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology
Architect and interior designer EHDD Architecture
Engineers Rumsey Engineers now Integral Group
(mechanical and plumbing)
General Contractor DPR Construction

Carnegie Global Ecology Center on the Stanford University campus in California was designed to house a team of researchers studying, among other things, climate change. It’s not surprising then that carbon emissions reduction was a top priority for the project. Energy monitoring since the building’s March 2004 completion shows that it’s running about 27 percent above its predicted annual energy use—a difference the designers blame on computers. “Our understanding is that the server room energy use is incredibly high due to the increased use of computing in their research work over time,” says EHDD’s Brad Jacobson, AIA.

The project’s innovative energy conserving strategies appear to be working quite well. For example, it has sprinklers that spray water onto the roof at night where it cools off by radiating heat into space before being collected to cool the building. The scientists in the building applied their global energy transfer models to this night sky cooling system, and “their calculations almost exactly match the actual performance of that system,” says EHDD principal Scott Shell, FAIA.

A few other green products and technologies introduced their own specific challenges:

• Daylight-dimming controls didn’t work properly, causing bulbs to burn out very prematurely. That problem was initially blamed on the lack of a burn-in period, but “in the end we discovered that they were wired incorrectly,” reports Shell.

• For reasons that were never fully established, some of the resin-based decomposed granite paving never hardened up adequately, and was replaced with unit pavers.

• The bathrooms have operable windows, but they’ve been kept shut to prevent noise from the high-velocity Excel hand dryers traveling outside and then back into the adjacent seminar room.

• The Falcon waterless urinals suffered uric acid crystal build-up, requiring snaking every two months. That, along with the cost of cartridges, led the facility manager to replace them with flushing urinals.

A glare problem from sunlight reflecting off the greenhouses to the north of the building was addressed by installing a strip of tinted film on the windows. Also, maintaining the native landscaping has been a challenge, as other species find their way into the gardens while the natives are slow to mature. “I was told that California native oaks grow slowly—now I know what slow means,” says Shell.

These challenges notwithstanding, Shell believes that “overall, the project continues to be a real success,” showcasing the benefits of integrated solutions including daylighting, solar control, natural ventilation (upstairs), and radiant heating and cooling.


This article appeared in the January 2011 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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