UC Berkeley Jacobs Hall

UC Berkeley Jacobs Hall

Offering project-based educational spaces and showcasing green building technologies, Jacobs Hall at UC Berkeley aspires to represent the university’s commitment to sustainable innovation. The building is the home of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, featuring open-plan collaborative workshops for hands-on interdisciplinary learning to support design innovation in Berkeley’s undergraduate curriculum. The center provides students with access to state-of-the-art prototyping tools such 3D printing and laser cutting equipment, with spaces for design-related lectures and events.

The building raises the bar on energy efficiency, exceeding the current AIA 2030 Challenge goal by achieving a 90-percent energy reduction compared to a conventional building of this type.

The project’s confined site helped shape the architectural solution. A narrow floor plan, only 54-feet wide, coupled with 14-foot ceilings, allows for ample daylight harvesting and natural ventilation through operable windows. The building envelope includes external shading devices tailored to the south, east and west exposures, with high performance glazing and cool roofing. Although relatively bright lighting is required by the workshop uses, efficient fixtures and controls are used to manage lighting energy use.

UC Berkeley Jacobs Hall

A view of the east elevation reveals the building's narrow profile.

The building’s airy and pristine form conceals the complexity of its sloping site. Building entries are on two levels, and the structure abuts the basement of an adjacent building. The exposed structure and building systems reveal to users how the building works, contributing to the program’s didactic goals and reducing the environmental impact of avoided applied finishes.

The project team set ambitious goals for energy performance, aiming to exceed the AIA 2030 Challenge goal by using 90 percent less energy than the national median for university buildings (based on the EPA’s Target Finder) and 72 percent less than the ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007. Towards meeting these goals, the team successfully integrated many energy-efficient strategies, including a large photovoltaic (PV) array that appears to float above the building’s roof, exhibiting the project’s aspirations. The building’s energy use intensity (EUI) is estimated to be 29 kBtu/ft2/yr, with PV generation providing close to 60% of this demand, resulting in a "deep-green" net EUI of approximately 12 kBtu/ft2/yr.

UC Berkeley Jacobs Hall

Open workspaces provide areas for collaborative project work and events.

All public, teaching and office spaces (except the basement) are designed to rely primarily on daylight and natural ventilation from operable windows. Comfort during warm seasons is supplemented with ceiling fans, and on extremely hot days also with mechanical “bump cooling,” through the use of a purposefully undersized cooling coil in the air-handling unit. Heating is provided primarily by highly efficient hydronic radiators, which may be supplemented when needed from the mechanical supply air system. When windows are closed, the mechanical system provides up to 30 percent more outside air than the code minimum. The team also devised a creative solution to use surplus hot and chilled water for space conditioning from the adjacent Soda Hall.

The project team made the most of the project’s constrained site. Bioswales along the northern edge of the site filter all rainwater from roof runoff before it enters the city storm drains. Drought tolerant plants and sub-surface drip irrigation reduce potable water use by 50 percent below baseline. Indoor water use is 40 percent less than the LEED baseline. Due to its location near transit, no parking was added for the project, with the exception of two accessible parking spaces.

UC Berkeley Jacobs Hall

The building is located on a sloping site to the far north edge of campus.

The team selected materials based on multiple sustainable criteria, including durability, resource efficiency and health impacts on occupants. Overall, 17 percent of the building materials are recycled, including 50 percent fly ash content in the foundation and floor slab concrete, and aluminum comprised of 50 percent recycled material. FSC-certified products make up 75 percent of all installed wood on the building. The team researched all products to ensure that they would create a healthy indoor environment, using no-VOC, vinyl-free and formaldehyde-free options. In spite of an aggressive 13-month construction schedule, 97 percent of site and construction debris was diverted from landfills.

The project team also used the project as a learning opportunity for students. Students from construction management classes met with project team members to understand construction roles, schedules and budgets. Structural engineering students used the project to test new 3D scanning equipment. Since its opening, Jacob's Hall has achieved significant acknowledgments, such as the highly competitive AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten award and an AIA San Francisco Special Commendation for Sustainability.

Images copyright Tim Griffith.

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Award Category
Green Features
  • Energy target 90% below typical building per AIA 2030 Challenge
  • Narrow form optimizes daylight and ventilation
  • 74 kW PV array to provide 58% of annual electrical demand
  • Hydronic radiators, ceiling fans and natural ventilation reduce mechanical loads
  • Location allows 99% of trips by transit, walking or cycling
  • Sustainable, low-emitting materials, 97% waste diversion
  • Bio-swales for roof runoff filtration
Annual Estimated Energy and Cost Savings
Completion Date
Additional Awards
Project Team