Aerial view of UCSF campus

UCSF Animal Research Building Monitoring Based Commissioning (MBCx)

The UCSF Animal Research Building is a five-story 85,700 ft2 building in the heart of UC San Francisco’s Parnassus Heights Campus. Completed in 2005, the project houses the campus animal research facilities, with animal rooms, procedure rooms, storage, and flexible spaces on upper floors that may be reconfigured as laboratories if needed. The building was previously recognized with industry awards for its innovative design and systems that benefit animals and staff, supporting UCSF’s animal research to understand heart disease, cancer, and neurogenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The project yielded energy savings of 50 percent, exceeding expectations, and providing a replicable process that has already been extended to five major UCSF buildings.

An energy benchmarking analysis of the 20 largest buildings on campus showed that the building had the highest site energy intensity on campus, at 304 kBtu/ft2/year, higher event other energy intensive lab buildings. This finding was a major impetus for a thorough assessment and a complete commissioning of the building.

Corridor view

A typical corridor view.

In 2013 UCSF hired a commissioning (Cx) agent and assembled a large team of key campus representatives including a project manager, a controls expert, an energy analyst, an in-house mechanical engineer, and building operators. As the building was to remain in continuous use throughout the project, UCSF’s Laboratory Animal Resource Center (LARC) was involved throughout to ensure that animal welfare was provided for, by maintaining specific requirements for temperature, humidity, ventilation, and in some cases pressurization.

Robotic cage washing system

Robotic cage washing system automates the changing of bedding to maximize efficiency and minimize ergonomic issues.

An initial review of data from the building management system (BMS) indicated that high ventilation rates in animal rooms might offer savings, however further investigation showed that such ventilation rates were required. Instead, the primary energy efficiency strategy was to classify rooms based on equipment and use, for example, identifying spaces that had been initially designed for procedure rooms, but were being used for storage. With the audit of spaces complete, the Cx agent determined the optimal ventilation, heating and cooling requirements for each, and reprogramed controls to optimally meet those needs. In addition, occupancy sensors were installed to throttle back ventilation during unoccupied times, yielding significant savings.

The verified energy savings were over three times initial estimates, saving 1,440 MWh, or 50 percent of the previous annual consumption. The team estimates this to be equivalent to $218,000 in utility cost savings per year (for electrical, chilled water and steam) resulting in a seven-month payback after accounting for PG&E rebates. This successful commissioning approach has been fine-tuned and implemented in five additional UCSF buildings.

Images © John Sutton Photography courtesy of Flad Architects.

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Green Features
  • Room-by-room audits of equipment and current uses
  • Occupancy sensing to reduce ventilation run time
  • BMS reprogramming to optimize ventilation and space conditioning based on room needs
  • Air handler supply temperature deadband improved
  • Elimination of chilled water bypass flow
  • Heating hot water loop temperature and pressure reset
  • Supply fan static pressure reset
Annual Estimated Energy and Cost Savings
Completion Date
Additional Awards
Project Team