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David Brower Center

Green from the ground up, the Brower Center is a powerful model of sustainable, mixed-use development. Utilizing the latest in energy-saving technologies and recycled building materials, the Center will make as light a footprint on the Earth as possible, taking into account the true life-cycle cost of building construction, operation, and maintenance. The building is awaiting its LEED Platinum rating from USGBC.

Some of the design features include

  • Construction using 53% recycled materials
  • 68 KW photovoltaic (PV) system, that doubles as sun shades, and offsets about 40% of electrical consumption.
  • 90% Daylighting
  • Collection and reuse of rainwater
  • Low-energy mechanical systems using radiant heating and cooling
  • High-efficiency lighting with automatic controls
  • Concrete with high slag content to reduce CO2 and cement content
  • Vertically post-tensioned structure to minimize earthquake damage
  • Operable windows and low pressure ventilation via a raised floor system

The Brower Center is the architectural anchor of a mixed use, transit oriented development including 96 units of affordable rental housing (Oxford Plaza), ground floor retail below the housing, and an underground parking garage owned & operated by the City of Berkeley. The entire development is a model for sustainable living and social justice.

The David Brower Center gracefully integrates distinctive architectural design with environmental sensitivity and innovative engergy efficient systems. The architectural design of the Center follows the example of some of Europe’s most distinguished recent green buildings in both its contextual fit and use of innovative technologies.

Located in Downtown Berkeley, the Brower Center relies on public transit. The Center does not provide parking for office tenants. Ample bicycle parking is provided along with secure bicycle parking inside the Brower Center. Three car share spaces are provided, offering hybrid vehicles.

The four-story 44,000 SF building is home to predominantly non-profit organizations that inspire social and environmental action. The first floor includes the lobby, gallery, 180-seat theater, conference room, restaurant and offices. The second floor includes offices, conference rooms, and a patio that connects to the neighboring Oxford Plaza housing complex. Offices are on the second through the fourth floor, all with 100% daylighting.

The Center utilizes the sun’s energy to reduce its carbon footprint through photovoltaics and daylighting. The photovoltaic panels also act as sunshades for the fourth floor, in addition to the solar-shading devices on all the south-facing windows.

The building cost was $29M, or about $650/SF in total project costs.  Hard costs were about $480/SF. The integrated design process was very successful throughout design and construction. The project went out to bid in Fall 2006 at the height of the construction market causing the entire design team and contractor to collaborate over an exhausting 3-month period to bring this innovative project back on budget prior to construction.

The building utilizes extremely low energy mechanical systems using radiant heating and cooling within the building’s concrete structural slabs, high efficiency lighting with automatic controls and daylight harvesting. Commissioning of the building was time consuming and it took one year to fine-tune the building’s HVAC systems.

All of the rainwater from the patios and roofs of the entire development is collected through internal drains to a rainwater cistern in the below-grade parking garage. The rainwater is used for toilet flushing and irrigation. Waterless urinals and high efficiency toilets keep water use to a minimum.

The concrete structure provides thermal mass as well as architectural finish throughout the building. The high volume slag concrete significantly reduced CO2 emissions and a vertically post-tensioned structure minimizes potential damage due to earthquakes. The use of high-volume slag caused challenges with finishing of the architecturally exposed concrete and delayed set times.  Construction of the structural slabs was challenging as radiant tubing was knitted through the structural steel and post-tension cables.

Notable Accomplishments

  • Construction using 53% recycled materials
  • 90% Daylighting

Award Credit

Equity Community Builders, LLC
Suzanne Brown
38 Keyes Avenue, Suite 201
PO Box 29585
San Francisco, CA 94129-0585
Design Architect
WRT / Solomon E.T.C.
Daniel Solomon, FAIA
1328 Mission Street, 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
AIA Chapter- San Francisco
Rumsey Engineers, Inc.
Peter Rumsey
99 Linden Street
Oakland, CA 94607
Cell: 510-205-4575
Landscape Architect
Wallace Roberts & Todd, Inc.
John Gibbs
1328 Mission Street, Fourth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94609
General Contractor
Cahill Contractors
Blair Allison
425 California Street, #2200
San Francisco, CA 94104
Cell: 415-667-0639
Structural Engineer
Tipping Mar and Associates
LEED & Materials Consultant
Siegel and Strain
Plumbing & Electrical Engineer
IDEAS, Integrated Design Assoc.
Lighting Consultant
Auerbach Glasow
Environmental Solutions
Loisos Ubbhelode
Tim Griffith Architectural Photographer

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