Taken by Bryan Tuttle

The UC Riverside School of Medicine Research Building (SOMRB) has been awarded the prestigious LEED Gold Certification, the second highest honor given by the United States Green Building Council. Reaching milestones in energy efficiency, the SOMRB holds the distinction of being the first building on campus to be LEED certified.

Designed by SRG Partnerships Inc., the three-story tall building is 58,000 square feet of biomedical and research facilities. The SOMRB was designed to minimize its environmental impact and to conserve energy and water consumption while providing an optimal space for its occupants.

In an interview with the Highlander, UC Riverside’s LEED analyst Weston Lewis stated, “The reason why LEED certification is so important is that it provides credibility to our commitment for providing a sustainably built environment for our campus. LEED creates high performance buildings that are not only sustainable but safe, functional, aesthetic, and cost effective. UCR demonstrates its commitment to the triple bottom line approach of equally valuing the environment, society and economics”

The LEED certification program evaluates buildings based on the criteria of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The LEED scale consists of four levels of certification beginning at Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Campus Architect Don Caskey and Sustainability Coordinator John Cook noted that although the goal was originally to achieve LEED Silver certification, their pursuit of maximizing sustainability features led to the Gold rating.“We went back in and found points that hadn’t been applied for, such as restoring habitat, maximize open space, alternative transportation parking [and] heat island effect,” stated Cook in an article by UCR Today.

According to Lewis, SOMRB implements several key environmental strategies; notable features include a cool roof, landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, highly efficient irrigation for 78 percent outdoor water reduction and appliances that rely on 45 percent less indoor water usage. Aside from design choices, the technology used in the building is also highly innovative and energy efficient.

Up to 23 percent of total energy usage is reduced through nighttime cooling fans, computer controlled blinds and LED lighting. In the areas of resource management, SOMRB diverted more than 90 percent of construction waste away from landfill disposal while 89 percent of the building’s wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The green-oriented approach was a particularly difficult achievement since research lab facilities generally use about 5 to 6 times more energy per square foot than other types of facilities. “To have our School of Medicine Research Building achieve the LEED Gold rating is a tremendous accomplishment because it is challenging especially to design and construct a laboratory building with the sustainability features necessary for this prestigious certification,” stated G. Richard Olds, the dean of UC Riverside’s medical school, in an article by UCR Today.

The SOMRB’s construction lasted approximately four years from the ground-breaking ceremony to the ribbon cutting ceremony. “Our sustainability goals are massive, as a …university system. UCR has not yet grown to its full potential and master planned build-out,” stated Caskey in an interview with the Highlander. “It may take twenty or thirty years to get there, but we need to do it in the most sustainable and responsible way that we can, starting now. The SOM Research Building marks a first and significant step toward achieving that goal.”

Aside from the LEED Gold Certification, the building has been the recipient of many awards including R&D Magazine’s Lab of the Year, the 2011 California Higher Education Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Conference Best Practice-Overall Sustainable Design and the 2012 Riverside Beautification Award.

“In addition to its green design and operation, this building will provide the advanced research facilities necessary to recruit the additional faculty we will need to open the medical school and train more physicians for our region,” stated Dean G. Richard Olds.