"Solving for Pattern" in High-Performance Laboratory Design

Joseph A. Collins, AIA, LEED® AP, ZGF Architects LLP
John Breshears, AIA, LEED AP, ZGF Architects LLP

From the outset, the Univerisity of California, San Diego wanted its 190,000-gross-square-foot School of Medicine Research Building to set a new paradigm for high-performance research facilities. As a signatory of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, as well as the Chicago Carbon Exchange, the Univerisity of California, San Diego is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint. This meant that the traditional life-cycle cost evaluations of potential design features for this project will also be informed by an estimation of carbon emissions avoided.

Through verbal and graphic presentations that provide detailed technical support for the final building design, the project’s designers will share innovative solutions at both the project and systems scale, which will greatly reduce energy and water consumption. These include:

  • A dynamic exterior shading system, which will automatically track the movement of the sun, enhancing the transmission of daylight deep into the laboratories, while blocking harmful glare at the east and west exposures. This may prove to be of particular interest for the University of California system-wide, as well as for owner/operators of millions of square feet of buildings across the country with undesirable east-west orientations.
  • The implementation of extensive water-conservation and reuse systems that will allow the preservation of a School of Medicine Academic Mall Plan, which was threatened by the recent water shortages in San Diego County. The irrigation solution includes a "solving for pattern" approach by tapping a source of wastewater that is in greatest abundance during the summer months when irrigation needs are highest.
  • The development and calibration of natural and displacement ventilation for the offices and other non-laboratory portions of the facility.
  • Consideration that the building will function not only as a cutting-edge biomedical research laboratory, but with the inclusion of greatly enhanced state-of-the-art building systems metering, lighting controls, and the distribution of this data to faculty and students at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the Univerisity of California, San Diego, it will also serve as a real-time laboratory for building systems design and inform students' building performance research project.
  • The Integrated Project Delivery process for procuring the construction of this public-bid project with an eye toward sustainability. Description of a methodology to provide the earliest possible collaboration between all participants responsible for final building performance (Owner, A/E/Builder/Cx), including early selection of the energy intensive mechanical and electrical sub-trades.
  • The challenges and benefits for right-sizing of electrical and mechanical systems—a practical roadmap for success.


Joseph A. Collins, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, during 30 years of professional practice, has developed a particular expertise in overseeing multidisciplinary teams working with multiple client user groups in a highly collaborative manner. From ZGF’s Portland office, he has directed work on several of the firm's most complex projects across the country. Through his leadership in the programming and design of a number of new interdisciplinary bioscience, bioengineering, and nanotechnology research and teaching facilities over the last decade, Mr. Collins is at the forefront of innovation in sustainable laboratory design. Recently, he has also led teams designing other academic facilities, theaters, science museums, and large-scale, mixed-use urban redevelopment projects. He is a recognized authority on the planning and sustainable design of research and teaching laboratory facilities, including projects at Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, University of Washington, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Diego, and University of California, Davis.

John Breshears, AIA, PE, LEED AP, is licensed both as an architect and as a mechanical engineer. His 20-year career has focused on the expressive combination of technology and form, pursuing research into non-traditional solutions to architectural problems, in particular bio-mimetic design. He was awarded the Peter Rice Prize by the Ove Arup Partners to support two years of exploration into bio-mimetic applications to sustainable design, resulting in development of a curtain wall system based on the principles of the human lung. He was subsequently awarded a grant by the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation for research that furthers the balance between the advance of technology and the preservation of the natural environment. Mr. Breshears is currently a principal with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP, where he is engaged in design and applications of research to a wide variety of commercial, institutional, and public buildings. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University and a Master of Architecture degree from Rice University.