Establishing a Target EUI for a High-Performance Laboratory at the University of California Santa Barbara, Institute for Energy Efficiency

Chris McClean, BuroHapplod
Jason Smith, KieranTimberlake

Founded with a mission to develop cutting-edge technologies that support a sustainable energy future, the Institute for Energy Efficiency has commissioned a new 53,000 GSF, LEED-Platinum aspiring research facility that includes flexible, long-lived, wet, optics, and electronics laboratories, offices, a data center, collaborative spaces, and a lecture hall.

Many of the future building occupants are industry experts who encouraged maximum high-performance design from the outset. The design team performed extensive computational analysis to ascertain the relative sensitivity of the various programmatic, system, and profile factors that would inform the design. Ultimately, we established a realistic Energy Use Intensity (EUI) tailored specifically to the requirements of the project. This was achieved without compromising functionality and while ensuring the building can truly be considered energy efficient.

The team tested a broad range of solutions and established clear design conclusions. Examples include:
-Demand Reduction: Actual power usage in existing campus laboratories was surveyed and analyzed, allowing for greater confidence in the choice of an aggressive energy use baseline for the project. This enabled a more accurate selection of mechanical equipment and understanding of the operational hours at peak performance.
-Passive Design: Various program scenarios were explored that allowed spaces to achieve maximum environmental benefit through proximity to the exterior envelope. The fašade is calibrated for solar shading and glare control, daylight penetration, and exterior views. The building fabric facilitates a natural ventilation strategy, promoting direct and indirect thermal exchange with the exterior environment. Thermodynamic simulations validated the thermal comfort of naturally ventilated support spaces and the elimination of active cooling in a number of them. To fully capitalize on the passive opportunity, various spaces are disengaged from the main building footprint to allow access to beneficial wind patterns while also creating an iconic building.
-Active Systems: While much of the program can be passively conditioned, the building will invariably have a high mechanical demand. After examining various MEP systems, the resulting design maximized energy performance and balanced capital cost and building aesthetics. The conditioning of the experimental data center enabled exploration of high-performance systems to efficiently condition equipment while accommodating rapidly evolving technology.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the importance of an integrated design team and client approach to sustainable laboratory design.
  • Understand the types of energy efficiency assessments that do not rely on benchmarking criteria and sustainability frameworks but on more robust data and simulations.
  • Understand the relative impact of different passive, active and renewable energy conservation measures for a laboratory in this climate zone.
  • Understand the balance of energy use, functionality, and space planning and explore the financial impact of different energy conservation measures.


Chris McClean is a Principal at BuroHappold and manages the MEP Engineering, Sustainability & Lighting team in Los Angeles. BuroHappold is a leading global engineering consultancy. He has extensive multidisciplinary experience and has delivered many projects which have a strong focus on sustainable design, including Emerson College and Perot Museum of Nature & Science. Mr. McClean is currently involved in a wide range of projects including the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and UCLA Engineering VI.

Jason E. Smith is a Partner at KieranTimberlake, a prominent architecture firm recognized for its environmental ethos, research expertise, and pioneering design and planning. He has led award-winning projects including Brockman Hall for Physics at Rice University and the Sidwell Friends Quaker Meeting House. Mr. Smith currently leads the IEE project at UCSB; an Integrated Campus Plan for Rice University; and a new Engineering School at Brown University. He is a LEED accredited professional.


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