Balancing Safety, Sustainability and Wellness in South San Francisco

Jonathan Weiss, Jacobs
Fred Kaulbach, Jacobs

The Merck South San Francisco project is a high-rise 300,000 SF research and development facility including research labs, offices and lab support space. The focus of the facility is on biological and chemical research laboratories, located in the biomedical research-rich environment of South San Francisco, CA. This presentation will focus on the implementation and balance of laboratory safety with sustainability in this facility, which is pursuing both LEED certification and WELL Building certification. The project team identified a sustainability focus for the project early on that included key aspects of LEED and WELL, and incorporated those into the project brief. For many years, the argument for incorporating sustainable strategies into a project has been based on the high value of occupant comfort and satisfaction. The WELL building standard extends that argument, and this presentation will address how it offered an excellent fit with the overall objectives of Merck's high-tech research environment with extremely high value placed on attracting and retaining the best researchers possible. In addition, the presentation will touch on some of the energy savings and the local utility energy incentive program that is being pursued by the client and the design team.

Inherent in the provision of a functional pharmaceutical research institution in this community meant addressing chemical management to facilitate both research aims and code compliant and owner-EHS compliant lab safety strategies that allow for research flexibility along with best-in-class safety in the research environment.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify key synergies between safety, sustainability and wellness in a design project
  • Describe the rationale for applying LEED and WELL to a R&D facility, and how that impacted the overall design process
  • List some key laboratory materials specification challenges identified in this specific project
  • Explain the inter-relationship between chemical safety, code allowable chemical usage for a high-rise research facility.


As Jacobs' Director of Sustainability, Mr. Weiss coordinates sustainable design initiatives firm-wide. With co-director Gregory Kight, he leads an interdisciplinary council of sustainability leaders from each of Jacobs' offices. Trained as an architect, he provides technical support on key projects and serves as the sustainability champion for this case study project. He is a LEED AP, a WELL AP and Fitwel Ambassador.

Mr. Kaulbach has worked on design of research facilities throughout his career, leading all phases of projects from masterplanning through design and construction administration and post-occupancy owner feedback. He is the senior project architect in charge of this case study design project, and will share his expertise on the project and its design. He is a licensed architect and LEED AP.


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