Southern California Regional Lab Considerations

Gabriel Cervantes, SmithGroup, Inc.
Harshana Thimmanna, SmithGroup, Inc.

The Southern California region includes 6 counties and 191 cities, with more than 18 million residents, and is expected to grow to 22 million people by 2040. The latest research predicts that the future of Southern California will be hotter with more heat waves and less snowpack to replenish water supplies. In effect, putting increased pressure on energy, water, public health, and wildlife. To ensure a sustainable future, buildings must support the interdependence of three key resources that underpin our economic, social, and environmental wellbeing: the energy that powers the region; the water that supports life; and the ecosystems that share our landscape and enhance our wellbeing.

Building performance is driven by stringent local codes, California Green code (CALGreen) and California Energy code (T24 Part 6). Some counties mandate higher standards in comparison to local code. For instance, Pasadena county, where one of the case study building is located, has requirements to meet 10% energy reduction and 12% water reduction over local code. University of California mandates 20% energy reduction over local code and UC Riverside, one of the case study building is targeting carbon neutrality by 2025.

The above factors enable buildings to consider innovative efficiency measures leading to higher energy & water savings. CALGreen standard mandates to use non-potable water for irrigation and efficient water fixtures for indoor water use and demands to consider innovative water and wastewater technologies such as grey water recycling.

The warm and dry climate lends itself to passive design strategies such as self-shading, daylight harvesting, natural ventilation & outside air economizing, which reduces the building load. The above in combination with high efficiency HVAC systems leads to higher energy savings.

Shaded landscaping and architectural features such as arcades, atriums & terraces can be employed to invite a physical connection; to hopefully entice group activities, such as collaboration, outside as a refreshing counterpoint to indoor research activities. Balancing solar orientation and high-performance envelope needs for occupant comfort as well as for reducing energy needs given ever increasing hot temperatures.

This presentation will share insights into local regional characteristics, highlighting the design aspects, energy & water conservation measures, the challenges encountered, and lessons learnt using two case studies; Multidisciplinary Research Building, a new LEED Platinum laboratory in Riverside, CA, and, Chen Neuroscience Research Building, a Caltech laboratory building currently in construction in Pasadena, CA.

Learning Objectives

  • Attendees will learn about the current and future climatic challenges facing Southern California and its built environment;
  • Attendees will learn about siting & architectural strategies for achieving a sustainable research facility in Southern California;
  • Attendees will also learn about energy conservation strategies for achieving a sustainable research facility in Southern California; and
  • Finally, attendees will also learn about water conservation strategies for achieving a sustainable research facility in Southern California.


Gabriel Cervantes, AIA, is a California Licensed Architect and Principal with the award-winning national firm, SmithGroup. Gabriel has architecture degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and, the University of California, Los Angeles, and is based out SmithGroup's Los Angeles office and has over 25 years of experience with a primary focus on research facilities.

Harshana Thimmanna, BEMP, LEED AP, WELL AP, is a Senior Building Performance Analyst with SmithGroup. She has sustainable architecture degree and has over 10 years of experience in the industry with expertise in building performance modeling for laboratory and healthcare projects.


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