Decarbonization and Higher Education Science Buildings

Punit Jain, AIA, LEED Fellow, CannonDesign

Carbon in our buildings is the challenge we face as we work to reduce global warming. We have worked hard to reduce the operational carbon in science buildings; however, reducing embodied carbon in buildings is our next opportunity. As materials and construction processes come under more scrutiny from higher education clients, we must adapt to more sustainable design choices--even when laboratory spaces have their own unique challenges with vibration sensitivity, fire and hazard safety, and building scale and size.

Punit Jain will take the audience through a project currently in construction, the Caltech's Resnick Sustainability Center. The Center will be home to critical research in solar science, climate science, energy, biofuels, environmental resources, ecology, biosphere and more.

The goal of the design is to reduce embodied carbon while achieving high levels of sustainability in all areas of the building and site, from energy and water conservation to material selection to indoor air quality and daylight. The exterior curtain wall is supported on a mass timber grid shell to reduce the carbon footprint. Mass timber was used in the exterior wall and some floor construction, but there were challenges when an all-timber solution was considered for a science building such as vibration control. Punit will analyze both non-science higher education buildings, as well as laboratory buildings, and inform the audience where decarbonization strategies can be employed for each.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand embodied carbon;
  • Understand how materials selection impacts embodied carbon;
  • Identify decarbonization strategies for science and non-science higher education buildings; and
  • Learn more about a cutting-edge higher education science project currently in construction.


A leader in the science, technology and sustainability practices, Punit Jain, AIA, LEED Fellow, brings extensive experience in the integration of systems, spaces and experiences for his clients. He is responsible for generating innovative solutions in regenerative and net-zero designs for complex scientific facilities at all scales.


Note: Abstracts and biographies are displayed as submitted by the author(s) with the exception of minor edits for style, grammar consistency, and length.