UC Berkeley New Campbell Hall

The design of the new Campbell Hall at UC Berkeley demonstrates thoughtful consideration of technical requirements, campus sustainability goals, and designing within a significant historic context. Completed in early 2015, the facility supports the departments of astronomy and physics, with offices, instructional spaces, a low-vibration physics research laboratory, and a rooftop observatory. A third-floor sky bridge connects to adjacent LeConte Hall, improving collaborations and supporting the increasing interdisciplinary nature of science education and research.

The building faces the historic Hearst Memorial Mining Building, designed by John Galen Howard with assistance from Julia Morgan. The design of Campbell Hall responds to this context with a constrained north facade facing the mining building, but adds modern elements that serve energy and daylighting functions on other elevations.

The building design responds to a historic context, orientation and views using sustainable strategies appropriate to the local climate.

An important design goal was to optimize rather than maximize daylight. Numerous shading alternatives were simulated during design, using false color imaging, solar heat gain tables, and shading diagrams to predict daylight characteristics and solar heat gain. The resulting design includes external shading devices that vary in depth from 12 inches on the north and east, to 24 inches on the south and west. The west side of the building offered views of the San Francisco Bay, yet had challenging shading requirements. The solution features a mostly glazed facade, with continuous louvers tilted downward to provide the needed shading while preserving views. External loads were further reduced though the use of cool roof materials, including the roof membrane and light colored concrete pavers on an accessible roof deck.

The west facade includes a naturally ventilated stair tower and deep louvers to manage solar loads.

This efficient envelope enabled the use of a mixed-mode conditioning system that relies on operable windows for natural ventilation, supplemented with occupant-controlled ceiling fans throughout most of the building. For heating, central plant steam is converted to hot water and piped to perimeter zone radiators. These strategies reduced the mechanical ventilation system by approximately 50 percent compared to conventional design without natural ventilation. A west-facing stair tower was designed to act as a thermal chimney to provide ventilation and avoid the need for mechanical cooling. The laboratory exhaust system is informed by a roof level anemometer, so that when winds are appropriate, the exhaust air velocity can be reduced to save energy.

Water saving fixtures are expected to reduce water use by 50 percent; in addition the team gained a LEED Innovation in Design credit for reducing water use to 53 percent below baseline. The site design includes permeable paving to reduce rainwater run-off and allow for infiltration.

This event and study space opens to a rooftop observatory and views of the San Francisco Bay.

The project also gained Innovation in Design LEED credits for structural design, with a concrete mix that included 30 to 70 percent slag and/or fly ash to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that result from Portland cement production. Advanced seismic analysis was used to inform the design of post-tensioned concrete shear walls that will flex rather than deform, extending the longevity of the building after serious seismic events.

Occupant engagement was an important consideration throughout the design process and into operations. Key stakeholders were involved in early visioning sessions to specify program requirements and thereby avoid over-sizing of systems. An integrated eco-charette brought occupants and others together to identify sustainable strategies that would work for the occupants.

Upon move-in, occupants received a brochure describing building's green features, and explained users' roles in operating the building in a sustainable manner. An interactive display in the main lobby, also available online, shows historic and real-time energy performance. After six months, an occupant survey from the UC Berkeley Center for the Built Environment was used to evaluate the design and operation, and to identify ways to mitigate any problems.

Images by Michael O’Callahan.

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Award Category
Green Features
  • Building facades tailored for orientation
  • Exterior shading devices
  • Mixed-mode ventilation with operable windows and fans
  • Rooftop anemometers inform the control of laboratory exhaust for energy conservation
  • Main stair is naturally ventilated using vents at top and bottom
  • Robust occupant engagement before and after occupancy
Annual Estimated Energy and Cost Savings
Completion Date
Additional Awards
Project Team