Exterior view SJSU Student Health and Wellness Center

San Jose State University Student Health and Wellness Center

San Jose State has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability, health and wellness by citing a new health center in the heart of campus at a busy pedestrian intersection, hoping to increase awareness and utilization by students. The three-story center includes open-plan offices for administrative functions, private spaces for physicians and counselors, and spaces for a wide range of programs including massage, acupuncture, dentistry and optometry. A demonstration kitchen and a juice bar are also available for events and to help students gain nutritional literacy.

Sustainability, health and wellness are increasingly considered to be related concerns. San Jose State’s new student health center showcases ecology and human health in a single building.

The project was delivered through a competitive design-build process, the winning team being led by Ratcliff Architects and Blach Construction. During the early design phase the team planned a series of meetings with user groups, leading to the addition of several program elements such as a student lounge and a “stress free zone” to offer a place for students to relax and rest. To save time during construction, the design-build contractor created a building model that expedited installation of structural steel, steel decking, concrete slabs and exterior framing. The building was completed on budget and nine weeks ahead of schedule.

Interior view SJSU Student Health and Wellness Center

Interior view with reception area.

The project was designed and documented according to the requirements of LEED Gold certification, and demonstrates many sustainable strategies and products. Access to daylight is enhanced through 15-foot floor-to-floor heights, with transom windows above exam room doors that permit daylight while maintaining privacy. On the exterior, larger glazed areas provide transparency along the main pedestrian corridor, with smaller, energy conserving windows for private spaces, including some with exterior shading devices. Efficient lighting includes 100-percent LED fixtures, dimming controls and task lighting for all building users. Together these strategies reduce lighting energy use by 29 percent below the code baseline.

The building’s mechanical system is a variable-air-volume reheat system that incorporates energy efficiency measures such as variable-speed drives on fans and pumps, low velocity coils and filters, optimally sized duct mains and dual-maximum controls. The roof membrane is highly reflective to reduce cooling loads. These energy-conserving measures are estimated to reduce annual whole-building energy use by 27 percent below the Title-24 2010 baseline, and energy costs by 47 percent.

This ground floor space may be used for events and training.

The building’s structure and materials also demonstrate innovative and sustainable approaches. The prefabricated structural system from ConXtech, a San Francisco Bay Area company, includes 65 to 95 percent recycled material content. The column and beam connections are bolted rather than welded, potentially allowing the elements to be reused. Compared to conventional steel framing, the system reduces the total amount of steel used by 10 to 50 percent, thereby reducing the embodied carbon content of the building. The system also reduced the project’s construction time and field labor costs, allowing the structural steel to be installed in only five days.

The project team sourced 11 percent of the building’s products from within 500 miles of the site, selected FSC certified wood for 98 percent of all wood products, and specified low-VOC products for adhesive, paints, flooring and composite wood materials. The contractors diverted 65 percent of construction waste to be recycled.

The project was designed and constructed during one of California’s most severe droughts, so water conservation was a key concern. Inside the building, water-efficient toilets and exam room fixtures reduce water use. The building is one of three new campus buildings with dual plumbing to use recycled water for all toilets and urinals, using water from the South Bay Water Recycling (SBWR) program. The landscape design uses native and drought-tolerant plants such as Olive, California Live Oak and Mexican Fan Palm trees to reduce irrigation needs. As part of a campus-wide program started in 2011, all irrigation now uses recycled water from the SBWR, saving millions of gallons annually.

Landscape plan

Rendering by Creo Landscape Architects showing infiltration planters.

Site storm water is managed creatively via infiltration planters on the east side of the building that filter and treat rainwater runoff from the entire site, allowing it to infiltrate back into the soil and contribute to replenishing the aquifer that provides campus with much of its potable water supply. Rainwater from the roof is directed to these planters via metal channels. The planters also provide a visual and functional separation between the busy pedestrian path and the entry plaza. Highly reflective paving and roofing serve to reduce heat island effect.

Students, faculty, and staff alike have given the building high praises on the sustainable design and welcoming spaces provided. Roger Elrod, Director of the Student Health Center, explains: “It can be challenging to have program values be realized in design, let alone in actual construction. The building is welcoming, with inviting spaces for students to hang out or participate in campus activities. There is also a lot of natural light, which creates a comforting environment and saves energy. I have given lots of tours, and again and again, visitors will say, ‘Wow! What a beautiful space.’”

Photos copyright David Wakely.

Share this Case Study
Award Category
Green Features
  • Daylighting using high ceilings and interior transom windows
  • Dual plumbing for recycled water in toilets and urinals
  • 100-percent LED lighting with photocell daylight controls
  • Optimized VAV reheat HVAC system
  • Highly reflective roofing materials and window shading devices
  • Native and drought-tolerant landscape
  • Infiltration planters for site water management
  • Materials include locally sourced, recycled content, and low-VOC alternatives
Annual Estimated Energy and Cost Savings
Completion Date
Project Team