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University of California Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Chu Hall

SmithGroup JJR

Shared By

August King


University of California, Berkeley


  • Suzanne Napier
  • Lily Lai
  • Anne Roy


  • Landscape Architect: RHAA
  • Civil Engineer: Creegan + D'Angelo
  • Structural Engineer: Rutherford & Chekene
  • General Contractor: McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

Project Status



39,000 sq. feet

Construction Cost

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Project Description


Located among the expansive Berkeley Hills, University of California / Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Chu Hall (Solar Energy Research Center) is an alternative energy research facility set to replicate Mother Nature’s mysteries. This new facility focuses next generation photovoltaic solutions, such as artificial photosynthesis. The challenge was to design and deliver 39,000 gross square feet of research space—adhering to stringent vibration and light requirements—on a small, sloping hillside site within a compact core of research facilities.

The hillside topography impacted the design and inspired a three-level planning approach used to mimic the natural form of the hillside. Designed to fit into a small site, labs were placed at subsurface to reduce the perceived size of the facility and to ensure vibration and light sensitive environments. A seamless connection was made with the current Old Town campus by placing an outdoor plaza and offices at-grade, promoting interaction between all buildings on site. Third floor laboratories provide direct access to roof exhaust and daylight.

Further complementing the program objective, the design focuses on energy efficiency. Renewable and recycled materials were incorporated throughout the facility. Large windows within labs and offices provide daylight and views to the surrounding natural environment. A green roof and open plaza, which serves as a connection to nearby buildings, was landscaped with drought resistant and native plants. This facility promotes a healthy and collaborative working environment that supports the research taking place inside.
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