Caltech's historic astrophysics and science center is now a LEED Platinum environmental lab dedicated to minimizing the impact of climate change. Thanks to the impressive renovation of the labs by San Francisco-based Architectural Resources Group, the Linde + Robinson Laboratory uses a fraction of the energy a typical lab in the region would use. Energy use was dramatically reduced with the help a number of efficiency upgrades, chilled water-cooling, solar power, a fuel cell and the even adaptive reuse of the rooftop telescope equipment to direct sunlight down into the bowels of the building.
Caltech’s Robinson Laboratory was originally built in 1932 and features a Spanish mission-style design similar to many of the buildings on the campus. Keeping true to the original nature of the building, Architectural Resources Group wanted to keep many of the original features, while upgrading the facilities to be energy efficient and advanced for new research opportunities. As far as efficiency, the historic building already had a number of things going for it, like thick stone walls that slowed the transfer of heat throughout the day as well as a small overall ratio of windows to exterior. The above ground floors were rehabilitated to original standards but with a strong focus on sustainable and eco friendly materials. The basement floors with laboratories were significantly upgraded into laboratory spaces that could flexibly change as research demands updated.
The new Linde + Robinson Lab is now dedicated to research on climate change and the building appropriately achieves a high level of sustainability. To achieve LEED Platinum certification for the renovation, the design team had to incorporate many strategies to reduce energy and water use. Native and drought tolerant plants surround the site while rainwater is collected in an underground cistern. Before the renovation a detailed energy use plan was crafted based on the expected users, which helped the design team plan for the equipment loads and find savings. The windows were also upgraded with new energy efficient panes.
Rather than tear out the original astronomy equipment and rooftop dome, the design team chose to refurbish them and put them to use in the building. The historic solar telescope, which was used to track and study the sun, was put back into commission and now transmits light down into the basement buildings with the help of mirrors and fiber optics. Meanwhile, the 55-foot-deep pit that stored the telescope’s mirrors now holds 58,000 gallons of water that is used to chill the building during the day with the help of radiant ceiling panels. In addition, the building is partially powered with a biogas-powered fuel cell and 30 kW rooftop photovoltaic system. Overall, the facility uses one-sixth of what comparable labs would use, which is even more impressive given the fact that it’s not new-construction. For a really detailed overview of all the energy efficient strategies, check out this article at ArchRecord.
Images © David Wakely