This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

UCLA’s new research center is UC’s 100th certifiably green project

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The Clinical and Translational Research Center is UCLA's newest LEED-certified green building, and UC's 100th.
The Clinical and Translational Research Center is UCLA's newest LEED-certified green building, and UC's 100th.
In a freshly renovated UCLA lab space, researchers run clinical trials to test groundbreaking new treatments for cancer, sleep disorders, paraplegia and more. But the amazing work isn’t just in the research – it’s in the very walls.
 
The energy-efficient lab equipment, the locally sourced building materials and other environmentally friendly touches represent more than just another green structure on UCLA’s campus. The clinical research lab represents a milestone. It’s the 100th LEED-certified green project in the UC system.
 
UCLA’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, reinvented out of space in the former hospital emergency room in the Center for Health Sciences, was ranked LEED Gold last month by the U.S. Green Building Council, which awards the ranking to green buildings for features that save on energy, water and waste. This latest ranking makes UC the first university system to build 100 certified-green buildings, according to the UC Office of the President. Read the UC story here.
 
The achievement comes at a fitting time for the campus, said Todd Lynch, UCLA’s LEED specialist in Capital Programs.
 
Watch UC's slideshow showing some of the system's 100 green buildings and hear from top UC sustainability experts.
“It’s great that UCLA has the 100th project in part because it’s a nice marker in our own timeline, because this year we will basically double the number of LEED certifications at UCLA,” Lynch said. UCLA started with five LEED buildings in January, and the new lab space marks UCLA’s ninth, with a few more certifications expected later this year and more than 20 projects in the pipeline.
 
“It’s a very clear statement of the commitment [to the environment] that’s there, and of the sort of energy and ingenuity that people from across the UC have brought to this effort,” Lynch added. “It’s a real stamp of quality on the type of construction that the entire UC system has been doing.”
 
UC campuses have led by example, noted UCLA’s chief sustainability officer, Nurit Katz.
 
“The fact that we’ve been able to achieve these projects during this challenging budget climate, I think, points to how, in many ways, there isn’t the perceived conflict between the environment and the economy,” Katz said. “These green building projects provide additional savings on top of the $90 million saved through UC’s energy-efficiency projects done in partnership with state utilities. Those savings mean more resources for students and for our education and research mission.”
 
UC and UCLA policy requires that all new buildings and major retrofits meet LEED standards, and the new research center showcases many of the green policies used across campus, Lynch said. UCLA’s urban borders mean there’s not much room to grow, so many LEED projects aren’t new construction but retrofits, like the renovation of part of the old emergency room for the Clinical and Translational Research Center.
 
In the new space, high-efficiency water fixtures save 36 percent more water than required by building codes, and four-fifths of construction waste was diverted from landfills. Other building materials were reused or locally sourced, which cuts down on pollution from transportation.
 
The new research center does clinical trials in cardiology, endocrinology, maternal/fetal medicine, neurology, oncology, pediatrics and in its Sleep Study Center. Creating sustainable medical spaces offer special challenges, with needs for such amenities as bright lights, power-hungry equipment and specialized ventilation, but efficient lighting saves 15 percent more power than required, and 96 percent of the equipment is Energy-Star rated.
 
The courtyard of the new LEED research space.
The courtyard of the new LEED research space.
Because the labs are below ground level, the architects made an effort to bring natural light in with a courtyard entry, and specialized ventilation draws in fresh air. The project only used paints, carpets and woods that are low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) or no-VOC — chemicals that cause “that new-car smell,” Lynch said — which further improved indoor air quality and reduces environmentally harmful chemical emissions.
 
“A building can contribute not only to the health of the larger environment but also to the health of the people working there,” Lynch said.
 
“It’s a world of difference,” center director Regina Olivas said of the new space. “It’s brighter, and I have so much more space available so I have room to do more studies. It’s a big improvement.”
 
The university didn’t sacrifice aesthetics either, said Michael Grant-Martin, the senior project manager from UCLA Capital Programs.
 
“It’s actually quite beautiful,” Grant-Martin said. “The main aesthetic goal for this project was to feel like you’re not walking into a hospital. We want patients to come to a place that feels more like a spa and makes them feel comfortable.”
 
Certified-green buildings are helping UCLA meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, already down 27 percent per square foot since 1990. LEED requirements to divert construction waste from landfills have also helped the campus accomplish its goal of diverting 75 percent of campus waste from landfills this year, Katz said.
 
“The ultimate goal is that every building throughout the UC system should be green and more efficient, and LEED is a good measure for that,” Katz said. “So we’re very excited and honored to be the 100th LEED certification. It’s a neat milestone to reach as a system, and we’re very excited to have it here at UCLA.”
 
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