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Southwest Fisheries

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“The talent will come to us.” Southwest Fisheries Science Center Laboratory Relocation “The talent will come to us,” is how Assistant Center Director Roger Hewitt of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) reflects on the positive effect SWFSC’s replacement facility will have on his agency’s ability to continue to recruit the best science researchers. In 2007, his federal government agency was able to initiate a relocation project for SWFSC on the campus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego. Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the $80 million dollar project will replace the existing SWFSC laboratory with a stateof-the-art research facility. Matching the agency’s commitment to promoting sustainability in marine ecosystems, the new building incorporates sustainable “green” design features throughout. The new facility will include 125,000 square feet of office and laboratory space for 275 scientists and support

staff, in addition to experimental aquaria, extensive research collections, a library, and a unique multistory 500,000-gallon Ocean Technology Development Tank. Concealed parking will have space for 202 vehicles, including charging stations for electric cars. The project team is pursuing Gold certification of the building under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Construction completion is expected in 2012. The original building was located on an eroding bluff. A new location was selected across the street on a steep hillside overlooking the La Jolla Cove, continuing to allow SWFSC close collaboration with the University’s scientists adjacent. Numerous design challenges were inherent in choosing this site however, including fitting a complex building program into a tight steeply-sloping site while staying within budget. Add to that the complications of federal funding schedules, the requirement to preserve scenic view corridors to

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the ocean over the top of the facility, and the need to accommodate within the building massing a sixstory volume for the 500,000-gallon tank enclosure – a volume that must be kept acoustically and seismically isolated from the rest of the facility. The completed salt-water tank will enable scientists to perform crucial ocean research efforts in a controlled laboratory environment – and in water temperatures that can be varied from tropical conditions to near-freezing arctic conditions. No other research institution in the world will have anything of this size and capability. Southwest Fisheries and the University challenged the project team to design a facility that would pay homage to what they considered a world-class site in an area of La Jolla near such world-class research institutions as venerable Salk Institute and the newer Neurosciences Institute, each by world-renowned designers. The design team was also challenged to take advantage of and be respectful of the local microclimate and still to provide for the ever-changing needs of science. The design also needed to continue the legacy of an open architectural environment that exists in the original SWFSC laboratory, providing physical working conditions conducive to effective interactions among researchers from different disciplines. The building site is perched at the head of the underwater La Jolla Canyon and adjacent to the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park and

Ecological Reserves spanning approximately 6000 acres of near-shore habitat. The architects drew inspiration from the undersea topography and coastal cliffs, creating a building that responds contextually to the landscape as an extension of La Jolla Canyon. They also drew upon regional design characteristics – courtyards and exterior walkways that are typical of southern California and which date back to the Spanish Colonial period. The new building steps back as it moves up the hill, placing support spaces toward the hill and personnel spaces toward the ocean view. This design, when combined with the mild coastal microclimate, allows for many green building opportunities such as vegetated roofs and natural ventilation and lighting. The modern facility is broken down into smaller structures which are clustered in “villages” no more than two stories in height in order to avoid the feeling of a single large building. The smaller elements are organized around atrium courtyards. These are the centers of activity that enable researchers to connect for impromptu meetings. The courts and patios take full advantage of the mild climate and promote natural ventilation. The split floor plan with narrow floor plates maximizes sunlight and views.

(Right) The existing SWFSC building sits atop a cliff which is in danger of coastal erosion. The new facility is to be located across the street, inside a hairpin curve on La Jolla Shores Drive.

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Pacific Ocean

Existing SWFSC facility

Site of Relocated Facility

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(Above) Submarine topograpy of the La Jolla Fan Valley, the La Jolla Canyon, and the Scripps Canyon.


grade change in only 4000 ft. Pacific Ocean

There is approximately 100 feet of grade change across the site where the new facility is to be built. La Jolla Canyon

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The Site Situated on the cliffs of the La Jolla shore line, the site for the replacement SWFSC facility is on an undeveloped site on the inside of a hairpin curve of La Jolla Shores Drive. It is an unspoiled plot of land overgrown with native coastal landscape and uninterupted views of the Pacific Ocean.

grade change across the entire site.

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Underwater Canyon


Respond to Emulating the topology of the underwater canyons and the coastal bluff, the laboratory orients Topography. itself to the Pacific Ocean in a way that makes it the subject and object of its research.

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Site Topography

Built Form

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people in the building.

user groups. Fisheries Resource Division

Inter-American California SWFSC Protective Tropical Tuna Department of Administration Resource Commission Fish and Game Division

parking spots needed.

Information Technology Services

Antarctic Ecosystem Research

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Existing Pedestrian Walkways: Currently the site is a major walkway for students, necessitating the movement of foot traffic around the site.

Hairpin Curve: The site is situated on a prominent hairpin curve, making the building visible on all four sides.

Point of Entry: The site’s extreme topography provides only one location for access by pedestrians, by car, and by service vehicles.

Existing Buildings: Research buildings house the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

site area

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Block out Program.

Open up to Views.

The first premonition is to stack the program to fit it onto the site, putting the more ‘daylight intensive’ programs on the top.

In order to allow daylight and natural ventilation into the offices and laboratories, it was necessary to open up the building. The angles were determined by orienting to views.

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Open Up to Light. To facilitate the idealistic southern California climate, and to bring in natural light and ventilation; open courtyards are cut into the middle of the offices.

We were responding to the land form that is out there and trying to reflect that in the building. The design allowed us to break up the mass of the building into narrower bars, which allows a lot of natural light and good, natural airflow through a lot of the offices.

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Many diverse research activities take place at any scientific facility, and this one is no exception. A complex program of researchers, scientists, and IT staff, and maintenance personel had to be carefully located to ensure productivity amongst all individuals who will work in the building.

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Fisheries Resources Division Antarctic Ecosystem Research Div. California Dept. of Fish and Game Protective Resources Division Inter-American Tropical Tuna Com. Scientific Common Space

Information & Technology Services SWFSC Administration Common Building Support Operations & Maintenance Parking

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Reads as a Two Story Building.

Using the natural topography, and green roofs, the building never looks taller than two stories. It also never seems taller than two stories to the scientists that work there. Views to the Pacific are maintained.

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Photovoltaic Panels

of electrical use offset by solar energy

Terracotta Louvers

less cooling.

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Energy Breakdown On track to attain reduction in overall energy use.

less cooling energy use than ASHRAE 90.1-2004.

annual cost savings.

of roof covered by vegetation.

of parking covered to reduce heat island effect.

reduction in amount of electricity offset by solar panels.

the energy needed to power 40 houses

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A: The loading dock is sized to handle the large tractor-trailers for unloading and testing submersible instruments. B: The instruments are lifted up by a winch and moved into position over the tank. C: The instruments can then be tested in a variety of different marine temperatures. The tank is capable of degrees as low as 38Ëš F, to simulate arctic temperatures.

Burying the tank in the Hill.

The water tank is buried into the deepest portion of the site to minimize its impact on the landscape and ensure acoustic isolation. The depth of the watertank can be seen in the E/W section looking North.


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500,000-gallon Ocean Technology Development Tank

The tank can simulate wide varying water temperatures.


10m 33’ C

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Maximizing Daylight and Views; Minimizing Glare

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“The architects have designed a building that captures the ‘courtyard culture’ we enjoyed in our old lab, with natural light, natural ventilation and numerous common areas for people to gather and exchange ideas.” Roger Hewitt Assistant Center Director, Southwest Fisheries Science Center

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Solar Energy

Rain Water Recycling

Terracotta Louvers Air Intake

Occupancy Sensors Ceiling Fans Operable Windows

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Schematic view of the main entry approach.

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Schematic rendering from the level 3 roof terrace, looking out to the La Jolla Cove beyond.

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“In science when a solution or breakthrough is reached, the comment is ‘oh that was obvious.’ This building has a sense of inevitability, a building that is what it should be. This is the most creative design I’ve seen as a member of this board.” Robert Hamburger University of California San Diego Design Review Board Member and former Dean of Faculty at the UCSD School of Medicine

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Site Driven Design The design of the new research laboratory facility for Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) is a result of many site-related criteria – a constrained site, steep slopes, and single point of access at the southwest corner. All of these created building design and orientation challenges. Knowing this, the design team created a solution that attempts to nestle the building into the hillside (taking cues from the coastal topography) to create the lowest profile and visual impact in the native California landscape. This allows the existing berm along the east and north edges of the site to help screen the building from the high part of La Jolla Shores Drive. The building opens up as it steps down the slope, creating several outdoor “plazas” to encourage indooroutdoor activity. Each of these open spaces is unique and can serve multiple purposes. Small courtyards have been provided within departmental spaces for gatherings of 2 to 8 people, while a large plaza provides communal gathering for large

groups. There are also landscaped decks just off of the director’s suite and off the break / lunch area. While capitalizing on these indoor-outdoor environments, these plazas also allow areas deep within the building a view to the ocean and to La Jolla Cove. The scientists at Southwest Fisheries will be able to enjoy these views, the mild microclimate, and the sound of the ocean from a wide variety of spaces throughout the facility. Climate conditions also drive the design of the research facility. The building orientation addresses the programmatic desire for maximizing access to day lighting and for having operable windows for natural ventilation of offices. In the process of doing so, however, wind and sun also have to be mitigated. Specific wall alignments, building shape, and sunshading and high performance glass elements all address these issues.

area. The guidelines identify concrete and wood for exterior finishes. Warm-toned “Colton 3” cast-in-place concrete required at the University is the primary exterior finish for the lower portions of the building. Upper portions of the building that have a steel-framed structure have a stucco plaster finish of similar texture and color to the concrete of the lower portions. Terra cotta is used instead of wood trim. Long-term durability of materials in this marine-air environment was an SWFSC requirement, and ceramic terra cotta was given a very favorable response by the University as an alternative with equal “warmth” to wood. Glazing is very similar to glazing used on other recent University laboratory buildings – a spectrally-select, high performance, green-hued glass. This product has a high visual light transmission factor and an above-average solar shading coefficient.

The project team has taken considerable measures to address University design guidelines in this high-profile

Typically, stacked terra cotta sun shades control a majority of direct light on west-facing facades, while

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(Above) Site plan (Below) Site section

Pacific Ocean

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(Above) Level 4 floor plan (Below) Building Section



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(Above) Level 3 floor plan (Below, left to right) Level P, Level 1, and Level 2 floor plans



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terra cotta sun trellises provide a similar function over windows on south-facing facades. To control ambient and ocean-reflected light, interior roll-down mesh shades are provided typically. These features enhance envelope efficiency and occupant comfort. The roofs will be a significant aspect of the design. Because it can be viewed from a few portions of upper La Jolla Shores Drive as well as from the upper sidewalk and the natural walking meander on the surrounding earth berm, the uppermost roof is designed to be basically flat, primarily accommodating a photovoltaic farm. Over the large-volume Ocean Technology Development Tank however, a vegetated roof is designed to create a visual blend with the native vegetation on the upper hillside above it. Other roofs at lower elevations are visible from within the facility. These visible roofs are a combination of vegetated roofs and walkable paved surfaces. Paving colors are complementary with the “warm� color of the

other exterior materials. In the interest of sustainability and the contextual setting of the hillside at Scripps Institution, indigenous plant species are designed to be installed around the site to help restore habitat, mitigate storm water, reduce water usage for irrigation, and prevent erosion on graded slopes. Plant species will include herbaceous annuals and perennials, native grasses, woody shrubs, and native species such as coastal chapparal and Torrey Pine. High efficiency, weather-based irrigation technology will be employed with low precipitation rates to minimize water usage throughout the establishment period for the native re-vegetation. In addition to re-vegetation with native plans and water-conserving irrigation technology, on-site mitigation of storm water is a priority for the project. A series of post-construction, permanent Best Management Practices (BMP’s) will mitigate storm water originating on the slope

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along the east and north sides of the site. Vegetated swales will collect storm water and direct it north along the back side of the building and around to the west side of the site. As storm water flows through the swales, vegetation with reduce flow velocity and naturally filter particulate matter. Infiltration will also occur throughout the length of the swales. During large rain events, substantial storm water flows will pass through the vegetated swales and into a series of desiltation basins along the west edge of the site. The basins will be stepped to follow the natural grade of the site adjacent to La Jolla Shores Drive. Desiltation and additional infiltration will occur as the basins fill with storm water and overflow to the next lower basin. Dur-

ing the most severe rain events, when storm water flows may inundate all desiltation basins, the excess water will overflow to an underground storage tank to be slowly released to the off-site storm drain system. The covered service yard accommodates a variety of functions. These include loading and unloading of equipment used on research expeditions (submersible observation vehicles, cages, etc.), unloading large mammals and fish, occasional cutting of large specimens prior to processing in the necropsy suite or storage in the adjacent freezer, and occasional staging of equipment prior to use or after use utilizing small/medium sized shipping containers. (Left) Aerial photo taken during construction. (Below) BIM model of the building structure.

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Isometric section cut S/N - looking west.

Design Software and Process

The design team for this complex facility included more than a dozen consultants located around the US. To help maximize coordination among the consultants and enable the production of high-quality construction documents, the team used several Autodesk® building information modeling (BIM) solutions, including Autodesk® Revit® Architecture software, Autodesk® Revit® Structure software, Autodesk® Navisworks® software, and Autodesk® 3ds Max® Design software.

The structural consultants were the first to employ BIM on the project, using the software during the schematic design phase to help create the initial model of the building’s complex dual-structural system. The architects followed suit at the start of design development. Using their version of the software, a foundational 3D model of the new facility was created, essentially starting construction drawings at that time. The design development documents naturally evolved into the construction drawings, each iteration differentiated from the earlier one

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Isometric section cut N/S - looking east. only by percentage of completion. For the various design firms involved in the project across the country, the team utilized Newforma® Project Center project information management (PIM) software. This allowed overall information management (including management of email), and specifically allowed sharing and tracking of project drawings and BIM models among the multiple design team office locations. Through the use of a common BIM platform, close coordination possible

between the architects and engineers throughout the design process. Architects regularly passed the architectural model to the structural engineers for further documentation. The structural model literally was laid over the architectural model, making it very evident where design work needed further refinement. Without the common BIM platform, coordination between structural and architectural drawings and systems could have been very difficult. For example, the floors within the Ocean Technology Development Tank do

not synch with those in the rest of the building. Because of the common BIM platform, it was possible to catch at an early stage several potential errors—including an unintended 10-foot step into a mechanical room. Discovering and addressing challenges like that before having to issue construction documents really helped the design team’s relationship with the building’s owners and users. One big advantages of using a tool such as BIM is the tremendous

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Isometric section cut E/W - looking south. amount of information it provides. The architects used BIM to visualize the facility, helping to create a series of cross sections, axonometrics, and 3D close-ups of numerous building components. During the design process, these additional deliverables really helped the client understand the design process and see how the finished building will appear. In one instance, the design team used BIM to help visualize how to maneuver large pieces of marine equipment such as ocean buoys or small submersible devices through the facility

and into the Ocean Technology Development Tank – and how to select the best potential routes. Exporting the BIM model was also a help in other visualizations. Using 3D software, imported versions of the BIM model helped in the simulation of the sun’s movement across an intricate lacework of terra-cotta sunscreens on the west face of the building. This process generated data that helped the team balance the need for preserving view corridors to the ocean with energy and

comfort considerations, such as solar gain and visual glare. To help solidify buy-in to the design by the government and the University – as well as the greater La Jolla community – the 3D software was also used to help create a series of near-realistic, cinematic-quality renderings of the completed building. Near the end of the design process, 3D software helped create an interactive walk-through of the Ocean Technology Development Tank for the scientists. Being able to simulate

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Isometric section cut W/E - looking north. walking inside and around the tank before it was built was an invaluable tool for confirming that the design would meet the expectations of the user. It actually proved instrumental in obtaining final sign-off on the project, as it allowed the researchers to see that they would be able to use the facility in the way that they wanted.