The scientists and policy experts at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) are tackling some of today's most urgent environmental problems, including climate change and the diminishing supply of fossil fuels. The institute's chemists, biologists, engineers, and economists represent three different public research institutions—the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley); the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—as well as the energy company BP. Given the diversity of these stakeholders, it is not surprising that the project brief for EBI's $85 million, 1-year-old home at the edge of the UC Berkeley campus called for a flexible facility that would spur innovation and foster cross-pollination.
In response, designers from national architecture and engineering firm SmithGroup JJR have created an open and mostly transparent 113,000-square-foot building. Although largely daylit and designed to perform almost 20 percent better than California's stringent energy code, the five-story structure meets the demanding lighting expectations of the EBI researchers. A long and narrow bar of state-of-the-art labs is rainscreen-clad, with generously sized north-facing bay windows. Offices are enclosed in a wedge that protrudes from the building's south face and wraps one corner. This volume has a fritted glass skin that includes fixed laminated-glass sun shades for diffusing and directing sunlight.