It’s appropriate that the project team for the Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. Hall at the University of California, Davis, would find inspiration in a book titled Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution while designing the 82,000-square-foot (7618-m²) business school in a sustainable manner. Written by noted environmentalists Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, the book describes how businesses can meet customer needs and increase profits while solving environmental problems. One tenet from the book that resonated with the design team is “tunneling through the cost barrier” by gaining multiple functions out of a single expenditure.

“Clients almost always think of sustainable architecture as something that costs more,” says Tim Stevens, AIA, LEED AP, principal with San Francisco-based Sasaki Associates Inc., the lead architect for the project. “By not going in with this preconceived idea that a LEED Gold building has to cost more, optimizing the design-build process and allowing the system selection to be sustainably driven from the start, we could integrate the architecture and all the other elements of the building to design and construct this building for less.”


UC Davis sought to double the space of its business school and build an environmentally sustainable home for its Masters of Business Administration program. The 3-story Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. Hall will house classrooms, offices, lecture halls and meeting spaces. To ensure the design-build team could integrate green concepts into the building for maximum gain and minimum cost, the school held a “best value” design competition in the summer of 2007 in which points were allotted for environmental and cost-efficient strategies. The team of Sasaki Associates and Sundt Construction Inc., Sacramento, Calif., was chosen in fall 2007.

The design-build team credits the university’s collaborative approach with the project’s success thus far. For example, the team will seek LEED Gold rather than its initial goal of LEED Silver from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council. “I think the design-build competition gave us this opportunity,” says Ray Keane, principal design engineer with Timmons Design Engineers Inc., San Francisco. “In a typical process, you go through steps of justifying all these systems. In this case, we sat with the contractor and architects and in a couple of weeks designed the systems, priced them and got comfortable with the performance of the systems.” The integrated-design approach helped the team follow the theory put forth in Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. Keane points to the multiple functions of the ceilings and floors.

“They will function as a structural membrane, an architectural ceiling, lighting and cooling systems. That slab is more expensive than a typical slab but when you consider all the functions it will provide, it’s much more cost effective.” The collaborative process also led to many design decisions that built on one another. For example, because the soil in the area is of poor quality and a deep excavation was required, Keane suggested installing a ground-source loop so the building could benefit from ground-source heating and cooling. This would drastically reduce conventional energy use. “Because the university was paying to remove and compact the soil under the building pads as part of the condition of the contract, there were substantial savings to the design-build team to get the ground-source loop installed as part of the excavation process.

So first costs were much lower than typical and helped us justify our system selection,” Stevens explains. Stevens says the decision to go with geothermal technology influenced every system of the building. “It reduces our mechanical load to next to nothing,” he notes. “Instead of moving huge volumes of air to cool the building, we’re just pumping water cooled by the ground and utilizing the building’s mass and slabs to radiate that coolness through the building.” Inside the building’s floors and ceilings, water will circulate in a continuous loop via a network of polyethylene pipe. As the water moves back and forth between the building and ground, constantly exchanging heat, it will regulate the building’s indoor climate. If there is a need for more heating or cooling, an electric-powered chiller will help support the system. When the chiller operates, it will do so at between 0.2 and 0.35 kilowatts per ton. A typical heating-and-cooling system uses 0.5 kilowatts per ton. Keane recommended another technique to further minimize the cooling load. “Our strategy is to pre-cool the slab and ceilings at night as much as we can without using mechanical compressors,” he explains. “This uses less energy to cool the thermal mass and will eliminate four to five hours of chiller run time during the heat of the day when it costs the most.” The low-cost climate control allowed the architectural team to add other energy-efficient technologies to the design of the building, including a raised-access floor, low-velocity ventilation, a rain-screen façade to lower heat gain, and more windows and skylights to reduce the building’s electric-lighting needs. Although Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. Hall will have an adjoining 2-story conference center, it is expected to be one of the most economical buildings on campus to operate. Models suggest it will perform 40 percent better than California’s stringent Title 24 standard when it is completed in fall 2009.


  • Credit: University of California, Davis

A major part of UC Davis’ mission is to train its students in innovation and leadership. The new building will offer an opportunity for students to be involved with sustainability. “We’re going to involve our students, many of whom are very technically capable and all of whom are very environmentally concerned,” explains Nicole Woolsey Biggart, an economic sociologist and dean of the Graduate School of Management. “In addition to studying the building, students actually will help with the writing of the signage that will let people understand that the glass has a particular property or how the building’s volumes disperse heat.” The project also serves as an example of how a book's lessons can be transformed into real practice.

ROBBIE HARRIS writes about architecture and sustainability from Chicago.

Green Team

OWNER / University of California / Davis,

ARCHITECT / Sasaki Associates Inc. / San Francisco,

MECHANICAL ENGINEER / Timmons Design Engineers Inc. / San Francisco,

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER / Rutherford and Chekene / San Francisco,

GENERAL CONTRACTOR / Sundt Construction Inc. / Sacramento, Calif.,