University of California, Merced took another step toward environmental stewardship with the opening of its new Science and Engineering 2 Building set for Wednesday.
The $88 million building will provide 24 new laboratories to assist the research of engineering and science faculty, as well as allow for the continued expansion of graduate programs.
In addition, the building, which totals more than 100,000 square feet, will include four teaching labs, a study room, 12 workstations for faculty and staff, and 75 faculty offices.
Aside from the extra space for instruction, research, and offices which the building will provide students, the new facility was built using recycled construction materials and is designed to cut energy use by approximately 39 percent.
“Energy efficiency is the biggest thing, but we also want to sustain the environment,” said assistant director of construction and sustainability at UC Merced Mark Maxwell. “Buildings such as this allow us to get away from using up a ton of natural resources.”
When constructing this building, the university thought of everything when it came to conserving energy. Even the windows are expected to save energy, as their coating and accompanying light shelves reduce the heat that comes from direct sunlight, while still allowing for natural light inside.
The most prominent feature of the new building is the photovoltaic system, or solar panels, which detail the exterior of the building. These panels not only provide shade to the building, but also generate 52 kilowatts of solar energy that helps power the building.
In addition to the solar panels on the front, the building also has a solar water-heating system on its roof that will support the hot-water needs of the building. The roof of the building is also coated with a white membrane, as opposed to a darker color, to reflect direct sunlight and keep the building cool.
The roof has already been fitted with additional mounting racks for future solar panels, something Maxwell hopes will be developed by faculty or students.
“I hope our students will learn about what we’ve done and take it one step further,” added Maxwell. “Since this is a research facility, I know they will do something with it.”
The building also expects to join the ranks of the campus’ six other buildings that have achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED awards platinum, gold, and silver status to buildings that are designed to maximize energy efficiency and environmental quality.
With the LEED platinum status, the building also expects and has been designed to outperform California’s energy code by 30 percent, using 35 percent less energy than a typical university laboratories building.
Earlier this month, the university was also recognized by Sierra Club’s Sierra Magazine as a “Cool School”, due to the university’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. The “Cool Schools” ranking, which considers the sustainability practices of 173 undergraduate campuses in the nation, placed UC Merced at No. 51.