UC Berkeley to Build Downtown Complex

BERKELEY, Calif. — Construction began in December on an eight-story complex in downtown Berkeley that will house the University of California, Berkeley’s (UC Berkeley) Graduate School of Education, School of Public Health and Department of Psychology.

The 320,000-square-foot building will replace the 247,000-square-foot Tolman Hall, built in 1965, which currently houses the Graduate School and Department of Psychology in separate wings. Tolman Hall has a poor seismic rating and will be demolished when the new building opens in August 2017. The School of Public Health is currently headquartered in University Hall.

The new complex will be named Berkeley Way West and will include more than 7,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor to fit in with the commercial corridor along downtown Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue. Classrooms, offices, open workstations and collaborative spaces will be located on the floors above. A courtyard located on the building’s east side will connect to a pedestrian walkway at the adjacent five-story Energy Biosciences Building, completed in 2012, according to Berkeley News. Daily average occupancy of the new building will be about 900 people. Both private and state funding will help finance the approximately $150 million project.

San Francisco-based WRNS Studio is designing the project, which is intended to help transition the more residential areas to the north into the downtown Berkeley core to the south. As such, the design features two interconnecting L-shaped forms that each respond to the two different neighborhoods. The first portion reaches eight stories and provides a more urban feel, while the second portion only reaches five and four stories to address the lower-scale residential area, according to a project description from the UC Berkeley Real Estate Division.

The building is designed to meet LEED Silver standards, with hopes of achieving LEED Gold. It will include cycling-friendly facilities, including showers, dressing rooms and 250 bicycle lockers. The entrance facing east towards campus will also feature a landscaped public area and is rendered almost entirely in glass to allow a connection to the outdoors. The student lounge on the second floor will offer a similar feel overlooking the plaza and garden space from the Energy Biosciences Building. The upper floors will offer an increased amount of glazing to provide maximum daylight for building occupants. However, the amount of openness will vary depending on different solar exposures that will mitigate thermal heat gain.

The project is part of UC Berkeley’s seismic action plan, which was created after a 1997 survey found more than one in three campus buildings needed seismic safety improvements. To date, more than 75 percent of the spaces needing improvement have been retrofitted or replaced, reported Berkeley News.