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    Carbon neutral Florida University building sits on a pond

    Nathan Johnson

    The University of Florida’s Climate Action Plan 1.0 sets interim goals that they believe will facilitate complete carbon neutrality for the university campus by 2025.

    One such goal is to reduce, mitigate and offset carbon emissions through infrastructure improvements and the university’s new $35 million Clinical Translational Research Building (CTRB) demonstrates this commitment.

    Global architecture firm Perkins+Will were responsible for the design of the new state-of-the-art facility which has run at carbon neutrality since completion and achieved LEED Platinum certification.

    In an interview with Architecture & Design, Lead architect Patrick Bosch highlighted two key provisions that informed the concept design for CTRB: its environmental performance – from materials and construction to occupancy, and its connection with nature and the landscape.

    “The University of Florida mandated that the Clinical Translational Research Building had to follow the university’s Climate Action Plan 1.0,” said Bosch.

    “In this sense, the building helps to mitigate its effect on the climate by increasing UF’s operational efficiency of the campus’ building stock, conserving energy and water, reducing GHG emissions, encouraging public transportation and the use of renewable energy sources.”

    The building recruits a plethora of sustainability design principles and materials which includes an Underfloor Air Distribution System (UFAD) that delivers fresh air through displacement plenums below a raised floor and into the building via grille-vents.

    The building’s stormwater and rain harvesting system is another feature and the most noticeable incorporative of both the provisions mentioned above.

    The stormwater system adopted by the firm routes water from rooftop rain harvesting systems through a variety of bio-retention swales and a detention pond, into a 20,000-gallon cistern that will be used as grey water.

    Bosch notes that system was adopted by the firm to expose occupants to the filtration process and create a sensorial connection with nature and the site.

    “The building lives and breathes with natural cycles, providing a direct visual and overall sensorial connection to the site,” said Bosch.

    “The stormwater collection system was inspired by one of the principles of biophilic design (natural analogues) which includes the use of biomorphic forms and patterns.”

    “Using the structure of a leaf as an analogy, stormwater is collected and channelled to a detention pond and bioswales.”

    “These low-impact development stormwater features provide an enriched visual experience while growing the natural capital of the site.”

    The firm says that understanding the environmental forces of the site, as well as the surrounding context which includes wetlands, wooded gardens, a parking structure and a cogeneration plant, informed the programmatic organisation, massing and site strategies.

    The building recruits high performing glazing that allows a high level of visible light to pass through the curtain wall whilst blocking infrared and some ultraviolet light. When combined with the architect’s passive solar design, this system facilitates the building’s low solar gain and energy costs. Daylight and motion sensored LED lighting, and dimmable fluorescent lighting are used throughout the building which is powered by a rooftop PV array of 44 kW.

    Bosch says that creating humanistic architecture means understanding the transformational effect that buildings have on human beings and therefore on society. He suggests that connecting to the surrounding natural system and cycle is an essential design driver for the project.

    The building will play house to translational research professionals that will focus research on aging and geriatric medicine research and education, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, and health care across all Colleges and Departments at the University. Bosch hopes the restorative essence of nature, something he tried to incorporate in his design, will facilitate the work of these researchers. 

    Images: Robin Hill.

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