“This vibration-sensitive slab on grade space is immensely valuable to LBNL,” says Napier. “And it is very costly to do this type of vibration control on upper levels because you have to do very expensive structural design.”

The first-level floor plate measures about 20,000 sq ft, or approximately half of the building’s square footage. Because it is built into a hill, the first floor will be partly buried on two sides, with the open portion doubling as plaza space.

“This plaza level connects to another new building being constructed adjacent to this one and acts as a collaborator collector between the two buildings,” says Napier. “And that’s how we solved the small foot print challenge.”

Henry says to reduce building vibration on the first-floor slab, McCarthy is using extra large foundations. He says the foundations consist of 8-ft-wide by 2-ft-thick, T-shaped footings that wrap around the perimeter of the building and go down about six feet. He says the thickened slab is 11 to 18 inches thick, with isolation joints on all four sides.

Consistent with the research agenda of SERC, the building is set to achieve at least a LEED Silver rating, but is aiming for Gold. The facility will incorporate energy-efficient features such as a runaround heat recovery system; evaporative pre-cooling hybrid system; lower approach cooling tower; ultra-low air pressure drop air handling unit; daylight harvesting (photosensor-based automatic light dimming), and a green roof.

When complete in summer 2014, SERC will house research laboratories and offices for the ">Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), which is devoted to research and technology development of a solar fuel generator. These will include methods for synthesizing new light absorbing materials. The goal is to develop prototype artificial photo-systems capable of producing a fuel from sunlight ten times more efficient than current crops, while only using non-arable land.