Dept. of General Services California Air Resources Board – Mary D. Nichols Campus


Riverside, California

Excellence in Sustainability

Submitted By:  Hensel Phelps

Owner: Dept. of General Services

Lead Design Firm: ZGF Architects

General Contractor: Hensel Phelps

Civil, Structural Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers

MEP Engineer: AEI: Affiliated Engineers

Mechanical Trade Partner: ACCO Engineered Systems

Electrical/Security/IT Trade Partner: Morrow-Meadows Corp.

It may be expected that sustainability would be a focus for the design and construction of a campus intended for testing and experimentation in vehicle emission control and zero emission technologies. But the team—with Hensel Phelps as general contractor—took a comprehensive approach to working on the more than 400,000-sq-ft facility set on a 19-acre expanse, including designing for wellness and resilience.

The California Air Resources Board - Mary D. Nichols campus is the largest zero-net energy facility in the U.S., according to the board. Additional certifications include LEED Platinum and CALGreen Tier 2 status. 

“Through the integration of advanced energy-saving strategies, 100% of energy for all end-uses will be supplied using renewable energy with an excess of power, which is anticipated to be used for the 140 onsite EV chargers,” says Ted Hyman, partner at ZGF Architects, the lead design firm. Those strategies include a high-performance building envelope; adiabatic humidifiers; self-shading, extensive use of skylights for daylighting and daylighting harvest control; and chilled beams, part of a system allowing ventilation “to be focused on flowing fresh air through the facility,” he says. “Decoupling ventilation from heating and cooling leads to an immediate reduction in energy use.” 

Rainwater is collected and used as the sole irrigation source for the native, drought-resistant plants and landscaping that comprises 25% of the campus, while condensate captured from air handling units is also recycled.

solar power

Photo by Connie Zhou

The team used local, recycled materials with minimal global warming potential where possible during construction, resulting in recycled materials making up 87% of total materials costs. A life cycle assessment performed on concrete, rebar, steel and aluminum showed a 10% CO₂ reduction achieved, for example, through decisions like using high SCM/low cement mixes to reduce embodied carbon in concrete.

Civil facets include the world’s largest climate-focused public art collection.

test cells

Energy generated in test cells is captured for direct use or storage within the facility’s battery system.
Photo by Connie Zhou