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Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute Opens on UCSD Campus

Seen prominently from Interstate 5—within UC San Diego’s intensely collaborative research environment on the East Campus—the striking new seven-story building of steel, glass and concrete is the new home of UC San Diego’s Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI). The Institute was established in 2010 as part of a national consortium of 60 medical research institutions created to energize bench-to-bedside efforts.

The 359,000-square-foot facility will enable laboratory and clinical researchers to work side-by-side, to better understand and treat diseases from cancer and diabetes to arthritis. The building includes wet and dry research labs, laboratory support space, clinical areas, offices, an auditorium and a café.

ZGF programmed and designed UCSD’s Altman CTRI to provide an environment in which researchers can obtain education, resources and collaborations necessary to translate discoveries into practice. The design integrates the building into the natural topography of the canyon, including a diversity of angles which create open, light-filled interior spaces enabling the occupants to connect with the outdoor environment from various vantage points within the structure.

Site Challenges

  • $1M savings for the university

To transform the architectural vision into reality, the team began by tackling one of the project’s biggest construction challenges, soil abatement. The project site is along the side of a hill that was once part of Camp Matthews, a Marine Corps rifle training post. The site of Camp Matthews was turned over to the University of California in 1964, due to hazards posed to the expanding civilian population in the area. Even after inspections by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there are still instances of soil contamination and debris remaining from military munitions. Any unexploded munitions discovered require an extensive process and protocol for removal. Abatement of the contaminated soil required 30,000-cubic-yards to be exported from the site.

Additionally, undocumented fill was discovered in a central part of the site, posing a risk to the structural integrity of the building over time. The original mitigation included removal of 18,000-cubic-yards of soil and replacement with a controlled soil mix. As part of the value engineering effort during preconstruction, our team investigated the issue further and proposed a cement treated soil option. Treating the soil in place would avoid time and costs associated with hauling the soil offsite, and avoid the cost of purchasing and installing replacement soil. The treated soil ended up exceeding the structural load requirements and saved the University $1 million.

Accommodating 24/7 Access to Adjacent Emergency Department

  • Zero unplanned disruptions & downtime

The location of ACTRI is ideal for collaboration between researchers and clinicians in the adjacent hospital. However, this close proximity posed significant coordination challenges for the facility’s construction. Access to the Emergency Department—whose entrance is directly across from the site—had to be maintained 24/7. This required a comprehensive noise and vibration mitigation plan, as well as phased site logistics to maintain normal traffic flows on the sole access road. Each potentially disruptive activity was brought before the hospital committee for discussion and review of our mitigation plan prior to beginning work. Our detailed planning and coordination resulted in zero unplanned disruptions to the adjacent hospital and zero downtime of adjacent facilities.

 

Welcoming Technical Challenges

  • 8,000 PSI concrete was a first-of-its-kind application in San Diego

To achieve their vision for light-filled interior spaces, ZGF increased the structural support column spacing to allow for the open floor plans. The increased span reduced the total number of support columns, requiring a stronger structural concrete mix to accommodate the same structural load. Measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), commercial concrete mixtures range in strength from 3,000 PSI—for sidewalks—to over 10,000 PSI—for long span and high-rise buildings.

Originally specified at 10,000 PSI, the concrete suppliers in the San Diego region had no historic data on mixes higher than 8,000 PSI, and none with the specified percentage of fly ash additive. This was a first-of-its-kind application for the area. Working with the concrete plant and the subcontractor, our team was able to develop a mix that met all the structural and aesthetic requirements.

“In one building, you’ll have scientists working on a better understanding of disease while, just feet away, participants in clinical trials are putting that understanding to the test in the form of new drugs or treatments,” said David Brenner, MD, vice chancellor, UC San Diego Health Sciences and dean of UC San Diego School of Medicine. “We literally connect science to medicine, with an actual bridge that joins our researchers to the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, Thornton Pavilion and the new Jacobs Medical Center beyond. There are not many places in the world like ACTRI.”

Unique and Sustainable Features

The ACTRI project was designed to achieve minimum LEED Silver NC certification from the US Green Building Council, but is slated to surpass this goal and achieve LEED Gold NC. The project is also attempting net zero energy strategies. In addition to the energy efficient lighting, water saving plumbing fixtures and drought tolerant landscaping, the project features two innovative systems; chilled beams and thermal energy storage (TES) tank.

While chilled beams are a widely used alternative to conventional forced air cooling systems, they are a unique feature in a research facility. The high heat-producing laboratory equipment requires additional cooling than a typical office or school building. The locally controlled chilled beams combine with the outside air delivery system, taking advantage of the temperate San Diego climate. Originally designed to be a passive system, the active chilled beams were included through the value engineering process, adding $4 million back into the project budget. While still very energy efficient, the active chilled beams are also more effective in cooling the lab areas, making the switch a win-win.

The thermal energy storage (TES) system shifts cooling energy use to non-peak times. Water is chilled at night for a lower cost, and then drawn from during the day to meet air-conditioning loads or during a power failure. And while the ACTRI has little need to draw from the system due to its chilled beam cooling system, the TES is designed to be used by the entire UC San Diego east campus loop, decreasing the campus’ overall energy usage.

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