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New UCSB Building Will Set Environmental Benchmark
Santa Barbara News-Press
By Scott Hadly
February 20, 2000

From ceramic bathroom tiles made of recycled glass to sensors for lighting a room only when someone walks in, the fine details going into the redesign and "greening" of UCSB’s $22 million Bren Hall are nearly complete.

Work on the structure will begin after the last touches on the plan are done in late March. When construction is finished, sometime in 2002, the four-story home for the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management will be the most environmentally sensitive building in the entire University of California System.
"What we are shooting for is not just the ‘greenest’ building in the UC system, which we will have," said Jeff Dozier, dean of the school. "What we want to do is create a new standard for construction not just at UCSB but throughout the whole university system."

The greening redesign of the building has been prodded along by Dozier and a group of advisors. When state officials agreed to pay for the construction in 1992- pending the approval of a state bond- they said they would not cover the costs for making the building an experiment in environmental sensitivity. It was Dozier and the advisor committee who pushed to incorporate those design features into the building, which will add about $1 million to the cost of construction.

With creative financing and partnerships with private companies, Dozier is working to cover the costs. Some are being absorbed by companies whose products are being used in the building. Southern California Edison is helping to make the building a living laboratory and showcase to demonstrate energy efficient technology.
Bren Hall is part of a small but growing trend toward more sustainable building practices that maximize energy efficiency and minimize the use of non-renewable or toxic materials in construction. In 1989, the Natural Resources Defense Council, rebuilt an industrial loft space in New York for its headquarters with green products and super energy efficient designs. The NRDC was attempting to show that green construction could be both environmentally and financially sound.

Most recently, Oberlin College opened its new environmental studies center, which includes solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity, an organic system for recycling wastewater, and the use of only sustainably harvested wood for the construction. The new headquarters for the state Environmental Protection Agency in Sacramento also includes these features in its sustainable design.

The trend also has influenced design and aesthetics, opening up buildings to take advantage of natural lighting and creating structures on a less grand, more inviting scale.

The yet-to-be-built Bren Hall and some of the other newer buildings on campus which use this new approach contrast sharply with some of the more overwrought and less though-out structures here, including a huge engineering building next to the bluffs overlooking Goleta Beach with no windows on the side that faces the sea.

"Buildings should fit into their environment," Dozier said, "designed with their surroundings in mind."

Bren Hall will become part of an eclectic mix of buildings on campus, where old frame U.S. Marine buildings dating from the World War II period are shadowed by Eisenhower-era monoliths next to brand new sprawling pastel-colored research labs.

Named after Orange County developer Donald Bren, who gave the school $15 million in 1997, the school opened in 1996. Masters and doctoral candidates at the school study the legal, business, political and scientific aspects of environmental policy.

Bren Hall is likely to make a mark- already having an influence on new buildings both here and elsewhere in the university system.

"It sets the direction we want to go in," said Gary Matteson, the interim director of facilities management and construction for the entire UC system. "They want to make a statement with that building not just to their students, that this school and the building it’s housed in represent the future thinking for the university and the nation and leads the way for sustainable building designs."

The chancellor of the planned UC Merced, is pushing to include sustainable building designs in the construction of the new campus, Matteson said. A new marine science building planned for UCSB and a new research facility at UC San Francisco are also incorporating more environmentally friendly design features.
"I think everybody on the docket for new construction is watching what we’re doing," Dozier said.