University of California & Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Chu Hall

“Shoulder to shoulder interaction between scientists discovering new components and engineers developing prototypes is the key for accelerating a solar fuel technology.”

—Frances Houle, Director


The proposed site for Chu Hall, an alternative energy research facility focused on next-generation photovoltaic solutions such as artificial photosynthesis, presented SmithGroupJJR with a significant challenge. The crux was to design and deliver 39,000 square feet of research space—adhering to stringent vibration and light requirements—on a small site within a compact core of interactive research facilities, on a sloping hillside.

Technical solutions included an oversize slab for the first-floor plate, built partly into the hillside. Locating the nanoscience and precision measurement labs in this half-buried at-grade portion of the building shelters them from sun and provides vibration control. Less sensitive wet labs occupy the top floor, and offices and common spaces between the two laboratory floors promote interaction and collaboration, key to the success of the client’s mission.

Further complementing the program objective, the design focuses on energy efficiency. Renewable and recycled materials will be incorporated throughout the facility. A green roof and open plaza, which serves as a connection to nearby buildings, will be landscaped with draught resistant and native plants.

Related Content

AIA East Bay Design Awards recognizes Chu Hall
The facility was honored with a merit award for its design, resolution of the program idea, sustainable responsibility, innovation, thoughtfulness, and technique.

Best in the West
The Architect's Newspaper named Chu Hall the 2015 Building of the Year in the west. The annual design award program celebrates some of the most exciting and innovative American architecture.

IIDA Northern California Recognizes Chu Hall
Chu Hall recently took home the International Interior Design Association of Northern California's (IIDA NC) Honor Award in the Heal category. The IIDA NC's annual awards recognize the region's "wide array of design talent."