CA Targets Net-Zero Record with $368M Facility

The state air quality agency's solar-powered headquarters and research center will be the largest of its kind upon completion in 2020.

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The California Air Resources Board’s headquarters and research facility will be the largest facility of its kind when it opens in 2020.

The California Air Resources Board, which oversees the state’s air pollution control efforts, is building a $368 million headquarters that will be the largest net- zero facility of its kind.

Scheduled for occupancy in 2020, the 380,000-square-foot advanced vehicle emissions research and testing facility in Riverside will generate at least 3.5 megawatts via solar panels that will be affixed to roofs as well as over parking.

“The challenges of a changing climate include rising temperatures that undermine our progress toward healthy air and compel us to look for new technologies and new policy approaches,” said CARB Chair Mary Nichols in a statement.

Located on a 19-acre site near the University of California’s Riverside campus, the three-story, pinwheel-shaped building will accommodate some 460 employees. Testing areas will be provided for products ranging from trucks and buses to boats and power tools, as well as space for offices, labs and education.

Dave Sereno, principal/market leader with Affiliated Engineers Inc. (AEI), called the testing “very energy-intensive” and said the mandate was to “minimize the load on the building and use the energy as efficiently as possible.” Joining AEI on the design-build team selected by the state General Services Agency are Hensel Phelps, the project’s general contractor, and ZGF Architects LLP.

Cool Solutions

One energy-efficient solution will be to run the facility’s air conditioning with water cooled to 57 degrees, rather than the standard 42 degrees. Sereno explained that the because the project’s location is closer to desert areas, there is less moisture in the air and so the 57-degree temperature will do the job and save energy. The facility will be able to store energy during lower-demand periods, such as weekends, and draw on it for energy-intensive testing,  Sereno noted.

The building’s design offers greater flexibility and interaction by increasing the proximity between offices and testing areas, including a Central Command Control area. Sustainable elements include creating abundant open and green spaces for employees to use for breaks and informal meetings.

The facility, which will consolidate five current CARB locations in Southern California, will use 6.07 million kilowatt-hours annually while generating at least 6.2 million kWh, Sereno estimates. Surplus generation will power at least 120 electric vehicle charging stations on the site. The campus is being designed to accommodate a possible future expansion of the solar panels, he said.

The team was selected by the state Department of General Services. Groundbreaking occurred in October and CARB hopes to move about 400 employees in by 2020.

The project will be a candidate for both LEED Platinum certification and California’s CALGreen Tier 2 threshold for overall sustainability and energy efficiency.

CARB’s pioneering research has led to technologies reducing climate-changing gas emissions from vehicles, most recently including hybrid drive technologies and improved drive trains. CARB’s engineers and technicians were also among the first to discover the so-called “defeat device” in Volkswagen diesel vehicles in 2014 that led to the largest settlement in history for violating California and U.A. clean air rules.

Funding sources for the project include $154 million in fines paid by Volkswagen under that settlement, as well as the state’s Motor Vehicle Account, Air Pollution Control and Vehicle Inspection Repair funds.