Two buildings paved way for Y2E2

L.A. Cicero Leslie Shao-ming Sun Field Station

The Leslie Shao-ming Sun Field Station, which is on a hillside in the 1,200-acre Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, has 25 banks of photovoltaic panels that are used to convert sunlight into electricity.

The Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building may represent the cutting edge of sustainability, but it is not the first “green” building on campus. It has two important, award-winning predecessors—and additional green construction is soon to be under way.

The Carnegie ecology building, which opened in 2004 at 260 Panama St., was designed to underscore the philosophy of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology. The independent research organization, which has extensive collaborative ties to Stanford, seeks to develop a scientific foundation for a sustainable future.

“The building has performed extremely well, and it has been an inspiration for some of the features in Y2E2,” said the department’s director, Stanford biology Professor Chris Field. “We interacted a lot with the design team for Y2E2 and answered their questions.”

The building has been a winner: In 2007, the American Institute of Architects named it one of the group’s annual Top Ten Green Projects. It also was one of two buildings to win top honors in the first-ever Livable Buildings Awards sponsored by the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California-Berkeley.

The Carnegie building’s green vision begins with its footprint—its long, skinny shape is oriented along an east-west axis to minimize energy use. A cooling tower combines the effects of evaporation and gravity to efficiently lower the temperature of the lobby, which is encased in glass that slides up, to create a covered patio effect, or down, to form a sun room. Recycled materials are used throughout the building.

When the architects first considered a hillside field station for the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, it seemed almost sacrilegious to do anything on the oak-dotted hill, part of a 1,200-acre oasis with such rich diversity of plant and animal life that it is included in an international biosphere reserve (a conservation designation given by UNESCO). Green was the only way to go.

The path brought distinction: In 2005, Jasper Ridge’s Leslie Shao-ming Sun Field Station was the first Stanford building to win the American Institute of Architects’ Top Ten Green Projects award.

“Stanford is incredibly fortunate and far-sighted to have two such buildings on its campus,” said Field, who is also the faculty director at Jasper Ridge. “It shows a significant commitment to pushing the envelope with this new direction.”

Twenty-five banks of photovoltaic panels at the field station convert sunlight into electricity. Light monitors on the roof balance the amount of interior light that shines into the building.

The building’s skylights are recycled from another building, a walk-in cold room was salvaged from a lab on campus, and cabinetry was salvaged from a biotech firm remodel. The entrance is paved with Scottish bricks from Jane and Leland Stanford’s country home in Palo Alto, which was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

Every attempt was made to keep the landscape as pristine as possible. The drip lines of all the mature oak trees on the site were fenced off from construction, and young oak seedlings were transplanted elsewhere on the preserve.

These buildings will soon be joined by two other notable examples of sustainable architecture: the new Graduate School of Business complex and a special dormitory for undergraduate and graduate students.

The Business School’s Knight Management Center—to be built at the corner of Serra Street and Campus Drive East—is expected to set the gold standard for sustainability in its design, construction and use. Planners are looking closely at a host of green features. These include using rainwater or recirculated gray water for the building’s sewage system, and choosing materials that emit little or no volatile organic compounds that cause poor indoor air quality. Designers also are looking into a system that monitors indoor and outdoor temperatures and lets people know when it is acceptable to open the windows, helping to reduce air conditioning.

The Business School created an Environmental Sustainability Task Force of 15 members made up of key stakeholders: faculty, staff, students and alumni. Through discussion among themselves and consultations with nationally renowned experts, members identified existing and emerging sustainability technologies and solutions. Among the goals it set are a flexible site design to ensure it will accommodate future needs, mechanical and electrical systems to exceed current energy efficiency standards by 40 to 45 percent. The project is scheduled to break ground this summer.

The center is expected to demonstrate how smart building design can dramatically reduce environmental impacts and decrease lifetime cost. The effort represents a tremendous opportunity for the school to promote environmental leadership by demonstrating its environmental commitment to academia, business and the world.

Also in the works is a Green Dorm, which planners hope will be a research platform for testing new energy, water and structural technologies and systems. The residents not only will determine if there are workable solutions, but also desirable solutions from a user’s point of view. As now conceived, it will house 50 students at a tiny fraction of the environmental cost of a traditional dormitory. The building will recycle its own water and generate its own electricity. It also will include teaching, lab and demonstration facilities. The feasibility study was approved in 2006, and the dorm already has its own website: