Driving to a Sustainable Laboratory The Cross Pollination of Innovation and Policy

Paul Erickson, Affiliated Engineers, Inc
Marisa Keckeisen, ZGF Architects

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is a 400,000 SF vehicle emission testing facility in Riverside, California. Designed to achieve LEED Platinum, CARB is anticipated to be the world's largest net-zero energy facility of its kind. The design philosophy is centered on the premise that intelligence and collaboration is integrated into every aspect of the building. The integrated approach to architecture and systems design is reflective of CARB's significance in carbon emission policy and data driven research, resulting in an ultra-energy-efficient, all-electric, on-site NZE facility that responds to the climate and complex program.

The work environment of the CARB project is a new paradigm for this institution. This building will unite CARB's 400 state employees under one roof for the first time, including researchers, chemists, enforcement analysts, and air quality regulators. Consolidation and cross-pollination of data-driven research is a fundamental goal for the new facility. The new space drives the behavior of sharing ideas via the incorporation of a variety of types and scales of spaces throughout the building to offer opportunities for 'casual collisions' among building users. Building circulation has been treated strategically, with elements such as vertical connectivity, shortened travel distances, and flexible office neighborhoods that allow for ease of reconfiguration as the institution grows and evolves over time.

With an emphasis on integration, it was critical to increase opportunities for direct interaction between vehicle test cell programming and the other divisions of the organization. Given the collaborative nature of CARB's mission, putting 'technology on display' was a focus with the intention of encouraging further dialogue among groups. Cutting-edge approaches to planning and functionality of the test cell areas were developed to improve safety as well as data quality.

The east-west orientation of the building promotes a bright and healthy interior environment. Narrow floor plates are utilized to further maximize daylight penetration and assist in energy reduction goals. Translucent skylights within a three-story atrium diffuse interior daylight, reducing glare and the need for electrical lighting throughout most of the day. Both the offices and chemistry laboratories employ large expanses of high-performance glazing to bring in daylight, screened by louvers where necessary to minimize heat gain and glare, while drastically assisting in the overall energy reduction of the building.

Fundamentally influenced by the sharing of research, prescriptive space requirements, and innovative sustainable design solutions, the CARB project presents a new category of advanced design

Learning Objectives

  • Develop an understanding of key space planning elements that effect large scale project with complicated programs and multi-tiered divisions within the organization;
  • Explain how the interior environment can contribute to behavior changes and communal interaction;
  • Recognize and understand the application of passive and active design strategies in context of local climate, mix of program types; and
  • Identify the factors that need to be considered for on-site NZE for a large and complex facility, including aesthetic, utility mix, utility rates, and grid harmonization.


As AEI's Building Performance Practice Leader, Paul Erickson, LEED AP BD+C, manages the firm's sustainable design services and champions high performance design on projects around the country. As a principal and project manager on laboratories and other facility types, he is dedicated to integrated design, driving innovation, utilizing a host of performance simulation tools, and ensuring that design solutions can be operated and maintained in the long term.

Marisa Keckeisen has experience across a variety of complex project types, including new construction and tenant improvements for higher education, civic, corporate, and healthcare facilities. Marisa's detail-oriented and collaborative approach, combined with her knowledge of numerous advanced architectural software programs, makes her an asset to design teams in the exploration of project opportunities and challenges in determining ideal design solutions for each client.


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