Located on the UC San Diego campus, the Charles David Keeling Apartments overlook the coastal cliffs of La Jolla and employ a suite of tactics to address Southern California’s pressing environmental challenges of storm water management, water scarcity, and carbon emissions.
Home to 510 students, the apartments are instrumental in the revitalization of Revelle College, the founding college at UC San Diego, by bringing students closer to their core academic buildings. The goal was to provide each student with a distinctive, human scaled home within a large research institution, at a location where they can more fully engage the academic community. This community was created out of the College’s existing components, building on its heritage, and establishing a new gateway at the west edge of the campus.
Three apartment buildings are arranged in a c-shape around a courtyard that creates a new social zone and unites it with the existing 1960s Fleet residences to the east. They adopt elements from the classic campus buildings; exterior walkways, repetitive sun control elements, and a warm color palette, but are firmly rooted in a 21st century aesthetic that unites form and performance. Great lengths were taken to construct the buildings with high quality, cast-in-place white concrete to visually tie them to the existing architecture.
The building arrangement is also part of the cooling strategy for the buildings, which rely on coastal breezes instead of mechanical systems. The effectiveness of the buildings’ shape and arrangement to capture prevailing winds was verified through computational fluid dynamics to analyze air movement, and wind tunnel testing ensured that the window size and unit design would provide occupant comfort without air conditioning. Solar heat gain is controlled with deep overhangs on the southern facades and industrial fiberglass shading on the west, oriented at different angles. The layering of the systems creates visual depth in the facade that varies throughout the day as lighting conditions change.
The Keeling Apartments are the first student housing in the University of California system and the first new building at UC San Diego to receive a LEED Platinum rating. They are a pilot for future campus development on a number of fronts, including establishing methods for leasing energy-saving equipment from an outside entity, managing storm water, recycling water, specifying materials that will not deteriorate, and providing engineered natural ventilation that is proven to work. The project introduces green roof technology, uncommon in this area due to water requirements.
Heating efficiencies are achieved by thermal mass and by an innovative, backwards-constructed rain screen and air barrier exterior wall that reduces heat loss and water vapor infiltration. Any needed mechanical heating is provided by a localized arrangement of individually controlled radiant panels. Lighting energy demand is largely met by day lighting, and is complemented in public spaces with occupancy-controlled lighting systems. On-site renewable energy comes from a rooftop photovoltaic array, the first PV system at the college to be funded through the local utility’s innovative lease program.
Water, a scarce resource in this region, is managed with a comprehensive strategy of conservation and reuse. Conservation measures include water efficient landscaping and plumbing; and on-site wastewater recycling, a pilot project for the school, provides landscape irrigation water at grade and for the planted roof. Storm water flow into the ocean is remediated with a system of landscape bioswales and retention basins that reduce storm water quantity, delay peak water flow, and control flooding in this region of the campus and with the added benefit of reducing erosion of fragile coastal scrub arroyos, a particularly threatened ecosystem.
The most significant reduction of energy on this project comes from the elimination of air conditioning based on scientific validation of the effectiveness of the proposed design. Both building mass and envelope are designed to manage solar gain and nighttime cooling and to ensure effective natural ventilation.
KieranTimberlake is an internationally recognized firm established in 1984 and a leader in practice-based architectural research and environmentally innovative buildings. The firm’s partners, Stephen Kieran, FAIA, and James Timberlake, FAIA, have co-authored five books on architecture. The firm works with cultural, civic, education, government, and private residential clients nationally and abroad. Common to their projects of incredibly diverse circumstance is that each begins with a question, and continues its development within a culture of continuous asking, thus ensuring that design results from deep investigation before a formal design solution is conceived. They can be reached at kierantimberlake.com.