The David Brower Center in Berkeley is more of a green experience than just a green building.
The center is home to a slew of environment education and sustainable advocacy nonprofit groups. In the lobby is the “building dashboard” screen, where visitors and tenants can see the building’s hourly use of electricity and natural gas, production of solar power and peak usage of rainwater as a percentage of overall water used.
The building “embodies both the environment and social justice,” said Suzanne Brown, project manager for developer and landlord Equity Community Builders. “It’s bringing together both.”
The 46,000-square-foot center, named after renowned Berkeley environmentalist David Brower, is part of a larger mixed-use project the city of Berkeley approved for the site in 2001. On the same site is Oxford Plaza, a 97-unit affordable residential community.
The building has photovoltaic panels that double as solar power generation and shade devices. All offices have ample sunlight to minimize power use, and the building collects and reuses rainwater for irrigation and toilets. Also, 53 percent of the materials used in construction are recycled.
“Everything that is put into the building is there for a purpose,” Brown said. By the end of the year Brown expects the building to be LEED Platinum certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, the group’s highest rating and most difficult to achieve.
The center is also a laboratory for what is possible in sustainable-building design and function. Its computerized building management system is closely scrutinized to “tweak the system for optimal energy, optimal comfort,” Brown said. “It’s really interesting to see how the building is performing.”
Surprisingly, she said, the building is using half the anticipated amount of energy. For tenants, the building’s green swagger supports what they do.
“We almost never have to turn on the lights,” said Zenobia Barlow, executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a nonprofit that advocates sustainable living. The group was one of the center’s anchor tenants and moved in last May, when the project was completed.
“It’s very unusual for a nonprofit to be in a Class A building,” Barlow said. “It gives prestige to the work we do.”
The center’s 30,000 square feet of office space went fast. Four months after opening, it was 100 percent leased, “a feat … in this environment,” Brown said. The building also has a 12,600-square-foot conference center, and 3,400 square feet set aside for a restaurant, which is now occupied by Gather, an organic eatery.
Brown hopes the David Brower Center becomes a model for how to build and finance this kind of structure. A mix of new market tax credits, conventional debt, grants and donations funded the $29 million dollar center.
“It’s … not just that it’s a green building, it’s a really beautiful piece of architecture,” Brown said.
The David Brower Center
Location: 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley.
Size: 46,000 square feet.
Cost: $29 million.
Developer: Equity Community Builders.
Architect: Solomon ETC.
Engineer: Rumsey Engineers.