Creating Livable Buildings

Sept. 25, 2017

What FMs can learn from award-winning sustainable facilities.

When it comes to buildings, environmentally friendly doesn’t always mean comfortable. Occupant satisfaction surveys can make a world of difference when it comes to creating spaces that people actually enjoy using; not only can they highlight things that have gone wrong, they’re also a great way to figure out what’s going right so you can replicate those results elsewhere. 

The Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics, an architectural icon at the heart of the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo, CA, is an exemplar for having happy occupants. It scored in the 90th percentile on a satisfaction survey administered by the Center for the Built Environment at University of California, Berkeley, an achievement that helped the Baker Center earn top honors in the CBE's Livable Buildings Awards for 2017.

The structure houses leading-edge research facilities, classrooms, teaching labs and administrative offices for three science departments and three research institutes. These are demanding spaces with critical needs, which the LEED Gold building satisfies with sustainable strategies like operable windows, radiant heating and cooling in offices and conference rooms, chilled beams in laboratories, a green roof and an atrium that lets the building take advantage of daylight and passive ventilation. The air in all laboratory spaces is actively monitored. 

In addition, the educational and administrative areas incorporate studio classrooms for active learning, spaces for group and individual study, and interactive spaces surrounding faculty offices so that students aren’t forced to sit in the hallways when waiting to meet with professors. With amenities like these, it’s no wonder that in addition to its 90th percentile achievement across all categories, the building’s scores also reached the 97th percentile for overall workspace satisfaction and the 98th for overall building satisfaction. 

Honorable mentions include the San Mateo Main Public Library in San Mateo, CA, and the Delta Products Headquarters in Fremont, CA.

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