Ratcliff‐Designed Media & Learning Center At De Anza College Wins Energy And Sustainbility Citation In Awards Program Sponsored By Aia San Francisco And PG&E

DeAnza_MLC_Ext_03_AThe Media & Learning Center (MLC) at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, has won a citation for energy performance from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), San Francisco Chapter, and Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). The award was presented April 25 and seeks to honor built work that demonstrates how deep reductions in energy use are essential to good design in the 21st century.

Ratcliff of Emeryville is the architect and WSP is the engineer of record. The $37 million project will realize a savings of 71 percent less energy than the regional average for higher education buildings, placing it well ahead of the AIA’s 2030 Challenge and 2015 reduction target, and saving the campus an estimated $60,000 per year.

The MLC is one of few large buildings in the world featuring a passive downdraft, natural‐air ventilation HVAC system that operates by drawing in outside air through tower‐shaped air intakes on the rooftop. As the air passes over cooling coils and the temperature decreases, air falls downward through large air shafts into the under‐floor air plenums serving the first and second floors. Strategically‐placed heating coils warm the air as needed to meet occupant comfort criteria, at which point the air is supplied to the building interior through local floor diffusers. As air is warmed by occupants and equipment, it rises along with indoor pollutants to ceiling exhaust shafts, which direct air into the atrium where it is ultimately exhausted through clerestory louvers at the atrium rooftop.

The 67,000 square foot structure houses fourteen classrooms, for anthropology and general education, all outfitted with the latest AV and communication technology. A specialized distance learning classroom, in conjunction with a TV studio and production suite, supports the campus’ broadcast media package that includes online, video streaming and cable TV services. A central two‐story atrium creates a dramatic interior public space and features exhibits by the anthropology department and an interactive dashboard tracking real‐time data about building performance and class information.

Together with the passive downdraft HVAC system the following energy strategies will earn the project a LEED for new construction Platinum from the U.S. Green Building Council:

  • Natural light: The atrium is bathed in natural light from a high‐performance, fritted‐glass skylight— integrated with a 6,000 square foot photovoltaic array—extending over its entire 80 yard length. The atrium is also a major component of the building’s unique buoyancy‐driven air circulation system, which ventilates more than 80 percent of the building without fan power.

    Heating and Cooling: The building uses an under‐floor air distribution system to deliver air directly into the occupied zone. This can reduce energy use and improve perceived indoor air quality by allowing for warmer supply air temperatures and encouraging thermal stratification. Space heating and cooling is provided throughout the atrium by a radiant floor system that circulates hot/cold water through tubes embedded in the concrete atrium slab.

  •  Solar Power: On‐site renewable energy systems will reduce annual energy costs by nearly 28 percent. In addition to the photovoltaic panels are 1,500 square feet of solar thermal collectors that will provide both domestic hot water and a large portion of the heating load during cold weather.
  • Water Savings: Low‐flow plumbing fixtures reduce indoor water use to 48 percent below the calculated LEED baseline, equal to an annual savings of roughly 117,000 gallons of potable water. Interior materials including carpet tile, floor tile, insulating batts, acoustical panels and countertops contain recycled and regional content materials.
  • Siting: Siting the building to maximize exposure to north and south light was key to energy efficiency and also made room for a new landscaped quadrant that extends learning spaces out of doors. The grounds are also sustainable, with drought‐resistant vegetation, shade trees and storm‐ water runnels that slow and treat runoff.


Project team:
Architect: Ratcliff
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing/Lighting: WSP Flack+Kurtz
Structural Engineer: Forrell/Elsesser Engineers
Passive Design Specialists: WSP Built Ecology
Landscape Architect: Office of Cheryl Barton
Green Building Consultant: Simon Associates
Program Management: Gilbane Maas
Contractor: Sundt Construction

About Ratcliff:
Ratcliff designs sustainable building solutions for projects throughout Northern California. Currently under construction is a new Physical Sciences and Engineering Center at Foothill College, also a part of the Foothill‐ DeAnza Community College District. Other higher education projects include the award‐winning, LEED Gold certified UC Berkeley School of Law, completed in 2011. In continuous operation in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1906, Ratcliff is a recipient of the Firm of the Year award from the American Institute of Architects, California Council. Visit www.ratcliffarch.com.