Best Innovative/Sustainable Design Winner: Facebook West Campus
Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal
When it comes to sustainability, Facebook Inc.’s new West Campus in Menlo Park checks all the expected boxes for a progressive tech company: Think sophisticated energy systems, water-saving features and healthy building materials.
But the Gehry Partners LLP-designed project is aiming not just for a smaller carbon footprint, but also to improve the ecological quality of one of the Bay Area’s most environmentally sensitive regions.
Located on a former industrial site across the street from the Ravenswood wetlands, West Campus will include perhaps the region’s most ambitious green roof: More than 350 trees, including mature oaks, will dot the top of the 430,000-square-foot building, which will reach completion next year. The garden will also feature drought-resistant grasses, shrubs and groundcovers amid winding walking trails. And parking? No acres of heat-producing asphalt here: It’s all tucked underneath the building at grade level.
“From the outside, it will appear as if you’re looking at a hill in nature,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook wall in 2012, introducing the project.
Sustainability is nothing new for Facebook: When the company took over the 1 million-square-foot former Sun campus in 2011, it renovated the buildings using green materials and added solar systems to generate electricity and hot water. Those and other efforts helped the Facebook headquarters — now called East Campus, and located kitty-corner from West Campus — earn LEED Gold certification for commercial interiors, said Lauren Swezey, Facebook’s sustainability manager.
“Overall, the entire company is really focused on sustainability,” Swezey said, adding that the East Campus “diversion rate” — a measure of how much trash is kept away from landfills through recycling and composting — is now hitting 88 percent.
West Campus designs
But West Campus represented a chance to build in sustainability from the project’s genesis. Early on, design team members zeroed in on the roof as both a major employee amenity and primary environmental initiative.
“It’s not a huge site, so by having a green roof it essentially provides a whole additional level for our employees to hang out on and work,” Swezey said. “And instead of just being a second story, it becomes a habitat-friendly space for the wildlife. You have the best of both worlds.”
Indeed, the 22-acre site is located in the Pacific Flyway, an important spot for migratory birds. The wider area is home to endangered species like the snowy plover, burrowing owl and salt marsh harvest mouse. So Facebook collaborated with local environmental groups early in the process to ensure it was being sensitive to the regional environmental issues, Swezey said.
Those discussions are reflected in a “plant palette” that includes hundreds of trees, plus other vegetation, that are native and climate-appropriate. Facebook scoured the state for the right trees, many of them enormous, fully grown specimens.
“We actually went on tree-tagging trips to Southern California and tagged all of the trees individually to place on the roof,” Swezey said.
Facebook expects it will see energy savings, partly thanks to the roof’s insulation effect (parts of it will have four feet of growing medium). That, plus other systems, will help West Campus be 25 percent more efficient than California’s tough energy code, known as Title 24, Swezey said.
But Shani Kleinhaus, the environmental advocate for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, which worked with Facebook, said the significance goes beyond mere metrics.
“The exciting thing about what they’re doing is they look at sustainability in a broader way than the human-centric view of, ‘What does it do for us and how do we save water and energy?’” Kleinhaus said. “It’s looking at, how are we responsible to our natural environment and actually do something good for nature.”
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