Cal State Northridge Sustainability Center, Gensler, Glumac

Great Projects

CSUN Students Pursue Living Building Challenge With New Sustainability Center

California State University at Northridge (CSUN) is located in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley and, like the rest of the state, is not immune to the challenges facing water conservation and access to clean, renewable sources of energy. And with leadership at the university backing a student-driven push for greater levels of on-campus sustainability, the school was ready to pursue something special.

Funded by the university’s student government, Associated Students, the CSUN Sustainability Center was devised as a space with some lofty green building goals and served as an educational opportunity for future students. Thinking big and needing guidance, the Associated Students turned to Gensler Architects and Glumac to help them realize their dream project.

“We are working with passionate students who speak a similar language of a reduced carbon footprint and energy and water efficiency… Now that they’ve had a taste, they want to learn more.” – Justin Di Palo, Glumac

Through a series of ongoing design charrettes and campus meetings, Gensler and Glumac have helped set goals for the facility and provided expertise on how to achieve a meaningful level of sustainability. Students sketched out concepts of what they wanted and expected for the Sustainability Center, including conference rooms, a student art center, a community resource center, educational activity areas and a recycling yard. The Gensler/Glumac team then introduced the student leaders to LEED and Living Building Challenge certifications, giving them tangible sustainability goals to work toward, which made the process seem even more achievable.

“It put a name to the project and got everyone excited,” said Glumac’s Justin Di Palo, who has been working with CSUN students from the start. “We are working with passionate students who speak a similar language of a reduced carbon footprint and energy and water efficiency, but who needed guidance to integrate these concepts into their new facility. Now that they’ve had a taste, they want to learn more.”

Sustainability Center Design

From there, Glumac and Gensler worked with the campus architect to put together a design that satisfied the spatial needs and accommodated the LEED Platinum and LBC certifications. Playing to the strengths and weaknesses of the region, the students are seeking both net-zero energy and net-zero water certification for the facility. With water conservation being a critical need in Southern California, a graywater treatment system was designed to capture , condensate, and graywater from onsite showers and lavatories, which will be reused for 100% of site sub-surface and green wall irrigation and needs. Rainwater is collected and diverted to a bio-swale to promote onsite water infiltration. A solar thermal and hybrid hot-water heat pump system will be used for 100% of the domestic hot water needs. Vacuum composting toilets, using 1/20 of a gallon per flush, are designed for the facility, and the compost that is produced will be used to further enhance the surrounding landscaping. Additionally, a 25kw photovoltaic system is planned to offset 100% of the Sustainability Center’s energy usage to help the site achieve net-positive.

“We want people to see this building and say ‘something different is happening here,” said David Crandall, the CSUN staff member who helps oversee Associated Students. “It’s not just about gas or energy, its waste, water, solar power, and so on.”

Education and inspiration of the building’s sustainable features are the common theme for the project, and demonstrations showing energy and water savings strategies are also planned. With a completion date tentatively set for early 2017, it won’t be long before the Sustainability Center is helping train today’s students for a sustainable and regenerative future.

For more information on Gensler and Glumac’s work with the CSUN Sustainability Center and to contact Justin Di Palo, please email us at [email protected].