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Shyh Wang Hall

Computational Research

and Theory Facility


Lawrence Berkeley National Labs

Berkeley, CA

The need for high-performance scientific “supercomputing” continues to grow, to meet national security, materials design, climate protection, and energy goals. As the need for faster, higher-performance computers rises, the energy needs to power them and the costs associated with those machines also rises, the CRTF is both a model of high performance computing and a showcase for energy efficiency.


The CRTF occupies 2.25-acre on west facing slope of LBNL overlooking UC Berkeley, one of the premier research entities in the world.  The greatest design challenge was to reconcile the steeply sloped (110’ grade change) seismically sensitive site, with the prerequisite for a large contiguous floor plate (80’x400’) and to develop a responsive envelope given the site orientation. (Alternative massing was considered including a cruciform composition with better solar orientation, but greater site disturbance, seismic factors and cost). In the final design, the long west facing wall system manages the low west sun and the air handling functions, serves to unify the diverse functional expressions and mitigates the building mass against the Berkeley hills. The building is perceived as two levels from upper LBNL campus and 5+ levels from Steven Chu entry road. 

The facility co-locates computer scientists, mathematicians, computational scientists, and theoreticians into the same facilities. The program consists of two primary program components: The high performance computation facility (HPC), supporting office spaces and significant mechanicals spaces for cooling towers, chillers and electrical equipment. Programmatically this utilitarian facility houses two primary functions: the supercomputer equipment floor (37,000 gsf) and two office levels (totaling 71,000 gsf for general office, computer configuration and support, software support, videoconferencing, meeting, and visualization spaces). The contiguous computation level is largely column-free to maximize flexibility for configuring future supercomputer arrays. 


High-performance computing facilities consume an enormous amount of electricity cutting into research budgets and challenging public- and private-sector efforts to reduce energy consumption and meet environmental goals. The facility  meets the clients goals and sets an international standard for buildings that house supercomputers by  can greatly  reducing energy demand through energy-efficient design, efficiently accommodating maximum flexibility for a range of future cooling technologies (both air and liquid strategies), supercomputer configurations and showcasing .next generation climate modeling. The design approach for the air cooling scenario takes advantage of the ocean breezes,  San Francisco Bay Area’s natural air conditioner. The computer floor and mechanical spaces are  configured such thats additional capacity can be added as the facility load is increased. Not only did this approach reduce the facility’s first costs, it also allowed components to be sized to better match the load requirements.  


Completed in 2015, CRTF achieved LEED Silver Certification making it one of the most energy efficient facilities of its kind in the world. 


Total Gross Area:    130,000 GSF

Computation:           37,000 GSF

Office:                     71,000 GSF

Mechanical               22,000 GSF

By Allison Grace William FAIA, while Design Principal and Lead Designer while with Perkins+Will

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