The Lighthouse – Climate Action

The Lighthouse, owned, operated, and developed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., is a shared amenity space for a community of biotech companies in South San Francisco, with every detail designed at the forefront of sustainability. Targeting net zero energy, all energy demands of the building are generated with on-site renewable resources, powering 22,000 square feet of space that includes a café, dining space, lounge, meeting center, fitness facility, and private offices.


This elegantly unassuming building makes the most of its opportunity to provide a community amenity and to do it sustainably. It uses the principles of the Framework admirably with the outcome of a thoughtfully considered, well-balanced, cleanly detailed contribution to the neighborhood. A beautiful structure with attractive interiors, great indoor/outdoor pedestrian scale, and excellent design. The roof is outstanding; they got it right.

Noteworthy performance features include:

1. ZNE design with heavy timber construction using FSC certified wood.

2. It brings a walkable amenity to surrounding office/lab facilities.

3. Restored original ground surfaces and native vegetation.

//framework for design excellence measures
Measure 1: Design for Integration
The Lighthouse is the only open-to-the-public building in the region built entirely of mass timber. Sustainability was the driving factor behind the building’s overall development, and the building serves as a model of environmental construction and operation as much as it does as an amenity space. The amenity building was developed and now functions to minimize its impact on climate and natural resources, particularly through decarbonization of the building’s structure and cladding systems. The design of the building showcases the use of mass timber through the 20-foot double-cantilevered overhangs that provide solar shading for the building and enable the use of floor-to-ceiling glazing to shield from the elements as well as provide occupants with natural daylight and connections to the green-landscaped exterior. This large wood canopy creates a warm and open entertainment space and is the signature element of the project.
The final design is on track to achieve net-zero energy (NZE) certification as an all-electric facility that meets 100% of its energy needs with all onsite renewable resources. A highly efficient mechanical system, coupled with a photovoltaic array of roof-hosted solar panels, is the key element in achieving the NZE goal.
Measure 2: Design for Equitable Communities
The Lighthouse is built as a single level to promote inclusivity and accessibility. It’s close to public transit and has highly visible public-facing frontage to offer accessibility, encourage pedestrian access, and reduce driving. No additional parking was provided in this project; in fact, the building reimagined an existing surface parking lot into a convenient social destination.
It is uncommon in this region for amenity buildings created for the use of tenants of a building or campus to be open to the public. The Lighthouse changes the narrative of a less connected and less inclusive community by welcoming everyone.
Measure 3: Design for Ecosystems
The team reimagined an existing surface parking lot for the placement of this building so that underutilized landscaping and paved turf would be converted into stormwater treatment ponds and native planting. The landscape and design hosts native flora and fauna, creates usable outdoor space, and provides access to nature. All trees existing onsite were preserved. With a desire to connect the operations of the building with the landscape, multiple beehives are located onsite for honey production used by the Lighthouse restaurant.
Measure 4: Design for Water
Existing impervious materials were removed and replaced with systems and materials to treat stormwater onsite. Low-flow fixtures in building restrooms were installed and drought-tolerant landscaping was also incorporated.
Measure 5: Design for Economy
The Lighthouse was imagined and configured in a way that new programs can be introduced and utilized over the building’s lifetime under a single canopy. All the café and dining seating is adjustable and can be used to accommodate small or large gatherings and events, and conference rooms are divisible and can be configured in multiple ways. Also, using mass timber as the finish material, which covers a large percentage of the building, means this flexible space remains cohesive. Its construction was also strategic, with all parts prefabricated offsite to precise dimensional characteristics to reduce material waste.
Measure 6: Design for Energy
The all-electric facility meets 100% of its energy needs with onsite renewable sources, a roof-hosted photovoltaic array, and a highly efficient VRF (variable refrigerant flow) mechanical system. The timber structure forms a canopy that shades glazing, lessening the demand on building systems, and the structure’s orientation leveraged existing buildings to reduce high sun exposure. The entry and primary glazing locations are north facing, with south and west facades using more opacity with solid materials. Glazing and skylights are strategically located for daylighting and outdoor views. The building uses a high-performance glazing system and highly insulated exterior walls.
Measure 7: Design for Well-Being
Mass timber is used for both the structural system and finish materials, which reduces operational and embodied carbon and sequesters carbon. FSC Certified Wood and other natural materials used have low toxicity and low VOCs. The building approaches daylight autonomy through multiple skylights with dynamic glazing that enables adjustable brightness.
There are opportunities for natural ventilation and connection between the interior and exterior. The outdoor space is activated with landscaped pathways for enjoying nature and is sheltered from noise and wind to create a comfortable environment. The building also includes a fitness center for nearby employees.
Measure 8: Design for Resources
The Lighthouse is built and functions to minimize its impact on climate and natural resources through decarbonization of the building’s structure and cladding systems. Built entirely of mass timber structural components, the building silhouette boasts 20-foot double cantilevered overhangs to provide solar shading.
The timber structure is supported by a foundation that encapsulates CO2 within the concrete mix design, and a high-performance façade system minimizes heat gain. The design aims to achieve net-zero energy certification as an all-electric facility that meets 100% of its energy needs with all onsite renewable resources, including photovoltaic array solar panels.
Measure 9: Design for Change
This building’s design approach is a step toward addressing climate change and resiliency. The Lighthouse relies on renewable energy produced onsite and is composed of mass timber—all to reduce its carbon footprint and create a more optimal user environment and experience.
As a single-level facility, all the amenities are accessble to all users.
This building can be dismantled, reused, and modified indefinitely in different locations. For example, if it needs to account for sea level rise, the structure can be relocated.
Measure 10: Design for Discovery
This project hosts passive and active systems to create an optimal user experience with less impact on the environment of choice and greater flexibility. No additional parking was added, and the building has highly visible public-facing frontage to promote pedestrian access, less car usage, and broader accessibility. The single story promotes greater inclusivity and accessibility for all and a closer connection to the outdoors. The adjustable daylight intensity and natural wood create a warm and comfortable experience. The building’s multiple amenities can flex into different uses to address the needs of local and business communities.
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