Special Commendation: Design for Integration

Clifford L. Allenby Building

Architect: ZGF Architects, Lionakis, Rudolph & Sletten

Project Location: Sacramento, California

Photographer: Connie Zhou

As the new home of the California State Department of Health and Human Services, the Clifford L. Allenby Building reimagines the government office as a modern hybrid workplace. The design emphasizes health and wellness and sets new benchmarks for energy and water conservation. Interrelated sustainability and workplace strategies exceed the State’s ambitious energy and water targets, achieve zero-net energy, carbon neutrality, LEED® Platinum and Fitwel certifications, and a U.S. Resiliency Council Platinum Rating.

“Innovative from start to finish. Combined a strong emphasis on user’s health and will being with a well implemented water conservation strategy and local/sustainable material utilization.” – 2022 Design Awards Jury

Design for Integration

Designed to serve its users just as its users serve the State, the Clifford L. Allenby Building reflects the enduring values and principles of democracy. Its form exercises restraint, simplicity, and classical proportions, yet the innerworkings of the building are intelligent and forward thinking. The project exemplifies design excellence not only for its form, function, and performance, but because the owner and users were all engaged in the process from start to finish.

Design for Equitable Communities

An important factor for the state was integrating the project with the urban fabric of Sacramento. There was previously a four-story derelict building on the site and O Street was closed off to the neighborhood. The project team met with the Vice Mayor and other city officials, who have a larger plan in place to convert one-way streets into two-way streets. The team was able to convert O Street into a one-way that can eventually become a two-way as the City has planned. Adding in the public pedestrian plaza and ground floor marketplace, the new Clifford L. Allenby Building invites the community to the building and creates an indoor-outdoor relationship with the building and the landscape. The site is now highly engaging and pedestrian friendly, with new crosswalks and other integrated solutions such as lighting, benches, and two exterior public art pieces.

Design for Ecosystems

From the sunshades at the building envelope to the greywater system in the basement, every aspect of the building is designed to have a positive impact on people and the planet. The site design enhances neighborhood walkability with the exterior public plaza, midblock pedestrian alley, and integrated landscaping, benches, lighting, and crosswalks. Light colored pavement helps reduce the urban heat island effect, along with native tree plantings to provide shade. Inside the building, interior finishes draw inspiration from the project’s surroundings in Sacramento, known as the “City of Trees,” helping connect users to the place and regional ecosystem. Various wood species–including FSC-certified Ash, Walnut, and Oak–celebrate California’s diverse forests, while bronze and gold details make subtle references to Sacramento’s part in the Gold Rush. Themed environmental graphics on each floor reflect the diversity and culture of California, including the strong influence of agriculture and industry in Sacramento.

Design for Water

Efficient fixtures and non-potable water use save more than 600,000 gallons in annual potable water—a 60% savings compared to the LEEDv4 baseline. The non-potable water reclamation system collects from rainwater, greywater, and air handler condensate—three distributed sources with varying quantities throughout the year—which is stored in a 20,000-gallon tank and directed to low-flow plumbing fixtures. In the pedestrian alleyway, planters filter stormwater and provide code mandated retention.

Design for Economy

Delivering the project from design to occupancy in under 3.5 years is a testament to the stewardship of state funds. Despite numerous challenges such as the COVID pandemic and diminished workforce, the project was completed on schedule, as planned, and below budget, which can largely be credited to the project team’s efforts to adapt in the face of adversity. High-performance building systems will provide long-term ROI in operational cost savings, while the flexible workplace design will serve any number of tenant departments in the building’s 150-year lifespan.

Design for Energy

Many interrelated and high-performance strategies led the project to achieve an EUI of less than 25 kBtu/sf/yr—which is 5 EUI points better than the owner’s criteria and places it in the top 1% of all U.S. office buildings. The design incorporates high-performance envelopes, extensive daylighting, underfloor air distribution (UFAD), heat pump (electric) heating source, and radiant heating/cooling distribution. 100% renewable energy is provided by offsite PV arrays contracted through the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) SolarShares program, making the project net-zero energy. Actual electricity, water, gas and air use is being calibrated against the project energy model, displayed in real-time on monitors in the building lobby, and reported out monthly to the owner and operator to continue optimizing performance.

Design for Well-being

Designed to achieve Fitwel certification—a first for a California state-owned building—the Clifford L. Allenby Building boasts a number of strategies to promote a happy and healthy work environment. The design emphasizes natural light, indoor-outdoor connections to nature, healthy food services, a variety of amenity spaces for gathering and collaborating, high indoor air quality, and red list-free interior materials. Interior materials and furniture were selected to reduce impact to indoor air quality (paint and furniture will not off-gas). Carpets consist of 45% recycled materials and meet rigorous sustainability and health requirements. Typical office floors include a mix of open plan workstations and inboard private offices to maximize daylight and views for all users. Two outdoor terraces provide easy access to fresh air (and lunch with a view). The interiors are designed to enhance human performance through environmental comfort, ergonomics, and biophilia. The use of natural materials, scales, colors, and dynamic patterns appeals to the human need for variety and rhythm in our environment, enhancing the sense of wellness in the workplace. Irresistable stairs, a fitness center, and yoga studio encourage physical activity onsite, along with ample bicycle parking and showers for commuters. The building is in close proximity to nearby amenities, green spaces, transit, and bike paths, providing choice in how users work, relax, and get around.

Design for Resources

Over 30 million pounds of concrete and 780,000 pounds of steel were recycled from the site’s demolition materials. New building materials were regionally sourced whenever possible, including the concrete. Structure and envelope were designed to reduce the carbon emissions associated with their manufacture and life cycle; this was studied, optimized, and documented in Tally, showing a 15% reduction in GWP in the LEED MRc1 credit (building embodied carbon and baseline above are both from the that study). Use of fly ash and slag, Supplemental Cementitious Materials, resulted in a 26% reduction in the carbon intensive cement used in the project. Additionally, 98.7% of the project’s total waste was diverted from landfills.

Design for Change

The project addresses future risks and vulnerabilities through resiliency strategies that resulted in a U.S. Resiliency Council (USRC) Platinum Rating—another “first” for a California state-owned building. The USRC rating considers the performance of a building’s structure, MEP systems, and architectural components such as cladding, windows, partitions and ceilings, in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. The rating system assigns one to five stars along the dimensions of Safety, Damage (expressed as repair cost), and Recovery (expressed as time to regain basic function). The Platinum Rating represents the highest level of building performance and is intended to exceed modern codes. Platinum-rated buildings are expected to suffer negligible damage, less than 5% of replacement cost, and allow functional recovery within a few days of a major seismic event. The USRC Platinum rating is sought by owners who demand the highest level of asset protection and virtually uninterrupted functionality of their operations, which reflects the state’s and project team’s commitment to safety and resiliency.

The office space is designed for adaptability to anticipate future changes in hybrid work as well as health and human safety concerns. The open-plan office design and flexible use of meeting and collaboration spaces allowed the state to pivot during COVID. Standard workspace for state workers is a 7’x6’ workstation, compared to 5’ workstation for typical tech tenants, so the design already meets COVID standards. According to the owner, “One small adaptation we have made is not having workstations facing each other, but that speaks to the wonderful flexibility of the design that we can pivot that easily. We have been lucky in that the building was designed to meet the heightened expectations of COVID. We already had many components built into the design, whether it was a high-quality air filtration system or touchless fixtures. Currently as designed, this building stands much better than our existing state buildings in the ability to adapt to COVID. Teleworking was also built into the IT design. We didn’t know COVID was going to hit, but because the whole building was designed to be so seamlessly integrated, we will greatly benefit in being able to accommodate future needs for flexibility.”

The design team selected raised access flooring to provide a low-pressure under floor air distribution (UFAD) system that meets the project’s stringent indoor air quality and energy efficiency goals. High indoor air quality is supplied by sophisticated filtration, informed by air quality sensors placed throughout the building, that supplies fresh 100% outdoor air to all indoor spaces. Underfloor air diffusers adjust the air supply throughout the building, introducing fresh air at floor level while exhausting warm air at the ceiling, therefore reducing the mix of old air with new and making for a healthier environment.

Design for Discovery

The project team engaged at length with the users during programming, design, and change management work sessions. The outcome of this engagement led to design changes that were in response to the changing nature of office work, including the use of communal spaces, changes in commute patterns, and health and human safety concerns. While the building was always designed to be telework-enabled, further design changes were made in collaboration with the tenants to accommodate unplanned growth and consolidate additional staff due to the departments’ adoption of hybrid telework during the COVID pandemic. Because the building was already designed to maximize occupant health and wellness, it was “pandemic ready” from a safety and resiliency standpoint, which was a significant benefit for the owner. The project team plans to conduct a post occupancy evaluation in the future, given the building is still only partially occupied.

AIA California
AIA California
AIA California is dedicated to serving its members, and uniting all architecture professionals in the design of a more just, equitable and resilient future through advocacy, education and political action. It celebrates more than 75 years of service and, today, is composed of more than 11,000 members across the state.

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