Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies

Tiburon, California

The Romberg Tiburon Center will be the most environmentally advanced academic research center in North America. New state-of-the art research laboratories, teaching spaces and outdoor workyards are flexibly designed to support continuing technical advances and changes in environmental research.

  • A healthy environment is one of the project's hallmarks. Windows are operable. Wherever possible, materials are selected to be non-toxic.
  • The climate-responsive design uses proven sustainable technologies. Passive solar design drastically reduces energy consumption. Photovoltaic roof shingles on the lab buildings produce electricity for the campus and resale to the power grid.
  • The biological water treatment system is the Living Machine process which reduces operating costs in an environmentally benign process.
  • The Center is sited on a former military base. Components of the previous facility are built into the new design to save money and resources.
  • Dramatic views look out to San Francisco Bay. Awareness of the natural world is built into every facet. Nooks and crannies of native plants and trees are around every corner.
  • Students and researchers will constantly be invigorated by a campus which is a physical manifestation of the environmental principles they are studying.

View From Hill

San Francisco Bay is one of the great estuaries of the world. It is a place where fresh water meets the sea creating extraordinarily rich ecosystems. It is also a place where a great metropolis and complex natural systems interact. The Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies (RTC) is the only academic research facility on San Francisco Bay. It is San Francisco State University's off-campus reasearch and education center. This view (from the hill to the north) looks over the campus and across the Bay to San Francisco and Oakland in the distance. The Living Roof of the RTC Administration Building is visible inthe low center of the picture.

Site Plan

From the top: RTC Adminstration Building (ORANGE), Laboratory Buildings (BROWN), Campus Commons (BLUE), Oceanographic Laboratories - Existing (TAN)

Admin Building Section

This is the nerve center of the campus. This two-story 17,400 square foot structure contains the Bay Room multipurpose space (for conferences, meetings and study), classrooms, study areas, administrative offices and an exhibit gallery.

Each side of the building is designed to fit its environment: south - lots of glass for passive solar warming in the winter; west - a wall of vines for shade; north - selected glass areas for glareless, natural daylighting, and east - open views of the bay. A living roof of native ground cover plants creates a great view from the facilities on the hill above as well as the entry road above.

The interior is characterized by white-painted exposed structural members. Mechanical and electrical systems are neatly exposed for ease of adaptability. High ceilings accommodate generous daylighting.

View of Lab Buildings

The Lab Buildings are centrally located within the campus - each containing two major laboratories plus offices, support spaces and adjacent exterior lab work yards. Each lab building is one story and approximately 4000 square feet in area.

These simple, barn-like structures with wood siding (recycled from existing barracks on the site) blend into the old military vernacular structures scattered throughout the campus. The roof shingles have photovoltaic modules incorporated into them to generate electricity. The lab interiors are high ceiling flexible spaces. The offices have dramatic views overlooking San Francisco Bay to the east.

Behind the Lab Buildings is the exisitng crane rail - a massive concrete structure that was part of the Naval Coal Depot that previously operated on the site. The crane rail will be saved and serves as the support for the Main Canopy which covers the major walkway through the campus.

Typical Office

Researchers' offices are just steps away from their laboratories and adjacent outside workyards. All research offices overlook San Francisco Bay.

Design Workshop

The consultant group including Ove Arup Engineers, Tipping Mar Structural Engineers, Amy Skewes-Cox Environmental Planning and Oppenheim Lewis Cost Estimators works with Van der Ryn staff. Intensive "whole building" design workshops such as this one are key to how we integrate all building systems into more environmentally friendly and economical plans.