McCarthy Begins Construction for J. Craig Venter Institute on UCSD La Jolla Campus

Designed to be the first carbon-neutral laboratory in the world, the new $35 million facility will support 125 scientists and staff in quest to advance the science of genomics

Online PR News – 29-September-2011 – – McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. (, one of the nation’s premiere research laboratory builders, has begun construction for the much-anticipated J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla, a new 45,000-square-foot laboratory facility located at 4120 Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla, Calif., within the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony was held at the 1.75-acre scenic coastal site on Sept. 20. Guest speakers included J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder and president of J. Craig Venter Institute; Marye Anne Fox, UCSD chancellor; San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders; David Brenner, M.D., vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine at UCSD; and Tony Haymet, Ph.D., director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, vice chancellor for marine sciences, and dean of the Graduate School of Marine Sciences at University of California.

The $35 million facility, designed to be the most environmentally friendly and only “net zero energy” biological laboratory in the world, is envisioned to support approximately 125 scientists and other staff to further the Institute’s goals in genomic research and policy. The location of the facility, on land leased from UCSD at the Scripps Upper Mesa, was chosen for its proximity to and potential for collaboration with the many renowned academic research centers in the La Jolla area.

Formed in 2006 through the merger of several affiliated institutes, the J. Craig Venter Institute is the world’s leading multidisciplinary genomic-focused organization, employing approximately 300 scientists and staff at locations in Rockville, Md., and San Diego. Calif. President and Founder J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. is regarded as one of the leading scientists and entrepreneurs of the 21st century, most famous for his role in constructing the first synthetic bacterial cell and sequencing the human genome. He and his staff are dedicated to human, microbial, plant and environmental genomic research, the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics, and seeking alternative energy solutions through genomics.

“We have carefully assembled a project team comprised of the nation’s top laboratory design and building professionals, and are delighted to have McCarthy execute our vision for this unprecedented facility,” said Robert Friedman, director of the J. Craig Venter Institute’s California campus. “Representing the most ambitious sustainably designed biological research laboratory project ever to be built, the new J. Craig Venter Institute is integral to the Institute’s quest to perform the science needed to solve critical environmental and human health challenges.”

According to Craig Swenson, project director for McCarthy, the new J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla will be one building consisting of a single-story, 12,605-square-foot laboratory wing; a three-story, 28,600-square-foot office wing; a 3,560-square-foot loading dock area; and a partially below-grade, 44,040-square-foot parking structure. The laboratory and office wings will sit atop the roof/podium deck of the parking garage.

The new facility will feature cedar wood siding, a wood window curtain wall and storefront system, metal panels, interior wood flooring, and exposed architectural concrete, which McCarthy will self perform. Construction is targeted for completion in June 2013, with a tenant move-in date of September 2013.

According to Ted Hyman, FAIA, a partner with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, LLP, and principal architect for the new J. Craig Venture Institute, La Jolla, the new research facility will incorporate high performance architecture, low-energy-use systems, water conservation strategies and onsite renewable power generation. The building massing and envelope have been designed to maximize the use of daylight to improve indoor comfort while further reducing overall building energy use. The building is proposed to be “net-zero” for electrical energy, intended to produce as much electricity on-site as it consumes annually. This will be made possible by integrating numerous energy efficiency measures throughout the building systems, incorporating operable windows and efficient lighting, and by reducing internal plug loads wherever possible.

On-site renewable energy will be generated through the sizeable photovoltaic roof. The project team has also pursued a “zero discharge” philosophy for the site design based on the combined strategies of infiltration, on-site wastewater treatment, and water reuse. Rainwater will be collected and stored in a cistern, filtered, then reused for toilet flushing and site irrigation.

Other sustainable design features include recycled content; natural ventilation and passive cooling; use of regional materials; green roofs; native, low-water landscaping; high-efficiency plumbing to further reduce water use; and sustainably harvested wood. The project team is targeting LEED Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“It was critical that we had a general contractor on board that not only had lab facility experience, but who also fully understood sustainability practices and how to navigate a project through the LEED certification process,” said Hyman. “We have teamed with McCarthy on numerous such projects, and are looking forward to collaborating with them on this unprecedented, ultra-green facility.”

McCarthy has built more than 50 LEED projects across the country, and is ranked among the nation’s top lab builders. Its number of on-staff LEED accredited professionals is 400 and growing. In San Diego alone, McCarthy built the new Rady Children’s Hospital Acute Care Pavilion, which was LEED Certified shortly after opening; and the Allied Health Education and Training Facility at San Diego Mesa College, which achieved LEED Gold. The company is currently working on the Miramar College Parking Structure & Police Station, which is on track to receive LEED Platinum; the new 180,000-square-foot, four-story Math and Science Building at San Diego Mesa College, for which the team is targeting LEED Gold; and the new 196,000-square-foot, five-story Health Sciences Biomedical Research Facility at UCSD, expected to be the highest performing and most sustainably designed research lab on the UCSD campus and among the greenest in the country.

“We’re extremely honored to be building this high-profile, very complex laboratory facility for such a prestigious organization as the J. Craig Venter Institute,” said Ron Hall, executive vice president of McCarthy, who oversees San Diego operations for the firm. “It’s humbling not only to be constructing the world’s first carbon-neutral laboratory, but also helping to advance such important environmental and human causes.”

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, LLP, is both the architect and interior designer. KPFF Consulting Engineers is the structural and civil engineer; Integrated Design Associates is the electrical engineer, and Integral Group is the mechanical and plumbing engineer. Atelier Ten is the sustainable design consultant, Jacobs Consultancy is the laboratory planner, Andropogon Associates is the landscape architect, Natural Systems is the environmental designer, David Nelson & Associates is the lighting design consultant, and Davis Langdon is the cost estimator.

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is the nation’s 10th largest domestic general contractor (Engineering News-Record, May 2011) and is one of the nation’s oldest, privately held construction firms. As the largest general building contractor in California and one of the top green construction firms (ENR California, August 2011), McCarthy is committed to the construction of high performance buildings. The company provides general contracting, construction management, program management and design/build services for healthcare, education, parking structure, entertainment, retail, laboratory, biotechnical, microelectronic, and industrial facilities; office buildings; tenant interiors; mixed-use; multifamily residential and bridges and highways. In addition to San Diego, McCarthy has offices in Newport Beach, Sacramento and San Francisco, Calif.; Phoenix; Las Vegas; Dallas; Houston; St. Louis and Atlanta. McCarthy is 100 percent employee owned.