Central Plant Receives Top Award for Distinguished Design from American Institute of Architects

Central Plant is key component of university's commitment to sustainable development and environmental leadership

MERCED - The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected the University of California, Merced's first building complex, known as the Central Plant, to receive a 2007 Institute Honor Award for Architecture.

The award is the profession's "highest recognition of works that exemplify excellence in architecture," according to the prestigious architectural group. The UC Merced complex is one of only 11 structures in the world to receive citations in this category for 2007.

"The exterior aspects, the quality of the interior spaces, site considerations, environmental issues, and social relevance were all factors in distinguishing the final selections," said AIA Jury Chair Richard Logan. "The range of winning projects demonstrates both the power and diversity of great architecture."

UC Merced's Central Plant includes a three-story building that houses most of the university's power and infrastructure operations, as well as a telecommunications building and a large water-storage tank.

The AIA award jury found the innovative use of glass in the main building to be especially effective in diffusing light throughout the complex, enhancing daylighting efficiency.

The complex was recognized as "beautifully sensitive to architecture and engineering," with a "humanistic quality that clearly recognizes someone is working inside." It is "an icon on the landscape and discipline at its best," the jury noted - a "jubilant example of the use of steel and glass that celebrates the beauty of materials that work so well with the landscape."

The Central Plant is a key component in the university's plans to meet or exceed the UC Board of Regents' mandates for sustainable development and high-level energy efficiency in all new buildings. UC Merced's objective is to earn campus-wide LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which uses a points-based system to measure environmental impacts of development under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. UC Merced is believed to be the only university in the country seeking LEED Silver certification for all of its buildings.

"This award is more than a tip of the cap to great-looking architecture," said Tom Lollini, associate vice chancellor for physical planning, design and construction. "It's important recognition that the university's commitment to be an asset to the community, to build attractive facilities and set an example of intelligent, sustainable development can be realized with grace and beauty."

The Central Plant complex was designed by architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP of San Francisco, under contract to UC Merced. It was built by Swinerton Builders of San Francisco.

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