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Living Lab and CES Design Features & Certifications

Use the links below to learn more about the design and certifications for both the Living Lab and Center for Environmental Studies (CES).


Living Lab Design and Certification

Living Lab Geographical Features

The Living Lab is at its core a native and drought tolerant landscape and wildlife habitat. In this four-acre garden one can find the following geographical features:

<img class="borders_wp alignleft lazyload" title="Living Lab Map" src="" alt="" width="250" /> – Edible Garden, Orchard, and Outdoor Kitchen – Aquatic ecosystem: Pond, Waterfall, and Rainwater catchment system – Propagation Centers: Greenhouses, Nurseries, and Lath Houses – Outdoor Gathering and Meditative Areas – Trail Systems – Composting Facility – Pollinator Gardens – Chicken Coop and Rabbit Hutch Click here to download map in PDF version

Living Lab Certification

<img class="borders_wp alignleft lazyload" title="bay_friendly_criteria" src="" alt="" width="250" /> Bay Friendly Certification is a guideline promoted by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority’s Stop Waste program, based on seven basic principles of ecological restoration and design. Data from the records of Stop Waste show that incorporating these Bay-Friendly practices into the design, construction, and management of landscapes can provide many benefits, including: 50% water savings; 30 – 70% maintenance labor savings; 85 – 95% weed suppression without toxic chemicals; 70 – 80% reduced runoff and erosion; 53 tons per acre reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to the expertise and advocacy of Karen and Paul McArdle, the landscape architects for the CES and parents of BOD alumnus Ian McArdle ’09, the Living Lab received “Bay-Friendly Garden” status in 2012, and is in the process of certifying “Bay-Friendly Landscaping” status for the CES project. The Living Lab was recognized for demonstrating ecological concepts and environmentally-friendly practices that provide hands-on learning opportunities for students while fostering a sense of stewardship for watersheds of the San Francisco Bay. The Living Lab has been identified as a model school program for how it involves students in the “Seven Principles of Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening.” Check out some of these features below:

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="pickax_digging" src="" alt="" width="200" />Landscape Locally: Recognizing that build landscapes are a part of the larger ecosystem of the SF Bay watershed and directly influence its health, students worked with the Siegel & Strain architectural team on site analysis- evaluating climate, topography, soils, and solar exposure to help develop early CES design plans.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="native_plants" src="" alt="" width="200" />Landscape for Less Landfill: Reducing waste by adding only hearty native plants, removing invasive species, and by composting and mulching, students were also able to participate in the on-site milling of trees from the CES site to produce lumber for the new building.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="composting" src="" alt="" width="200" />Nurture the Soil: Student crews assisted in amending the nutrient-poor and largely impermeable clay soil by mixing in countless wheelbarrows-full of rich compost and loose sand, first digging up the hard ground by hand.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="habitat" src="" alt="" width="200" />Conserve Water: Promoted by planting local species, many propagated on-site, that use little water and are adapted to summer-dry climates, and installing high-efficiency irrigation systems, while adding extra mulch to the soil to efficiently absorb irrigation and rain water.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="compost_pile" src="" alt="" width="200" />Conserve Energy: Savings enhanced by using recycled lumber to build compost bins, planting trees to provide energy-free shade and cooling, and extensive composting to eliminate the energy costs embodied in the production and transportation of artificial fertilizers.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="sheet_mulching" src="" alt="" width="200" />Protect Water & Air Quality: Promoted by using sheet mulching (i.e., laying out sheets of cardboard then covered with wood chips) to suppress weeds and develop soil without the use of herbicides or fertilizers and using permeable paving material to facilitate percolation of water into the soil while minimizing runoff and erosion.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="habitat_cedar" src="" alt="" width="200" />Create & Protect Wildlife Habitat: Recognizing that biodiversity is crucial to the health of natural ecosystems, establishing diverse native plant communities around the CES to provide food and shelter for a wide variety of birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and other creatures.

To learn more about these features, take a virtual tour in this video:

Educational signage is currently being developed that will be placed throughout the Living Lab and near the CES to highlight those features of the garden and landscaping that demonstrate these Bay-Friendly practices. Top of Page


CES Design and Certification

CES Design and Key Players

Siegel & Strain Architects Head Architects on the CES Project: Principal Susi Marzuloa and Associate Karen Richards Following an intensive search covering the greater Bay Area, eight architectural firms were invited to present proposals for the Center for Environmental Studies (CES). Upon review of their proposals, visits to their building sites, interviews and a vetting process, the selection committee unanimously chose Siegel & Strain Architects of Emeryville as the design team for the CES. Widely recognized as pioneers in ecologically sustainable design, their firm has a particularly impressive track record, winning more than sixty design awards since the early 1990s for projects that range from institutional and historic, to housing and residential. Under the leadership of Principal Susi Marzuola and Project Architect extraordinaire Associate Karen Richards, Siegel & Strain Architects aimed to create a Center for Environmental Studies that is functional, beautiful and well-loved, because cherished buildings are the ones that are cared for and ultimately sustainable. From big picture to every detail, they sought to eliminate or minimize the impacts of constructing and operating the CES building. Siegel & Strain applied what they have learned from past projects, and for this particular project incorporated the following into their approach:

  1. Collaborative Design with the School and Living Lab Leadership, the Design Team and the General Contractor Pankow Builders, and most important O’Dowd students;

  2. Regional & Site Specific Design and Climate-Based Design relating the project specifically to this particular place in the world on the Bishop O’Dowd High School campus in the East Bay Oakland Hills;

  3. Water and Energy Conservation in and around the building through use of renewable energy and rainwater capture;

  4. Green Materials specifications for natural, non-toxic, renewable and recycled building and finish materials;

  5. Design of Flexible Spaces for loose fit, multiple uses, reuse and long life.

Construction: Pankow BLUE CES Construction Leaders: Senior Project Manager Jim Coyle, Construction Project Manager Marielle Price, and Superintendent William Norriad (first six months of the project)

<img class="borders_wp alignleft lazyload" title="Pankow" src="" alt="" width="225" />The Oakland branch of the Los Angeles based construction company, Charles Pankow Builders, won over O’Dowd with their “Thinking Beyond the Building” and design-build philosophies. Their methodology is all about establishing trust with a client, and ensuring that Pankow engineers work side-by-side with the project team every step of the way. Thinking Beyond the Building also means a commitment to environmentally responsible construction and being good stewards of the environment through: Resource Conservation, Reducing Carbon Footprint, Providing Environmental Community Outreach and Education, and Ongoing development and implementation of environmental initiatives. Pankow’s commitment to sustainability inspired them to create Oakland based Pankow BLUE, a group at Charles Pankow Builders that is devoted to low impact building. Inspired by the Living Building Challenge, they strive to use the best sustainable construction practices, and have completed multiple Net-Zero Energy, and LEED Platinum projects.

Landscape Architects: McArdle Design Inc.

<img class="borders_wp alignleft lazyload" title="McArdle" src="" alt="" width="130" height="200" /> For years, the Living Lab has benefited from the intentional design and aesthetic approach of landscape architects Karen and Paul McArdle. Long time Living Lab volunteers and parents of an O’Dowd alumnus, the McArdles have worked for over 20 years on projects of all sizes and types. Their expertise has impacted numerous projects throughout the greater Bay Area and beyond, including commercial, residential, recreation, and civic improvements. O’Dowd has leaned on the McArdles Master Planning capabilities for many years, and was thrilled when the McArdle Design Inc. agreed to be the landscape architects for the surrounding Terrace and greater hillside of the CES. They are well versed in sustainable landscaping, and led the charge to register the Living Lab as a Bay Friendly School Garden in 2012.

CES LEED Certification Overview

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), is a U.S. Green Building Council program that transforms the way we think about how our buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe. At its core, LEED is about making buildings healthier and safer for occupants and the planet. LEED’s leadership comes at a crucial time, as currently buildings are responsible for over 40% of worldwide energy flow and material use, and conventional buildings have been identified as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to climate change (LEED, 2014). Buildings can also be hazardous to health, as conventional buildings are full of indoor air pollutants such as, dust mites, pollen, mold, radon, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, and chemical fumes from paints, furniture, cleaners, etc. According to the EPA, people on average spend 85-90% of their time indoors, where air pollution is two to five times (sometimes up to 100x) more polluted than the worst outside air. Unfortunately, this indoor air pollution contributes to lung disease, respiratory tract infections, asthma, and cancers (2014).

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" style="float: right;" title="Leed Credit Categories" src="" alt="" width="225" />LEED works as a tiered third-party verification systems that addresses the entire building lifecycle and its impact on the planet and occupants health. The certification program is made up of LEED credit categories that allow projects to earn points for innovative design techniques that use local materials, conserve resources and ensure a healthy indoor environment. The main credit categories can be seen in the image to the right. The other credit categories focus mainly on how the building integrates with local neighborhoods, and eco-friendly construction methods. For schools in particular, credits can also be earned for how the building is used to educate students and community members about the impacts and benefits of green design. In addition to certification for the design and construction of new buildings, LEED has created an ongoing certification process, LEED for Existing Buildings, that encourages environmentally friendly and healthy usage patterns for how buildings in their ongoing usage and existence.

The CES and LEED Certification

Bishop O’Dowd remains at the forefront of the sustainability movement in education, as only two percent of schools (500 have been awarded and 1,700 are registered) have achieved LEED certification. O’Dowd’s Center for Environmental Studies (CES) aims to achieve LEED’s highest recognition, Platinum Certification. This means that the design and construction process are held to the highest of standards, lowering the impact (aka footprint) on the planet, and providing a toxic-free learning environment for students. Below are some of LEED certification feature examples, (note that many features have elements that contribute to being more sustainable in multiple categories) or take a virtual tour of the features below. Additionally, you can check out how the systems are performing by checking out the CES Building Systems Dashboard.

LEED Energy Efficiency and Indoor Environmental Quality Examples

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="solar_panel_thumb" src="" alt="" width="175" />The CES is well on its way to producing as much energy on-site as it consumes by accessing renewable solar energy. Forty-six solar PV panels were generously donated by the Yishan Wang family, and with the help of John Orfali with Save a Lot Solar, they have been installed on the roof of the CES. These solar panels provide up to 50 percent of the necessary energy demand in the CES, a big step forward in O’Dowd’s quest to shift to renewable energy sources.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="LED Lights" src="" alt="" width="175" height="130" />Strategically placed windows and doors help the CES use natural lighting effectively, which reduces the need for overhead lights. When necessary, overhead lights do use the most efficient lighting available on the market Fluorescents and LED (LED (lighting light-emitting diodes). The lights also have “smart” sensors that will automatically dim overhead lights by 50 percent if enough natural light is present, and will also detect motion and turn lights off entirely when not necessary.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="In-Slab Radiant Heating" src="" alt="" width="175" height="140" />The in-slab radiant heating system quietly transports heat throughout the building without affecting air quality. Invisible waves of thermal heating rise up from the floor warming up objects and people just as the sun or warmth from a fire would. Unlike conventional hot air heaters, radiant heating allows air temperatures to remain relatively constant, does not dry out breathing passages, and reduces energy costs by 25-50 percent.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="Ventilation" src="" alt="" width="180" height="100" />The CES is located on an ideal location for natural ventilation, which eliminates the need for artificial air conditioning. Doors and operable windows work with ceiling fans to cool temperatures with natural ventilation, which flushes out the buildings and provides fresh air.

LEED Water System Examples The basis of rainwater catchment systems is to reroute stormwater into storage systems, vegetation, and permeable areas instead of the storm sewer. When not collected or slowed down, stormwater runoff is a major cause of water pollution, and erosion and flooding.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="CES Water Features" src="" alt="" width="140" height="513" />The CES uses a number of methods for slowing down and capturing stormwater:

  1. Bioswales are channels that are vegetated, mulched, or xeriscaped (drought tolerant plants). The main CES bioswale is located at the base of the hill to best capture runoff. These channels are more sustainable as they eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation, and treat storm water by filtering, slowing, and using the water.

  2. The Rain Chain is a great educational tool as it makes our water retention system more visible, showing how stormwater runs off the roof and drains into a permeable collection area that flows into the Living Lab’s bioswale system.

  3. The CES Rain Garden (also known as bioretention or bioinfiltration cells) is a shallow, vegetated basins that collect and absorb runoff from rooftop, sidewalk, and street. Rain gardens are helpful because they mimic larger hydrologic systems slowing the movement of water, distributing into plants and the ground, and treating the water by stripping out pollutants.

  4. Permeable Pavers are interlocking recycled concrete slabs that let water infiltrate (enter the ground), or be treated and/or stored. These can be found throughout the CES terrace and patio area.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="Grey Water" src="" alt="" width="180" height="100" />The focus of the rain water harvesting design is to reduce domestic water (tap water from EBMUD) consumption for wastewater and irrigation purposes. The CES has a 4,300 gallon rainwater harvesting tank, which catches roof run-off during rain storms and also general precipitation. This water is then used for flushing the CES toilets, which are so low-flow, that they use no more than 1 gallon per flush.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="Classroom Faucets" src="" alt="" width="180" height="100" />All CES faucets are low-flow, which reduces the gallons of water flow per minute (gpm), and each has an energy saving feature:

  1. Classroom faucets provide 1.5 gallons per minute. They also use an Insta-Hot system that provide hot water on demand, meaning that fewer gallons of water are wasted waiting to draw hot water from a traditional tank and there is little energy waste on standby hot water.

  2. Bathroom faucets are extremely low-flow as they use infrared faucet sensors and valves to control flow to 0.35 gmp. The energy needed to power these sensors comes from a photovoltaic (PV) panel on the faucet that stores energy from a blend of artificial and natural light in the bathroom.

Materials and Resources LEED Feature Examples In order to be LEED certifiable, CES products needed to meet some of the following criteria: be durable (long lasting), renewable, efficient, energy efficient in creation, recycled/able, non-toxic or low VOC, local, and improve the performance of the building (energy, water, etc.)

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="Sitewood Alcove" src="" alt="" width="180" height="100" />LEED certification recommends using local materials whenever possible. The CES was able to do this by using site wood (the wood from the trees that were cut down to make space for the CES) for the display case and the alcove on the CES patio. This site wood has really come full circle, as these trees were originally planted in the 1950s by O’Dowd students in detention, and in winter of 2013 were cut down and milled by O’Dowd students for use on the CES.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="IMG_0655" src="" alt="" width="180" height="110" />When local materials might be hard to find, LEED certification advocates for material reuse. The cabinetry throughout the CES is a perfect examples of this, as these are recycled from Southern California.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="CES Metal" src="" alt="" width="180" height="100" />All of the metal throughout the CES is recycled and local. Metal can be found on the roof, structural steel and rebar, guard and hand rails, door hardware, and aluminum on sliding glass doors

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="concrete" src="" alt="" width="180" height="110" />Concrete in the CES is mixed with metal and coal combustion by-products called slag and flyash. Our CES concrete is environmentally advantageous as it is local, it diverted material and pollution from the waste-stream, and it conserves virgin materials and energy. Slag and Flyash also improve the performance and durability of concrete by improving workability when pouring and setting, reducing water and energy demand, and in the long-term increases strength and reduces permeability.

<img class="borders_wp lazyload" title="Eco Batt" src="" alt="" width="120" />EcoBatt Insulation is made from rapidly renewable organic material (primarily sand) and post-consumer recycled bottle glass, it has eliminated use of petroleum based chemicals, and does not contain toxic materials (phenol, formaldehyde, acrylics, and artificial colors) found in traditional fiberglass insulation. Not only is this resource made from sustainable materials, but insulation also allows buildings to reduce energy wasted on heating and cooling.


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