Salk Institute Launches Infrastructure Renewal and Expansion Project
In 1960, when Jonas Salk and Louis Kahn collaborated to create the Salk Institute, they insisted that the facilities should be an inspiration to all who work and visit the campus—a design that would connect the best of both the scientific and artistic worlds. Motivated by a desire to mix his vision with modern technology, Kahn used concrete, glass and wood to form the distinctive exteriors of the buildings, while designing the laboratories around a radical new concept that, among other things, integrated mechanical and electrical services within the structural layout.
Fifty years later, the iconic architecture continues to inspire, but inside, the once cutting-edge infrastructure is showing its age. The outdated operating systems are inefficient and costly to run by today's standards, and repairs and maintenance have become a constant issue. These challenges, combined with the specter of energy shortages and rising utility rates, have made it increasingly important to develop an energy-efficient and cost-effective solution to updating the buildings' infrastructure.
Consequently, the Institute launched a comprehensive infrastructure renovation and expansion project in August 2010, designed to position its labs for the research needs of the 21st century.
The project, which will be done in phases over an 18-month period, involves replacing the components of the mechanical and electrical systems that are inoperable or at the end of their useful life and expanding them to accommodate current and future needs of the Institute.
"Preserving the historic spaces and character of the Salk while converting the facilities into sustainable buildings with innovative technologies and alternative energy solutions presented a host of complex challenges," said Tim Ball, senior director of Facility Services, who is coordinating and overseeing the project. Because research activity takes place 24 hours a day in the laboratories, the construction has required carefully choreographed timing as vital operating systems are taken offline and immediately set up with temporary substitutes until the permanent equipment is installed and up and running. "Basically, it's like performing a heart transplant on a patient while he is still awake," remarks Ball.
Despite the ambitiousness of this huge undertaking, the benefits to the Institute will be enormous once it is completed in April 2012, with nearly $550,000 of yearly savings in operational expenditures. The installation of a 500 kW solar array on the buildings' rooftops will produce electricity at a cost roughly 30% lower than what SDG&E charges. The project also puts the Salk in line with its desired goals for reducing energy consumption, while extending the life of essential services for another 40 years.
"Not only are we showing leadership by being good stewards of the environment; the energy conservation and improved efficiency will lower our operating costs and result in savings that can be used to support the labs and research," emphasizes Ball. What is more, he adds, the careful planning and design will also allow for adaptation to any new forthcoming "green" technologies down the road.
"A successful restoration should preserve the past as well as prepare a building for the future," he says—a sentiment that Louis Kahn and Jonas Salk would undoubtedly have embraced.