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UCSF Regeneration Medicine Building Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

November 15, 2012 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The new Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building (RMB) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has earned national recognition in the 2012 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). In honor of this achievement, members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony at the building on Friday, November 16, at 11 a.m. Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievement in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects across the country. The IDEAS2 award is the highest, most prestigious honor bestowed on building projects by the structural steel industry in the U.S.

The project team members include:

  • Owner/Developer: University of California, San Francisco Capital Programs and Facilities Management, San Francisco
  • Owner’s Representative: Nova Partners, Palo Alto, Calif.
  • Architects: Rafael Viñoly Architects, New York; and SmithGroupJJR, San Francisco
  • Structural Engineers: Forell/Elsesser Engineers, San Francisco; and Nabih Youssef Associates, San Francisco
  • General Contractor: DPR Construction, San Francisco
  • Steel Fabricator and Erector: Schuff Steel, San Diego (AISC Member/AISC Certified Fabricator/AISC Advanced Certified Erector)

The UCSF Ray and Dagmar Dolby RMB is a Merit award winner in the category of projects Greater than $75 Million, making it one of only four projects around the country to receive the Merit honor. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel from both an architectural and structural engineering perspective, with an emphasis on: creative solutions to project requirements; design innovation; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of the steel; the use of innovative design and construction methods; and sustainable design and construction.

Big things are being studied at a tiny level at the new regeneration medicine building, perched behind the UCSF Parnassus Medical Center.

The 68,500-sq.-ft facility houses 25 principal investigators and their teams whose job it is to study tissue development and cell-based approaches to treating diseases. The building’s design encourages collaboration through the creation of four open labs, which are interconnected by shared break rooms and offices that look out upon green roof terraces. The design was based on conceptual “bridging” drawings developed by Rafael Viñoly Architects of New York and the San Francisco office of Nabih Youssef Associates.

The 650-ft-long by 65-ft-wide building sits on a steep hillside adjacent to an existing access road—the vertical slope of the hill is almost 60° towards the western end—and the plan mimics the serpentine shape of the road as it twists and turns up the hill. Each of the four open labs is contained in a structural “pod,” each 150 ft in length. The pods terrace up the hillside from east to west with a one-half story step between each pod. The westernmost lab aligns with the grade of the existing access road grade; however, the road’s steep gradient creates a large elevation difference between the eastern lab and the road below. As a result, some foundation elements cantilever above grade by as much as 30 ft.

“A uniquely challenging building that would have been impossible to build without steel,” commented Eric Liobis, an honors student who recently completed his senior year at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., and a judge in the competition.

Each pod consists of a conventionally framed steel superstructure supported by an HSS space truss below. Exterior walkways are cantilevered 7 ft to 14 ft off the north side of the building to provide additional circulation between the pods. The space truss provided an efficient means of accommodating the horizontal sweeps of the road and vertical slopes of the terrain. Early collaboration with the steel fabricator and erector, Schuff Steel, allowed the truss details to be coordinated with their fabrication and construction plan. In some cases, more fabrication-intensive connections were favored to expedite field construction and improve the reliability of the final product. This collaboration, in combination with the use of building information modeling (BIM), significantly reduced the number of RFIs and kept the structure on schedule and budget.

The HSS space truss and exterior walkways were exposed in their final condition. As such, architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS) requirements were incorporated into their design and construction. These requirements varied from simply removing weld and construction aids for visually distant members to grinding welds, providing constant gaps and aligning bolt heads for more accessible areas. Working with UCSF, the design-build team was able to balance their aesthetic needs with the budgetary limitations to produce an elegant and dynamic exposed structure.

Because of RMB’s close proximity to the San Andreas Fault (about six miles), UCSF desired an increased level of seismic performance for the structure to protect the building and its contents from damage in a significant earthquake. Given the unique architectural design and stringent performance requirements, base isolation was selected as the design solution that best balanced the project requirements. “Triple Pendulum” isolation bearings, manufactured by Earthquake Protection Systems of Vallejo, Calif., were selected because of their ability to limit the torsional response of the long and narrow structure. Based on nonlinear response history analysis, the structure is anticipated to move a maximum of 26 in. laterally and 2 in. vertically during a maximum considered earthquake.

RMB is the first LEED Gold Certified project to receive an Innovation in Design (ID) Credit for high-performance seismic design. Forell/Elsesser was able to show that the base isolated design resulted in a 40% reduction of structural materials and 43% reduction of CO2 over a conventionally designed structure of equal seismic performance. In addition, the design-build process saved UCSF approximately $20 million and two years on their schedule.

The 10 IDEAS2 winners for 2012 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received from architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 award dates back more than 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E., president of AISC, said, “The entire UCSF Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a research facility that serves its purpose extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

High-resolution images of the UCSF Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building project are available upon request by contacting AISC’s Tasha Weiss at 312.670.5439, [email protected].

UCSF Medicine Building
Photo by Bruce Damonte Photography


For more information contact:

Tasha Weiss
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]



American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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