2017 AIA Awards – Architecture

Firm: ZGF Architects LLP

Owner: Stanford University

Location: Stanford, California

Drawing inspiration from the physiology of the human cardiovascular system, this project is the heart of the university’s transformational campus-wide energy system, embodying the latest technological advances in heat recovery.

Signifying the university’s desire to be a leader in environmental stewardship, the 125,614-square-foot facility that replaced an aging gas-fired central energy plant comprises five main elements. An entry court and teaching facility bridges the major plant functions, including the heat-recovery chiller and its two large cold-water storage tanks, the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, and a new electrical substation that serves the entire campus.

Located on the campus’ west side, the project respects Frederick Law Olmsted’s original axial campus plan. Taking its cues from the university’s assemblage of historic and contemporary buildings, colored board-formed concrete plays on classic limestone while extensive glazing, steel columns, and polished aluminum provide a contemporary vernacular. Beyond the entry court, glass-enclosed offices hover above the entrance and provide views of the both the central campus and the facility’s hub. The facility’s massing and composition minimize its impact on campus, and elegant metal screens provide additional shielding.

The new facility plays a pivotal role in helping the university achieve the ambitious goals laid out in its Stanford Energy System Innovation Initiative which, through the plan’s implementation, has seen drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and potable water use on campus. Additionally, the university should enjoy $425 million in energy saving over 35 years.

Much more than a teaching facility and power plant, the Central Energy Facility functions as a living laboratory where faculty and students can examine the technologies and systems at work in the net-positive-energy environment. Engineers and manufacturers from North America and Europe collaborated to implement best practices found on both continents, turning the campus into one of the most efficient district energy systems in the world.

Additional information

Construction Contractor: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company

Engineer – Civil: BKF Engineers

Engineer - Mechanical/ Electrical/ Plumbing: Affiliated Engineers, Inc.

Engineer – Structural: Rutherford + Chekene

Landscape Architect: Tom Leader Studio


Mark Reddington, FAIA (Chair), LMN Architects, Seattle

Gregory P. Baker, AIA, HNTB Architecture, Los Angeles

David Cordaro, AIAS Representative, Urbandale, Iowa

Leslie K. Elkins, FAIA, Leslie K. Elkins Architect, Houston

Timothy J. Johnson, AIA, NBBJ, New York

William Q. Sabatini, FAIA, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Adrian D. Smith, FAIA, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Chicago

Beatrice Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, Pittsburgh

Marilyn Terranova, PhD, Interim Superintendent, Pocantico Hills CSD; Sleepy Hollow, New York

Image credits


Matthew Anderson


Robert Canfield


Robert Canfield


Steve Proehl


Tim Griffith