Bristol Community College John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building

Architect: Sasaki

Owner: Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Location: Fall River, Massachusetts

Project site: Previously developed land

Building program type(s): Education–College/University (campus-level)

Bristol set ambitious goals of making its new science building not only elegant and inviting, but also a model of sustainability. The 50,000 sq ft building sets the standard as the first zero net energy (ZNE) academic science building in the Northeast. Providing hands-on learning opportunities and care to underserved populations, its program accommodates instructional labs and support space for field biology, biotech, microbiology, and chemistry; nursing simulation labs; clinical laboratory science and medical assisting labs; dental hygiene labs; and a teaching clinic. Taking a holistic approach to the design and construction of the Sbrega Health and Science Building, the team uncovered innovative ways to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, increase efficiency, and dramatically reduce demand.

Image: Edward Caruso Photography

Project goals: Replace outmoded labs with hands-on learning environments for science and health

science; provide student ‘soft’ space; build sustainably; ‘gateway’ building; enhance existing landscape framework.

Between the budget-setting feasibility study and the beginning of SD, the college started a power purchase agreement, building a 3.2 MW solar array over a parking lot. This prompted a reassessment of the original "high-performance" design, which would not have kept pace with BCC's climate commitment. The goal became to design for zero net energy (ZNE) without increasing the budget. Which was accomplished.

In the ‘high performance’ design, energy demand was driven largely by 18 fume hoods that exhaust 100 percent outside air. Switching to filtration fume hoods and air-quality monitoring unlocked a series of strategies that reduce the EUI by roughly 80 percent, including:

  • 33-67 percent reduction in air changes
  • enthalpy wheel heat recovery
  • decoupling cooling/heating from ventilation
  • using fan coil units for local control
  • 67 percent reduction in airflow
  • high-performance envelope
  • expansion of interior temperature range to 70-76 degrees
  • natural ventilation
  • 22 percent window-to-wall ratio
  • self-shading, and 40 percent reduction in LPD

For heating and hot water, the design integrates a dual-source heat pump and a solar-powered hot water system. Together with the solar arrays (site and roof), carbon based energy sources have been eliminated.

Utility and daylight:

  • occupied by multiple disciplines
  • shared daylit student ‘living room’
  • lab walls are glazed, allowing for views into the labs
  • outdoor rooms and spaces
  • visible stormwater management
  • landscape/building merge

Taken together, this approach provides triple bottom line benefits:

Social: access to job-focused education serving a growing sector of the state’s economy

Economic: operational savings of $103,000 per year (not including grants/incentives/social cost of carbon); supporting the renewable energy market

Environmental: keeping carbon in the ground, reducing stormwater run-off, increasing habitat, establishing new models of sustainable lab design

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2011

Year of substantial project completion: 2016

Gross conditioned floor area: 50,600 sq ft

Gross unconditioned floor area: 0 sq ft

Number of stories: 3

Project Climate Zone: Humid Continental, Hardiness Zone 6a

Annual hours of operation: 8,760

Site area: 182,952 sq ft

Project site context/setting: suburban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $30.4 million

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 11,111

Project team

MEP: Bard Rao+ Athanas Consulting Engineers

Structural: RSE Associates

Fire protection: Fernandez Associates

Civil engineer: Nitsch Engineering

Landscape architect: Sasaki

Interior architect: Sasaki

Geothermal: Haley and Aldrich

Specifications: Steven McHugh, Architect

Code: Jensen Hughes

Construction management: Bond Brothers


Annie Chu, FAIA IIDA


Woodbury University

Los Angeles, California

Steve Kieran, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C

Kieran Timberlake

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

David Lake, FAIA

Lake Flato

San Antonio, Texas

Bungane Mehlomakulu, PE LEED AP

Integral Group

Austin, Texas

Amanda Sturgeon, FAIA

Living Futures Institute

Seattle, Washington

Jury comments

"This project was able to achieve net zero energy in a project type that typically does not achieve this level of performance. This a community college science building containing teaching labs with specialized ventilation needs. In achieving net zero energy, this project saved a significant amount of money over a regular building, providing a model for others to replicate. The project's design maximized a holistic range of energy reduction strategies, including a high performance envelope, daylighting, and innovative ventilation strategies."


Image credits

M10_Bristol CC Sbrega_06

Edward Caruso Photography

M1_Bristol CC Sbrega_01

Edward Caruso Photography

M2_Bristol CC Sbrega_02

Edward Caruso Photography

M7_Bristol CC Sbrega_22

Edward Caruso Photography

M8_Bristol CC Sbrega_09

Edward Caruso Photography

M9_Bristol CC Sbrega_12

Edward Caruso Photography

M2_Bristol CC Sbrega_07

Edward Caruso Photography

M2_Bristol CC Sbrega_03