May 11, 2021

Ohlone College Academic Core Buildings Earn LEED Platinum

We are extremely proud to share Ohlone College’s Academic Core Buildings are now the institution’s very first Net-Zero Energy buildings on campus.

The buildings have earned LEED Platinum certification in recent weeks for their remarkable sustainable design. 

We helped Ohlone College replace three aging, water-damaged buildings and transform the campus – located in Fremont about 40 miles outside of San Francisco. The revitalized campus core completely transforms the student experience as a science center, music and visual arts center, and a learning commons housing study rooms and a library.

Below are just some of the numerous sustainable design strategies that shape the Ohlone College Academic Core Buildings:


  • The buildings are located within a half mile of 10 public services and provide pedestrian access between the building and those services.
  • The revitalized spaces are located within walking distance of four public, campus and/or private bus stop locations and no new parking was created for this project.
  • Bioretention strategies of on-site storm water holds a total suspended solids removal efficiency of 80%.

Energy and Atmosphere

  • The design prioritized optimal solar orientation to maximize the south and north facades and  minimize east and west.  Shading devices helped to further cool the building façade.
  • Long, thin volumes allowed for maximum usage of natural light and daylight harvesting which, couple with shading devices and sensors greatly reduce energy demand.
  • The three buildings are served by a new central plant which uses a geothermal loop to cool and heat the buildings
  • All hot water is provided by a solar thermal domestic water heating system
  • The project offsets 113% of total energy costs on an annual basis through and on-site photovoltaic array making this a net-positive energy facility

Water Efficiency

  • Landscaping and irrigation systems are designed to reduce irrigation water consumption by 60% from baseline through use of native plantings and also condensate waste water reuse.
  • Ultra-low flow/flush plumbing fixtures yield a 48% percent reduction of water use from baseline

Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Permanent monitoring systems were installed to ensure that ventilation systems maintain design minimum requirements.
  • Breathing zone outdoor air ventilation rates to all occupied spaces have been increased by at 30% above the minimum rates required by ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007
  • All adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, flooring, composite wood and agrifiber products sed on the interior of the building comply with enhanced IAQ emission requirements

Materials and Resources

  • The buildings provide areas for collection and storage of recyclable waste streams like paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metals and batteries.
  • Over 75% of all construction and demolition waste produced on site was diverted from the landfill, totaling 1,980 tons of materials kept within market circulation.
  • Over 22% of total materials, by cost, were composed of recycled materials
  • Over 20% of total materials, by cost, are composed of regional materials that have been manufactured and extracted/harvested/recovered within 500 miles of the project site.
  • 82% of total new wood materials, by cost, are composed of FSC-certified wood approved for indoor environmental quality.

Project Process and Commitment

Ohlone College wanted this project to achieve their sustainability goals of LEED certification and net zero energy, and to share these achievements with the students, staff and visitors. To do this, large glass openings  make the new central plant’s inner workings visible from adjacent circulation spaces.

Additionally, all water systems are sub-metered (boilers, irrigation, ground loop. Purified water, lab equipment, etc.) and the consumption data is displayed throughout the buildings via a dashboard. Beyond the obvious focus on energy and water use, the building materials, interior spaces, and exterior massing all serve as examples of a built environment prioritizing stewardship for human and environmental wellness.

Congrats to Ohlone College on this tremendous achievement. This recent milestone adds to a growing list of recognition for the Academic Core, including an Excellence in Planning Honor Award from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), an Award of Merit from the Community College Coalition, and an Architecture Award from the American Institute of Architects’ Silicon Valley Chapter.

Learn more about the revitalized Ohlone College Academic Core >