NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center



NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center – 26,536 square foot green roof
Location: San Diego, CA
Award Winner: Jeffrey L. Bruce & Co. (Landscape Architect / Green Roof Consultant)

Prime-MEP FP Eng.: Gibbons Drake Scott, Inc.
Irrigation Manufacturer: Rain Bird
Membrane Manufacturer: American Hydrotech
Structural Engineer: TransSystems Corp.
Landscape Architect (Site): Wilmer Yamada & Caughey
Native Plant Species Consultant/Mock-Up: RECON Native Plants, Inc.
DWRB Architects: Associate Architect
Architect of Record: Gould Evans Associates, LC
Civil Engineers: RBF Consulting Engineers
Specs/Labs/Security: HDR Architecture, Inc.
Life Support Systems: MWH Americas, Inc.

“With the little bit of rain that we get every so often, the sage smells utterly fabulous and fills the walkways with the scent of the chaparral. The hummers are everywhere and the first blossoms of spring are filling the courtyard with yellows and purples. What a pleasure to work with JBC and what an awesome outstanding over-the-top job.” – Sarah Mesnick, SWFSC Science Liaison

Researchers To The Environment They Are Dedicated To Preserving

When buildings are placed on world-class sites, they require a unique design that responds to both the opportunities and challenges. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries Project goes beyond a sustainable response to those two issues. The project embraces the location and its unique attributes with a LEED Gold design solution. The planning, design and construction of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries represent a unique blend of form, function and sustainability.

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the building is a focal point for ecosystem-based fisheries research, surveys and technological development. The new facility includes 125,000 square feet of office and laboratory space for 275 scientists which are carefully integrated into the fragile coastal ecosystem.

The growing media was a unique custom formulation to emulate the coastal dune ecology. After careful laboratory analysis and evaluation, it was amended with sodium bicarbonate to emulate a condition in which many of the endangered native species would thrive. The growing media for the green roof is an engineered soil comprised of a mixture of locally available components designed to benefit from the moderate temperatures and semi-arid climate. With an average depth of 6”, the primary component of the growing media is locally procured sand which ensures proper drainage. Organic material is also a key component, allowing for the absorption of water. The growing media provides water to the plants, and in rare rainy conditions, will retain the majority of the rainwater, holding it through capillary action for the plants to use later.

Inspired by the topography of the ocean and the culture of Southern California, the resulting design sets a new benchmark in low-impact sustainable lab design, while defining new synergies between marine scientists and their environment. The new facility fits naturally into the contours of the local hills and coastal habitat, and incorporates a complex program of offices, labs, conference rooms, parking, a library, and a one-of-a-kind ocean technology development tank all within a singular building footprint.


In doing this, the building embraces the coastal vernacular of outdoor terraces, courtyards, local materials, and local coastal plantings; all of which help connect researchers to the environment they are so dedicated to preserving. The ecosystems of coastal chaparral are California’s most threatened and least protected habitats, and are the focus of the 26,536 square feet of green roof on the project.

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