California Air Resources Board

Southern California Headquarters

Most advanced vehicle testing in the world. Largest zero net energy lab building in the USA.

Consolidating five existing locations, the new home of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is one of the largest and most advanced vehicle emissions testing and research facilities in the world — as well as the world’s largest zero net energy (ZNE) facility of its type. The nature of CARB’s research mission, regulating as-yet unregulated emissions constituents, demands high-performance precision laboratory environments to produce repeatable data and meet ZNE.

Housing more than 400 employees near the University of California, Riverside campus, this design-build project provides advanced chemistry laboratories, a range of dedicated vehicle test cells, workspace for accommodating new test methods for future generations of vehicles, space for developing enhanced onboard diagnostics and portable emissions measurement systems, and a variety of public areas.

Awarded by the California Department of General Services through a design competition, the project team utilized AEI-developed performance modeling tools for rapid system concept testing, validating a suite of climate-responsive systems strategies and improving on the project's already aggressive energy use intensity (EUI) target by an additional 20 percent.

The building's energy use is offset by 3.8 MW of photovoltaic (PV) panels on site, and 1.5 MWh of battery storage will optimize utility costs under a net-metering agreement. A comprehensive approach to water conservation, collection, and reuse contributes to a nearly 50 percent reduction in required potable water use.


Riverside, CA


  • Hensel Phelps Construction Co. - Construction Manager
  • ZGF Architects - Architect of Record

LEED Status

Pursuing LEED Platinum and Cal Green Tier 2

Building Size

403,306 square feet

Project Delivery

  • Design-Build


  • 2022 Best of the Best Projects Award — Excellence in Sustainability
  • 2022 Beyond LA Winner
  • 2022 Enlightened Owner Award - In Recognition of Meaningful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practice
  • 2022 Best in Design - Engineering
  • 2022 Best Use of BIM/VDC
  • 2022 Innovation by Design Finalist – Sustainability, Fast Company
  • 2022 National Award – Merit, Design-Build Institute of America
  • 2022 Excellence in Sustainability Award – Southern California, ENR California
  • 2022 Southern California Best Government/Public Building Project, ENR California
  • 2022 Excellence in Safety – Southern California, Award of Merit, ENR California
  • 2022 Design Excellence Award in Sustainability, Lab Manager
  • 2022 Gold Sustainability Award, Los Angeles Business Journal
  • 2022 Sustainable Innovation Award — Energy and Operational Carbon
  • 2022 American Architecture Award — Culture and Museums
  • 2022 Beautification Award — Award of Distinction
  • 2022 Design Award — Honor, Sustainability
  • 2022 A+ Awards — Special Mention, Architecture & Sustainability
  • 2022 Sustainable Innovation Award — Project of the Year
  • 2020 Sustainable Innovation Award — Honors, Unbuilt Projects
  • 2022 Leadership Award — State Building Award
  • 2022 WAN Award - Gold, Sustainable Energy Use Within a Project
  • 2020 Sustainable Innovation Award Un-Built Honor, Builder & Developer Magazine

Exceeding California Title 24 requirements by 30 percent, the new headquarters building improves performance and operational efficiency.

Showcasing Influential Artwork

CARB's permanent public art collection consists of six commissioned artists — Refik Anadol, Allora & Calzadilla, Noé Montes, Andrea Polli, Janan Rasheed, and Tomás Saraceno.

This compilation of artwork addresses the effects of climate change, air quality, environmental threats, equity, and the impact of humans on the planet.

Noé Montes' "Paradise" showcases portraits displaying diverse relationships of climate change, air quality, and economics.

In Tomás Saraceno's, "Spacial Echoes of Breath" floating sculptures, he illuminates the connection of environmental crisis and humans through use of mirrors.

Artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla's "Petrified Petrol Station" explores the intersection of culture, history, and our geopolitical future through a fossil-filled limestone outline of an eroding petrol station.

net energy

The new headquarters campus consolidates five existing locations into a centralized facility within CARB's 19-acre site.

The design integrates office programs into a three-story, pinwheel-shaped building, offering vertical connectivity between offices, and horizontal connectivity of laboratories, testing areas, and support space for encouraged interaction.

Integrating Data Systems

Pursuance of the CARB design team's mantra — the right tool for the job — led to a collection of disparate systems unable to communicate with one another; a struggle many large facilities have. CARB’s data acquisition system architecture (DASA) was the genesis of the systems integration effort. It functions to illustrate the scale and type of interfaces throughout the CARB facility, especially important in the engine and vehicle testing component of CARB.

Chain-of-custody is the term CARB uses to describe the “linking” of project information throughout the entire test lifespan of a vehicle or engine, a chain robust enough to withstand litigation. Information including fuel parameters, particulate weight, and space temperatures are acquired from their respective systems, or custodians, then stored and compiled as a complete project.

With light-, medium-, and heavy-duty test cells, the facility fosters specialized vehicle emissions research and development operations.

Ensuring project workflows are void of any missing links between custodians is key to the success of this architecture. Complex, novel, and vulnerable interfaces between two systems absent of an existing communication platform no longer thrive.

This architecture relies on two robust, ubiquitous, and secure interface methods. The first is referred to as a flat file/folder interface; used for batch volumes of data, such as recipes or chemistry laboratory results. A Restful API is the second method of communication and is used for small volume, real-time data transfers.

Nearly every platform within this architecture is server-based and connected via the PON IP network. With the hardware sharing a common platform and interfaces limited to the aforementioned tried and true methods, adapting any future platform into this architecture is simple.

Leading the Future

CARB's new facility and 19-acre campus is designed and built targeting the highest possible levels of measured sustainability.

Intended to achieve LEED Platinum certification and meet California’s CALGreen Tier 2 threshold for overall sustainability and energy efficiency, the project serves as a leading example of high-performance design and climate action.

It provides an advanced platform for global transportation and emissions research and development — contributing to improved air quality and healthier communities throughout the state and beyond.

Project Leaders