University of California, San Diego

Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute

Translating scientific discoveries into better health.

UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) accelerates the delivery of new and more effective treatments from the laboratory to the patient. With the ACTRI building, the Institute provides resources and infrastructure that enable leading-edge clinical research in a more collaborative and cost-effective way. The facility includes clinical research space, wet laboratories, and dry research space. AEI introduced new engineered systems to achieve the energy-related goals of a 24% reduction in energy use, a 19% reduction in energy cost, and an EUI of 213 kBtu/SF/year.


La Jolla, CA


  • ZGF Architects - Design Architect

LEED Status


Building Size

359,100 square feet


  • Best California Project: Higher Education/Research

ACTRI partner research institutions include The Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, J. Craig Venter Institute, and San Diego State University.

AEI provided TRNSYS and eQUEST modeling for iterative architectural and systems studies, and for whole-building analysis. In addition to passive strategies, CO2 sensing, efficient fan and pumping systems, and high efficiency condensing boilers, system innovations for the project include the first use of active chilled beams on the campus. The 50-foot downward slope on the site cost-effectively conceals a 1.5 million gallon thermal energy storage system to avoid costly peak and semi-peak charges. Heat recovery chillers efficient leverage overlapping heating and cooling needs to simultaneously produce both. All air handling systems use MERV 13 or higher filtration for better indoor air quality.

clinical trials annually

Real-time plug load benchmarking of similar research spaces on campus supported right-sizing for mechanical and electrical systems, and main electrical equipment. Implementing fault detection and diagnostics, AEI provided optimization services via our Intelligent Buildings Practice.

To meet stringent code requirements and client’s aspirational sustainability goals, today’s lab buildings are designed with newer systems and complex automation sequences.

AEI designed this building with operations in mind, incorporating metering and instrumentation for building performance measurement and analytics. Our engagement with UCSD was beyond the typical design and construction - providing occupancy phase services to streamline UCSD operations. The development of advanced Fault Detection Diagnostics rules based on specific control sequences allowed AEI to also provide remote monitoring support, including monitoring through Building Automation System. This system provides comparison of actual building performance with expected performance per energy modeling and developing optimization schemes.


Operating the complex systems required to meet today’s sustainability challenges is a feat equivalent to the design and construction of those systems. After the completion of ACTRI, UCSD again reached out to AEI to help their facilities staff make the most of these complex systems. AEI developed a remote optimization/monitoring system to streamline the collection of information and complete a fault detection and diagnostic (FDD) rule set to further enhance the operations.

Fault rules testing was implemented to confirm the rule set worked on air handling units, the heat recovery chiller, boilers, thermal storage, chilled beams, and control valves. The FDD rule set testing discovered that boiler #4 was running at 100% but not achieving the design temperature differential. FDD testing also discovered that the heat recovery chiller was not being fully utilized and could have been running many more hours further saving energy. Extrapolated for the year, optimizing the heat recovery chiller operation saved approximately $100,000 in annual utility costs.

Energy performance being a major design driver for the project the AEI team leveraged energy metering and compared to the energy model to ensure that the project was functioning within an expected range for a building that wasn’t fully occupied yet.

Project Leaders