The David Brower Center | Oxford Plaza

Oxford & Kittredge Streets
Berkeley, California

  • Architect: Solomon ETC, A WRT Company
  • Contractor: Cahill Contractors
  • Developer: Equity Community Builders, LLC
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David Brower Center and Oxford Plaza
Credit: Gina Phelan for Tipping Structural Engineers

A center for environmental advocacy promotes sustainable building principles, including a self-healing seismic system.

This mixed-use complex located in the heart of downtown Berkeley provides a unique environment that promotes and embodies an agenda of environmental health, justice, and advocacy. The David Brower Center, named for the Sierra Club’s first executive director, incorporates work and gathering space: offices for various nonprofit organizations, a theater, a restaurant, and event facilities. The adjacent Oxford Plaza offers a hundred units of market-rate and affordable housing set above retail, further enriching the center’s community. Although well served by transit, the complex includes some below-grade parking.

Fittingly, the Brower Center is a model of integrated sustainable design expected and is certified LEED Platinum. Sustainable features include natural ventilation, incorporation of sophisticated, natural day-lighting strategies, photovoltaic panels, and rainwater collection. High-slag concrete was used to replace cement by seventy percent in the foundations and fifty percent in the superstructure. The use of slag, an industrial byproduct, will reduce the embodied energy and carbon footprint of the building on the order of forty percent. This is the first Bay Area project to use high-slag concrete on such a large scale.

The Brower Center’s lateral structural system reflects the Tipping philosophy of integrating sustainable design and high-performance engineering. The system uses post-tensioning cables in flexural walls and frames to create a highly damage-resistant structure. While conventional reinforced-concrete structures are expected to yield and displace permanently under large seismic events, the post-tensioning cables used in the lateral system act as springs, allowing the building to flex, then pull back to its original alignment. This re-centering behavior should allow the Brower Center to remain usable after a seismic event, whereas a more typical structure would require costly repair.

Both the high-slag concrete and the self-healing structure garnered LEED innovation credits.






Executed as Tipping Mar