News Energy Biosciences Institute begins move into new Berkeley home

BERKELEY, CA -- Almost five years into its 10-year program to develop new energy alternatives using biological tools and methods, the Energy Biosciences Institute is moving its Berkeley headquarters and research labs into a modern new building.

Beginning this week, the western branch of the $500 million public-private collaboration will be housed at 2151 Berkeley Way, a state-of-the-art facility of five stories and 113,000 gross square feet. The Energy Biosciences Building is at the northwest corner of the University of California campus, where Oxford Street and Hearst Avenue join. The EBI will be joined in the new building by researchers from the campus’ Department of Bioengineering.

The move of almost 300 researchers, students and staff from buildings on campus, including the Calvin Laboratory operations center, will take place over the next six weeks, beginning with the administrative staff and some laboratory programs this week. The consolidation emphasizes the EBI’s primary operating philosophy of collaboration and interdisciplinary partnership.

“We have seen great progress in our mission so far through the dedicated work of teams and partnerships,” said EBI Director Chris Somerville, Philomathia Professor of Alternative Energy on campus. “This new structure and its outstanding facilities will serve to enable and accelerate the innovations that we expect will come in the next few years.”

Started with the demolition of an abandoned state health building just 2½ years ago, the construction project was completed ahead of schedule and within the $130 million budget provided for it -- $40 million through approved state lease-revenue bonds and the rest through external financing and gifts. The construction team was led by UC Berkeley Capital Projects, general contractor Rudolph & Sletten, and architects The Smith Group.

The trapezoid-shaped building includes energy-efficient features like automated “smart” outside window shades, a lighting control system with building sensors, and an auto-adjusting air exchange system, all of which is expected to translate into a “Gold” classification in the LEED rating program. The building has already been given the Overall Sustainable Design Award by the Higher Education Energy Partnership Program of California.

In its new home, the EBI will continue to pursue the technical and socio-economic challenges that non-food-sourced, renewable cellulosic biofuels present. Investigators and their research groups in feedstock development, biomass depolymerization, biofuels production, ecological and social impacts, and fossil fuel bioprocessing are seeking alternative and improved methods for meeting the world’s transportation energy needs.

The building’s opening will be celebrated with public tours during Cal’s Homecoming Weekend on October 5-6. Director Somerville will be presenting a talk, “Cellulosic Biofuels: Sustainable Energy for the Future,” on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 10:30 a.m. on campus in the Bechtel Engineering Center’s Sibley Auditorium as part of the homecoming activities.

A formal dedication ceremony will be held in December.

The Energy Biosciences Institute is the broadest research partnership of its kind in the world, interactively approaching all facets of biofuels development and use. In addition to UC Berkeley scientists, the collaboration includes researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where the EBI is housed in the Institute of Genomic Biology, and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The international energy company BP is the funding partner and provides expertise on industrial technology and commercialization.

Information on the EBI can be found at its web site at


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