The David Brower Center, which was unveiled two years ago on the corner of Allston Way and Oxford, was always intended to be more than your average edifice. “We set out to create an exemplary building,” said its architect, Daniel Solomon.

Now the center, named after the prominent Berkeley environmentalist, and designed to be a hub for environmental and social action, has earned one of the top green-building accolades, with a Platinum LEED certification from the US Green Building Council. It’s the first platinum-certified building in Berkeley, and one of only 30 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Because the building is state of the art in terms of green construction, it is also being closely monitored by UC Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment. Fred Bowman, Research Specialist at CBE, said they are keeping tabs on the building’s Energy Star rating, as well as on the occupant experience. Other areas being measured include power monitoring and workplace acoustics. “We are using the building as a living lab to support new research findings on cutting edge technologies,” he said.

This morning, the team responsible for the building’s design gathered at the Brower Center to be congratulated for gaining the LEED status. “It’s our green dream team,” said the center’s Executive Director Amy Tobin, mentioning, among others, its architect Solomon, as well as structural engineers Tipping Mar and the center’s founder Peter Buckley, who, she said, “pushed the envelope” to achieve such a pioneering space.

“In many ways we have exceeded the LEED targets,” Tobin said. “And it’s so thrilling to see the living, breathing space working so well every day.”

Some of the immediately obvious green features include the building’s ample natural daylight and operable windows. Less evident are its energy efficiency, solar power and waste recycling systems.

Solomon also cites less transparent, but no less important, factors such as the building’s longevity and seismic robustness. “The Brower Center is built almost on top of the Hayward Fault, and when we designed it we went beyond the need to preserve life and limb. We built it to last, which is an important aspect of sustainability,” he said.

Another consideration not measured by organizations such as the Green Building Council, or Berkeley’s Green Point Rated system, is what it feels like to be in the building, said Solomon. “This is hard to quantify. But when you enter the Brower Center it feels good, it smells good, there are views of the hills and you have a distinct sense of the weather. People who work there feel it. There is throbbing life there. It lives up to Peter Buckley’s vision for a ‘lively, thriving, spirited place’.”

The Brower Center has held more than 500 events since it opened. It acts as a hub for environmental nonprofits, offering meeting and exhibition spaces, and there are 40 resident organizations under its roof. “They collaborate and cut down on duplicating efforts,” said Tobin. “This has become a destination for dozens of emerging grassroots networks and businesses committed to sustainability. They’re rushing to save the world.”

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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12 Comments

  1. If you called the BDP at 10:30p,, and they already had several complaints from earlier, it should NOT have taken them until 11:30pm to call the Bower Center and tell them to turn the noise down.

    While the Bower Center is the one making the noise, the BDP are at least partially to blame for not enforcing the rules, and for not contacting the Bower Center sooner.

  2. If you don’t mind me asking, how much does an apartment in Oxford Plaza cost?
    While noise violations suck and the City should take them more seriously, a certain amount of hustle and bustle may be “the price you pay” for living in an artificially low-rent apartment in one of the busiest and most desirable parts of town.

    It seems ridiculous that the operators of the Brower Center won’t/don’t close the patio doors when they get noise complaints. Is the City simply not passing on the information about the complaints to the Brower Center? When just closing the doors could solve (or at least mitigate) the problem, it doesn’t make any sense to *not* do it. It’s not as though Berkeley is so unbearably hot that we have to have our windows and doors open all the time.

    What is the punishment for violating a noise ordinance in the City of Berkeley? If the penalty is paying a fine to the City, they might see it as a potential revenue stream.

  3. In this article, Fred Bauman is quoted saying his organization is studying the workplace acoustics in DBC. How about studying the acoustics for the neighbors who live adjacent to the party venue?

    Berkeleyside: you spelled Fred’s last name wrong.

  4. Just got a call from a Berkeley cop and sure enough, he agreed with me that the David Brower Center was violating the noise ordnance. He issued them a warning and said if he had to return, they would be issued a citation. This feels so great.

    The liberal environmentalists at David Brower Center know perfectly well when their parties get too loud but they care about making money from the party rentals so they have their parties. Once it turns ten o’clock and folks call the cops, the cops take a long time to respond cause it isn’t a priority nor should it be. So the party gets to keep going. By the time the cops get there, the party is just about over, the DBC has been able to abuse its neighbors and get what it wanted.

    It’s just not right. Do good sustainability and a concern for the environment really should show concern for humans, doncha think?

    So, yeah, tonight the DBC turned the party noise down at 11:30 after the cops warned them. A good neighbor would just follow the law and not rent loud party space after ten pm. And get this: if they just kept the doors closed, it would be a huge improvement. But over and over, they break the law and get away with it because the cops don’t respond quickly to a non-emergency call.

  5. also, the windows in my building are heavily sound proofed and do a remarkably good job of blocking out noise. In warmer weather, I should be able to have my windows open and I have always slept, my whole life, with open windows. I can’t sleep without open windows.

    If the party noise is so loud that it intrudes on sleep behind the sound-proofed windows, that party is way way out of control.

    I just went over there and asked the staff to close the patio doors. They said they would but, twenty minutes later, the doors are still open and the party still blaring into my home.

    With the rainy season behind us, DBC will be subjecting me to this party hell most weekends until the late fall when the holiday parties die down.

    It is absolutely outrageous that this putatively do-gooder organization abuses people this way.

  6. it is 10:28 p.m. Friday evening. In Berkeley, the noise ordnance prohibits loud parties with music loud enough to disturb nearby residential properties.

    In the courtyard overlooking this “environmentally sustainable’ brilliant architectually designed building, there are about fifty apartments in Oxford Plaza as well as anotther fifty or so in the Gaia buildling that overlook the patio where loud parties are held.

    There is a loud party going on right now. I just called the cops and learned that other neighbors have already called to complain. It is nice to know I am not the only one complaining.

    The lame-o architect who designed this award winning environmental sustainable-focussed building placed a loud, raucous party venue right next to the homes of citizens. Oxford Plaza is, true, affordable housing. Maybe the architect and the a-holes who rent the party space at David Brower think people in affordable housing don’t deserve to be able to put their kids to sleep until the DBC stops partying?

    DBC is a shameful memorial to David Brower, who it was named after. I didn’t know the guy but since he cared so much about this planet, I like to think he also cared about human beings on the planet. I like to think David Brower would have been a good neighbor.

    The party blasting my home right now is indoors but with all the doors open to the patio, the party might as well be IN my home. A couple hundred children live here but it is more important that the jerk who sells party space scores money than the people who live here get to enjoy their homes in private quiet, right?

    All they have to do is close the frakking patio doors and respect their neighbors. But they don’t.

    I didn’t go over this time to complain because the security guys at the door treat me like vermin, like I am wrong to want to spoil their party just because a few hundred people are being inconvenienced.

    The cops are usually pretty nice but they often seem to give in to the party people instead of the local peole trying to sleep.

    I wish the architect who designed this LEEDS platinum building had actually thought about the noise environment. He could have repositioned the building so the party patio overlooked Allston. It wouldn’t have been quite as cool. It is cool the way the patio is tucked in the back, over looking the calm quiet patio of David Brower Center and the calm private courtyard in Oxford Plaza. It wouldn’t have felt as snug to have the party space overlooking the street but a party space on the street would have been far less invasive to neighbors lives.

    Also, it is not supposed to be a party space. It got taxpaying funding to create a conference center, not a party venue.

    I just want anyone who comes to Berkeleyside and reads about the great David Brower Center get a real idea of the fact that the DBC is a bad neighbor and money-grubbing. Renting out that space for loud parties overlooking people’s homes places more value on their income than on, um, human beings.

    And if you look down on folks in affordable housing, it is not public housing. People who live here can earn up to sixty percent of the area’s median income. This building was intended to be a home for working people.

    I’ll say it bluntly: the DBC party staff are assholes.

  7. Is this the same venue (and rowdy crowds) that ended up chasing Anna’s Jazz Island away?

    At any rate, surely there were/are regulations regarding noise levels so close to residences?

  8. Is Tizzielish (a frequent commenter) the same person as TizzieDish (who has posted two comments)?

    When I first saw the name TizzieDish, I thought it was just a type for Tizzielish, but they may be two different people.

  9. Wow, that sounds awful. You should start making videos showing the noise level and time of day (point the camera at an atomic clock (something like a Sony ICF-C218) and then record the noise. Also tape yourself when you go to talk to the staff, and then post those videos to YouTube.

    Even if the City refuses to enforce the noise ordinances (or gives permits exempting people from them) a publicly accessible video log of clear noise violations might shame either the City or the managers of the Brower building into enforcing the rules.

  10. I live in Oxford Plaza, which is adjacent to the David Brower Center. DBC might be a great ‘green’ building but they have a history of being bad neighbors. Its not just buildings and hip organizations renting space in those buildings that add up to sustainable community. Guess what? Human beings also matter.

    DBC has rented its conference space for noisy blow-out parties, and their staff allows partiers to party way beyond the city noise ordnance time of 10 p.m. Yes, people can get exemptions to the noise ordnance. Folks running DBC have local political connects and can get noise permits, apparently, whenever they want them. There is a limit to, I think, about ten special noise permits a year. How many folks reading this would welcome having a live, loud, band party in their next door neighbors yard ten times a year?!! How many raised your hands? Even when there is no live band, trust me, listening to a couple hundred drunk party goers having fun wears a person down.

    The building’s design is lauded. Who was the lame-o architect who put a party center in the backyard of fifty apartments? Guess what? The residents of the apartments actually matter.

    In Oxford Plaza alone, about fifty homes overlook the party center. DBC puts the bands inside but the party goers, often drunk, of course, go in and out and the live bands might as well be playing in the fifty homes that overlook the party spot. The staff at DBC is dismissive and inconsiderate if a neighbor objects.

    And the Berkeley cops usually ignore noise complaints: after all, those are rich folks partying over there, people who know the mayor and influential folks in town. those folks matter more than the folks trying to sleep next door. And there are other apartment buildings on the block, it’s just that Oxford Plaza’s courtyard literally overlooks the party spot.

    Lots of taxpayer funding was used to make DBC come into being. The land it is built on was a city-owned parking lot and seed money for initial studies and start up came from affordable housing funding. .. . and, overall, the two projects created a lot of wins for Berkeley.

    But a truly sustainable building cares about all the people who live nearby, not just the hipsters renting office space and throwing loud, live-band parties.

    I wish you could see how the staff talks down to me when I go over there at eleven p.m. and complain because a live band is rocking my world, and loud drunks are shouting fun. They act like I am vermin.

    I have to admit that in recent months, things have been relatively quiet. There have been less parties. I have assumed people use the outdoor space less in the rainy season. Maybe DBC actually started to care about their neighbors.

    David Brower, the namesake for the building was a visionary, leading environmentalist who, I am sure, cared deeply about people. I doubt that he would be proud that his legacy involves blasting the private night time lives of its neighbors.

    The noise level has been better in recent months but I want everyone reading this positive spin story about DBC to read some of the story that doesn’t fit the public relations spin.

    Sustainability is not just about good lighting and low-flow faucets: it surely involves being respectful to other humans.

  11. All of these green elements of the Brower Center are wonderful, and I hope it serves as a model for future developments and building retrofits in Berkeley and across the country, but wow…I just wish I could look at it without thinking how ugly it looks. That’s a real shame since I think it’s tendency to leave the viewer cold distracts from it’s ability to serve as a model for future design practices.