10 Green Structural Engineering Marvels

Charles David Keeling Apartments (San Diego, Calif.)
The man for whom the apartments are named, legendary atmospheric scientist Charles David Keeling, who was affiliated with the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego from 1956-2005. © Jim Sugar/Corbis

The University of California's San Diego campus is no stranger to eye-catching architecture. Beyond its famously fanciful Geisel Library, cradled atop its concrete tree, the 50-year-old campus hosts a what's what of modernist styles.

The Charles David Keeling Apartments, with their shuffled, rectilinear shapes, sparse ornamentation and concrete-and-glass construction, certainly fit in with their modern neighbors. But they also build on the greener aspects of modern aesthetics -- wide use of glass to maximize natural light, emphasis on sun and shade to enhance comfort, employment of materials in unadorned states -- and take them to their logical, green conclusions.

The building shapes and window arrangements maximize natural ventilation, which lowers energy consumption by 38 percent, while a system of panels, walkways and low-E (low thermal emissivity) glass reduce incoming solar radiation. The buildings also include solar cells and a conservation-and-reuse water system that extends from landscaping to low-flow toilets and on-site wastewater recycling. Vegetation on the rooftops cools the apartments while also directing water to retention basins, reducing pollutant levels in stormwater runoff [source: Goodman].

Appropriately, the building is named for an American scientist who numbered among the first to warn the world of the greenhouse effect.

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