Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center

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Architect James Plachek, renovation by ELS Architecture and Urban Design
Location Berkeley, California
Date 1940, 2001
Building Type government office building, city hall
 Construction System reinforced concrete and steel frame with seismic base isolation
 Sustainability Adaptive reuse, energy efficiency, daylighting, natural ventilation, high thermal mass - GEEB
Climate mild temperate
Context urban
Style Art Deco
Notes Natural ventilation, extensive daylighting, use of thermal mass, advanced seismic system, new penthouse meeting rooms and roof terrace

Administrative work area

Exterior overview

Exterior overview

Back or courtyard entry

Building street-side entry

Exterior overview

Natural lighting in circulation stairway

Preserved marble lobby

Preserved marble lobby

Glazed wall allows daylighting through conference room

Daylighting in stairway

Sensor-controlled lighting in central area

Main entry facade

Typical facade bay

Roof terrace and penthouse operable windows

Looking down into park-side cortyard

Gateway of park-side courtyard, from above

Public hallway with conversation nook

Glazed interior wall of conference room

Conference room interior

Recycling area built into office partitions plan

Operable windows in staff work area

Seismic retrofit base isolation pad placement

Seismic retrofit steel and concrete structure, and base isolation pad

City councilor office interior facade

Meeting room with operable windows and shades

Operable windows and shades fin staff work area

User-accessible lighting and fan controls with operating notes

Lighting sensor and "Open Windows" signal light

Generous daylighting in stairwell

Preserved building lobby

Preserved building lobby

Park-side courtyard stair and entry

Preserved bronze park-side entry doors

Daylighting in restroom

Sensor-controlled interior lighting

Operable work area window and local radiator

Park side courtyard with sculpture and entry

Rooftop weather station

Daylit public hallway

Hallway conversation nook

Daylit hallway in city council area

Interior glazed wall transmits daylight

Seismic retrofit base isolation failure feet

Drawing, Street-side Elevation

Drawing, Longtitudinal Section and Park-side Courtyard Elevation
3D Model
3D Computer Model (DesignWorkshop format)
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Discussion Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Commentary

"It is simple yet elegant and complete. This is a great structure with a historical renovation that just keeps getting better and better. Common sense items such as thermal mass, ceiling fans, and natural ventilation were designed into the project that over time will have a great benefit for the building's operations and maintenance - especially because it exceeds title 24 standards."
— Savings by Design Awards Jury, 2001

"It's especially significant, as the building's manager, that we are minimally impacted by rolling blackouts. When most office buildings of this size would be vacated in the event of a blackout, it's not an issue here because of our natural daylighting and natural ventilation."
— Rene Cardinaux, Director of Public Works, City of Berkeley

Renovation Particulars

  • Restored historic operable steel windows and replaced existing perimeter steam radiators with efficient hot water radiators
  • Exposed concrete structure in open corridors for thermal mass
  • Installed high efficiency compact fluorescent lighting, central ceiling fans, photometric controls, motion sensors, and programmable thermostats
  • Restored historic lobby marble, bronze and terrazzo finishes
  • Replicated historic light fixtures throughout using energy efficient flourescent lamps
  • Preserved exterior concrete facades, including twin west-facing glazed stair towers
  • Added public space at penthouse level, with shared roof terrace offering views of the Bay


    Savings by Design Honor Award 2001
    California Historic Preservation Award 2001
    Special Commendation Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, 2001

    Address: 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, California

    Design Team

    Original Architect James Plachek
    Renovation Architect ELS Architecture and Urban Design
    Structural Engineer Forell/Elsesser
    Mechanical Engineer Ove Arup and Partners USA
    Electrical Engineer The Engineering Enterprise (TEE)
    Environmental Consultant Simon & Associates

  • Resources Sources on Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center

    Search the RIBA architecture library catalog for more references on Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center

    Web Resources Links on Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center

    Civic Center Retrofit and Rennovationat the city's own web site

    Civic Center Sustainabilityat the city's own web site

    MLK Jr. Civic Center Savings by Design Awardat the Savings by Design web site

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