The Daily Californian Online

New Facility May Be Ahead for Lab

By Cristian Macavei
Contributing Writer
Friday, September 3, 2010
Category: News > University > Research and Ideas

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has 20 percent of its facilities outside of Berkeley, including sites in Emeryville and Oakland.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which employs some 4,000 employees and conducts research on everything from DNA to climate change, may soon be looking for land to build a new facility.

The lab is in the early planning stages to consolidate its facilities - 20 percent of which are located outside the city of Berkeley, including sites in Emeryville, Oakland and Walnut Creek - into a new "second campus" somewhere in the East Bay, according to Sam Chapman, manager of state and community relations for the lab.

"We are in an expansion mode with a number of new capital projects ... it's timely to think about the future physical space for the lab," Chapman said.

He said while the process has not yet been initiated, entities have come forward with propositions for the lab's location. The geographic range the lab is exploring extends from Richmond in the north to Oakland in the south.

According to Chapman, the lab is looking for land close to the Berkeley location so researchers who work at the new campus can collaborate with scientists at the Berkeley location.

"Scientists work better when they're together rather than in separate locations," he said. "One of the successes of Berkeley Lab is 'team science,' where scientists work as teams across disciplines, and that works better when they're consolidated and are able to mingle with other scientists."

The lab has not yet looked into how it will fund the project. Real estate activity of the lab is managed by the University of California, Chapman said.

"The lab wants to be a good neighbor where it goes, and the lab is an economic engine in the region," he said. "We have a substantial impact on the local economy, so we see that as a positive (effect), particularly in a time when there's so much focus on need for economic development. Obviously we'd like to locate in an area where that's welcomed."

The formal announcement of the expansion plan and the description of the process will possibly occur sometime in the next few months, he said.

Chapman added that the Berkeley site - which houses 80 percent of the lab - sits on about 200 acres near UC Berkeley and will continue to grow.

Marie Gilmore, an Alameda City Councilmember, said the lab would be a great partner at Alameda Point.

"I think (the area) would meet the lab's needs, and I do know that they have been in touch with the city," she said.

Gilmore said besides the land the city could offer, Alameda also has its own electric utility called Alameda Municipal Power, which is attractive for employers because many of the utility's power sources, including wind, solar and geothermal, are renewable.

Lab staff members visited the city earlier this month to look at what Alameda has to offer, she said.

"It would be a huge plus, a huge benefit ... not only in the sense of jobs but also the economic spillover it would have for restaurants and services and other things that service a business," Gilmore said.

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