Stantec Gives UC Davis Health A New Space Filled With Natural Light

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Chair of the Month

Emma Weckerling
Emma Weckerling
Emma is the Managing Editor of Work Design Magazine.

Stantec introduced multi-level lightwells with skylights to create new double-height spaces through the center of the UC Davis Health building, bringing sunlight all the way down to the first floor. 

Project Overview:

  • Design Firm: Stantec
  • Client: UC Davis Health
  • Completion Date: October 2022
  • Location: Rancho Cordova, CA, USA
  • Size: 194,000 sqft
  • Certifications: On track for LEED Gold and Net-Zero

A collocation of several administrative departments, the new UC Davis Health Administration Services (HAS) Building brings these services under one roof, in a light-filled, modern workspace that reflects their commitment to sustainability and supports the health and wellbeing of their staff.

The two-story, 194,000-square-foot space was originally constructed in the 1980s and needed creative solutions to address the lack of natural light and limited flexibility between areas.

The Stantec design introduced multi-level lightwells with skylights to create new double-height spaces through the center of the building, bringing sunlight all the way down to the first floor. Stacked cubes for key meeting spaces give the illusion of additional height while existing structural steel frames create sculptural drama and an open elemental feel.

An indoor plaza serves as the central circulation point of the building, connecting people on both levels of the building. Kitchenettes and a lounge placed on both levels support the natural tendency to gather around daylit areas. A ground level café connects the existing outdoor patio, extending the café and seating area, allowing staff to enjoy fresh air during the day.

Meeting the requirements of the University of California’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, sustainability was at the forefront of all decisions inclusive of the re-use of an existing building, compared to a new build. This high performing design and reuse approach resulted in a 58% reduction in embodied carbon compared to a new building.

The building transitioned to all electric power and utilizes radiant panels for heating and cooling throughout. Free of ducting, the space provides direct heating and cooling to reduce recirculated air and potential for distribution of allergens. The double-height lobby with vertical walls, incorporates radiant panels, minimizes heat gain, and provides a monumental feel upon entry. The project successfully met the client’s goal, and the building is currently on track for LEED Gold and Net-Zero. 

Project Planning

Planning began with in depth departmental surveys and programming meetings to determine the individual requirements between groups, including the c-suite. Leadership made executive decisions for the group as whole such as a standardize private office and workstation footprint that would be implemented building wide. A large change from their previous office space. Each department was able to provide feedback on unique needs and wants for implementation.

The Programming phase of the project consisted of a 4 week intensive exercise of department profiles, questionnaires, and a visioning session. Department profiles and questionnaires were created to list out the space and functional requirements for each group and to categorize the department workstyle as either anchored, flexible or roaming. This helped the design team create adjacencies and locating departments in the optimal zone. The design team lead interactive visioning sessions with a representative from each department that will sit in the building.

The visioning sessions lead the group through imagery and guiding terms to hone in on the desired vibe and character of the overall space and desired look and feel for the 5 workplace modes: focus, collaborate, socialize, learn, and rejuvenate. Each group was able to give input on what their current pain points were with their current workspace and how their ideal workspace would look, feel, and function. The outcome of the visioning sessions shaped the project vision. The project vision was referenced in each phase of the project to ensure the design was heading in the correct direction and made for a cohesive and agreed upon outcome.

Coined office of the future by the University, this office type, layout, and design is to set the precedent for all future UC Davis Health offices. An eco-office footprint and equal sized focus room footprint was utilized to maximize future room use flexibility. Enclosed space type sizes were modularized to again maximize future growth / change with minimal construction or reconfiguration.

The University’s goal of net-zero energy was a design challenge to implement on an existing, south facing concrete tilt-up structure. The sun exposure and existing roofing material did not lend well to making it an easy building to cool. The design team utilized radiant heating and cooling throughout the building. To effectively cool the building radiant sails and beams took up a lot of available ceiling space. The engineer team and the interior design team worked creatively together to integrate the radiant panels and lighting fixtures with the ceiling design. The central zone of the building showcases a focal wood veneer ceiling. It has designated recessed ‘tech zones’ for all ceiling equipment and devises to be housed. This created the desired clean and organized look without sacrificing the required equipment. The café features acoustic felt baffles and flat acoustic felt panels for the ceiling to mitigate the active noise levels. Tucked between the baffles live the radiant cooling panels. Looking straight on at the café, one does not see the difference between an acoustic baffle and radiant panel.

Being a hospital focused entity, the University has a no interior live plant policy for all buildings. However, the user groups requested greenery be implemented throughout the design. A fully preserved moss and lichen no maintenance product was incorporated that satisfied both parties. Greenmood rings were used in the Lobby, Cafes, and central coloration zones while Greenmood Circles were used at the termination of the central corridor as a focal art piece. The rings and circles bring a nature inspired element to the overall neutral finish palette.  


  • Floor Tile: The lobby, central corridor and café area all connected by a common porcelain large format tile (Ceramic Technics Palermo Stone Concepts in Steel Grain). A coordinating accent tile with Carlo Scarpa inspired inlay was placed as integrated ‘area rugs’ and ‘door mats’ to define space without the traditional flooring transition.
  • Carpet Tile: The open office areas received Shaw Contract, Surround Tile in Khaki.
  • Conference rooms received Mannington, Switchback in Nomad.
  • Wood Wall Covering: The meeting cubes, café and central corridor walls received Koroseal, Arbor Wood veneer wallcovering in White Oak Rift Cut Blonde and Vintage. Wood was FSC certified.
  • Stone Veneer: The elevator walls received Slate-Lite, Ultra-Thin Eco+ in the color D. Black
  • Conference Room Acoustics wall panels are Carnegie Xorel is Dash 25.
  • Huddle Room wall covering are Designtex Wannabe Ribbed Wallcovering.
  • Café tile walls are Bedrosians Makoto Tile in Shoji White
  • The double height dimensional wall panel in the café are Plyboo Fractal in the color Greige Noir in a custom designed layout.
  • The acoustics felt ceiling baffles in the café are Acoufelt Linear Baffles
  • The conference and office glass walls are dHIVE.
  • The moss is Greenmood Circles and Rings.
  • Accent Lighting: Pablo Bola Disk

Overall Project Results

The private office type, workstation type, and provided focus room / huddle room ratio was standardized among all departments. Shared spaces like conferencing, support functions were non assignable to a specific department. This reinforced the change from individualized siloed departments to a connected group.

The most illuminating result of the project was how the existing storefront windows cast dramatic early morning shadows deep into the building. The shadows cast on the lobby fin walls and café dimensional panels provide added a pleasantly surprising and dynamic interest to the new interior fit out.

Project Summary

The project kicked-off in May of 2020 in the unprecedented pandemic world of working from home. The large project team quickly adapted to collaborating remotely and hosting visioning sessions and all project coordination online. With the future of the workplace in flex and alternative work modes trending for many other companies, UC Davis Health, maintained their planned course of a full office tenant improvements fit out to seat all projected headcounts. At the project completion in October of 2022 the return to the office is optimistic and energized with a large and welcoming new office space for all UC Davis Health Administrative employees.

The project success was in large part due to the entire team. An integrated Stantec team which consisted of Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Design, Lighting, Acoustics, Electrical, Structural, Carbon Impact services. The design-build team consisted of XL Construction and the contractor and McCarthy Building Companies was the end user representative for UC Davis Health. Airco Mechanical Inc. provided Mechanical and Plumbing design. One Workplace provided furniture design, procurement, and installation.  

Photography credit 

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