Creative design solutions for UCSD Scripps Ocean-Atmosphere Research Simulator

Creative design solutions for UCSD Scripps Ocean-Atmosphere Research Simulator

On the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the University of California San Diego hosts a first-of-its-kind research facility that emulates the ocean surface. The Scripps Ocean-Atmosphere Research Simulator (SOARS) enhances our understanding of the ocean’s conditions with the atmosphere. The SOARS Lab, a 36-meter (118-foot) channel combining a wave tank and wind tunnel, was incorporated into the institute’s historic, 60-year-old Hydraulics Lab Building. The SOARS team partnered with CRB for architectural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing design services for the precision necessary to convert the existing facility and bring this complex research environment to life.

Converting the mostly concealed building presented two main design challenges:

  1. The facility needed to incorporate natural sunlight with precise controls to enable algae growth
  2. The new daylighting would need to integrate seamlessly into the facility’s 1960s curved, copper fleece-lined roof

CRB’s design team was tasked with creating a solution that would blend into the discrete patinaed roof while ensuring controlled daylighting.

To address these challenges, CRB worked closely with Solatube for tubular daylighting devices. Using a proprietary method, a daylighting solution was calculated to meet the lab’s needs, which included daylight dimmers for maximum control of the natural light. Our design team crafted custom curbs to integrate tubular daylighting devices into the copper fleece-lined roof’s curvature while providing support, weatherproofing and compliance with California Coastal Commission regulations. Our engineering team delivered power, heating, and cooling to the instrumentation, including electrical lighting upgrades to the building and a new equipment pad for the supporting mechanical equipment.

This creative architectural, engineering and daylighting solution satisfied the building’s unique research criteria and preserved the integrity of the building’s history with minimal structural impact on the facility’s exterior.

Project Details


University of California San Diego/Scripps Institution of Oceanography


La Jolla, CA

Square Footage


 Return to top