» News & Announcements
Facts About Mills
Mission & History

Media Contact Info:
Media Relations Manager
Phone: 510.430.2300
Email: media@mills.edu
Home > News >


Oakland, CA - December 11, 2007. Mills College's Natural Sciences Building has received a "platinum" distinction, becoming the first building in Oakland to earn the highest certified rating in environmental design and construction. It is the fourth building in the Bay Area to be platinum certified.

"Mills College will be a showcase for a high-performance, energy-efficient, healthy campus, and an inspiration for others," said Rick Fedrizzi, President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council.

The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system certifies "green" projects on four levels, reserving the platinum distinction for the most sustainable buildings in areas such as water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and material use.

"The recognition sets a new standard and a renewed commitment to a sustainable approach to design and planning on this historic 154-year-old campus," said Mills College campus architect and building co-designer Karen Fiene. "We have support at all levels and the faculty, staff, and students all embrace this positive new direction."

Mills' Natural Sciences Building is also the first privately funded new construction in Oakland that was LEED certified. Three other LEED certified buildings in Oakland include the Earthjustice national headquarters, the University of California Office of the President, and the Uptown Arts Building.

The 26,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art Mills facility brought together programs such as psychology, biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, biopsychology, chemistry, and environmental science under one roof to encourage interdisciplinary study. It was built to advance one of Mills' core commitments to women's leadership in the sciences.

The building took 18 months to build at a project cost of more than $17 million. It also received a prestigious Kresge Foundation Challenge Grant of $1 million.

The building is almost 90 percent more energy efficient than a typical lab in the Bay Area and 45 percent more energy efficient than required by state law.

Its green elements include: recycled carpeting; automatic sensors to switch lights on or off; tall windows to increase the depth of natural light and decrease the use of artificial lights; energy efficient glass windows; and photovoltaic panels on the roof that provide 30 percent of the building's electrical needs.

The predominantly female design team includes Fiene, San Francisco-based EHDD Architecture, and design consultant Peter Dodge. The group also incorporated environmental features to display science artistically.

"A core value in our planning was to incorporate opportunities for learning about science by using the building as a teaching tool," said Fiene. "We wanted the green qualities to be visible, artful, and engaging."

For example, a spectrum of colors is projected into the second floor lobby when sunlight hits the dichroic glass panels in the skylights. In one of the building's three courtyards with a native plants garden, visitors enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainwater collection system with a sculpture of bronze leaves that cascades water from the roof into a former industrial-size mayonnaise container. The container collects up to 60,000 gallons of water a year to be used for flushing toilets.

Mills College also received a 2007 Business Recognition Award for outstanding leadership and achievement in environmentally sustainable practices from StopWaste.Org, an Alameda county-wide agency.

"Sustainable thinking is a campus-wide initiative at Mills," said Karen Maggio, associate vice president for campus planning and facilities.

Practices such as striving for LEED standards through the installation of solar panels, recapturing rainwater, and minimizing the College's carbon footprint through reduced energy consumption, recycling, and composting are integral to Mills' culture, she said.

Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California, on 135 lush acres, Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering innovative degree programs to approximately 900 undergraduate women and 500 graduate women and men. Ranked one of the top colleges in the West by U.S. News & World Report and one of the Best 366 Colleges by the Princeton Review, Mills provides a dynamic liberal arts education fostering women's leadership, social responsibility, and creativity.

Quynh Tran
Media Relations Manager

Last Updated: 12/12/07