UC's Richmond Field Station, shown in brown

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory seems to Berkeleyans to sprawl over the hills above the university. But with only 200 acres, the lab finds itself pressed for space. Most of the 4,200 employees are on the site in the Berkeley hills, but about 20% are at the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in Oakland or the Life Sciences Division in West Berkeley.

LBL plans to issue a Request for Proposals for a full second campus for the lab, which would consolidate the minor sites and provide room for expansion. The new site will be within 20 minutes of the main campus in the hills, which means it could be anywhere from Richmond in the north to Alameda in the south. The only certain site to be evaluated is the Richmond Field Station, which is owned by the University of California, which operates the lab under contract from the Department of Energy.

The lab’s COO, Jim Krupnick, told a meeting of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) this week that the lab was “still growing”. “We’re still getting new funding for research programs, such as the Solar Energy Research Center and the User Testbed Facility [for research on energy-efficient buildings],” Krupnick said.

In addition to the need for more space, Krupnick said the lab wanted to foster better collaboration and cross-disciplinary research, which a rationalization of sites could assist. Krupnick said the second site would need to be expandable to 750,000 to 2 million gross square feet. This could eventually double the Lab’s current footprint at its main site, which is about 1.8 million square feet.

Krupnick told the CAG that the plan was to evaluate responses to the RFP, narrow the list to two to four site by the end of the winter and make a final selection next summer. Following environmental review, financing, design and construction, and approvals from the University of California and the Department of Energy, if everything goes as planned, occupancy could begin in 2015, Krupnick said.

LBL’s 200 acres make it one of the smallest national laboratories. Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory sits on 4,470 acres and Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York has 5,320 acres.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...