Opening of Sutardja Dai Hall, the new CITRIS headquarters building on the UC Berkeley campus

by Gordy Slack

The February 27 opening of Sutardja Dai Hall, the new CITRIS headquarters building on the UC Berkeley campus, represents a big step forward, says director Paul Wright. CITRIS is spread out over its four campuses and functions as a sort of distributed network with researchers also in industry and government. The new HQ will bring CITRIS colleagues from all the parts of the network together in one inspiring place to focus on delivering concrete solutions and using information technology to some of California’s most pressing energy, health care, and environmental challenges. 


Sutardja Dai Hall will serve as the new headquarters for CITRIS and the Banatao Institute@CITRIS Berkeley.

In addition to hosting offices and labs for faculty from UC Santa Cruz, Merced, Davis, and Berkeley, the innovative, fully-wired 141,000 sq ft facility also will house one of the most advanced university-based nanofabrication labs in the country, administrative offices, distance learning facilities, a large auditorium, the Qualcomm Cybercafé, and the Dado & Maria Banatao Institute@ CITRIS Berkeley.

The building and its workspaces have a distinctly open-source flavor. The lab spaces, called collaboratories, are large and modular so that they can expand and contract to accommodate all kinds of research projects of different scales. In addition to being a workplace for engineers, the building will also host faculty from the schools of law, public policy, political science, and new media. Researchers from the Energy Resources Group, the Berkeley Center for New Media, and the Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions (TIER) group will all have space in the building as well.

The center’s large common areas, with magnificent views of the San Francisco Bay, are inspiring places where scientists and students can interact and share ideas.  “The interdisciplinary diversity these labs will host is itself a valuable resource,” says Wright, “and in designing the building we wanted to take full advantage of that.”

The CITRIS approach holds that that technical and policy questions are best addressed together, says Wright.  Development of energy-saving programmable communicating thermostats, for example, may look like largely a technical challenge, but without public policy changes those technical accomplishments would have been unexploited. Working cooperatively, policy makers and scientists can improve the world in profound ways they would not be able to if they act in isolation, says Wright.

The new building is actually composed of two buildings, each with its own foundation, wrapped together in a single unifying façade made of environmentally friendly molded concrete. The smaller of the two houses the Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory, where students, faculty, and industry researchers can develop the next generation of microprocessors, new materials, fabrication processes, and devices, as well as their integration to achieve highly functional and energy-efficient systems. Access to the Nanofabrication Laboratory is strictly controlled because the space must remain absolutely clean—the smallest amount of dirt or dust can wreak havoc on both the chips being etched there and the delicate equipment. Therefore, the two buildings are connected by only a single 5th-floor corridor and a decontamination room. Despite their singular link, though, the Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory will be integral to the work done throughout the building.


The new Marvell Nanofabrication Lab.

The Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory, overseen by UC Berkeley EECS professor and CITRIS chief scientist Ming Wu, will be open to all CITRIS investigators, and it will also be hirable by start-ups and other industrial partners.  The lab’s predecessor, the Microfabrication Lab, has operated in UC Berkeley’s Cory Hall since 1983, provided key tech support to 86 different companies—76 of which were start-ups—and created at least 1,000 IT industry jobs. One of the most advanced labs of its type in the U.S., the new Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory promises to help usher in California’s next generation of micro-technologies.

The new CITRIS headquarters also features the Dado & Maria Banatao Auditorium on the third floor, a 149-seat auditorium that is fully wired with digital video cameras, projection facilities, and a control room. Lectures or other events in this main auditorium can be broadcast live to other CITRIS campuses and elsewhere around the world, amplifying the Institute’s educational reach.

The eight plasma screen monitors peppered throughout Sutardja Dai Hall are networked to simulcast important announcements or presentations throughout the center. The new building is also saturated with Wi-Fi and, because students generally rely on cell phones, signal boosters ensure that cell coverage reaches even the deepest recesses of the basement, where the large fabrication facilities are located.

The building’s four classrooms, including the main auditorium, are also wired for distance learning; classes in them can be recorded or simulcast to other campuses and beyond.

Sutardja Dai Hall’s foundation was laid to the highest seismic safety standards. The foundation is so solid that it would be an ideal place to locate a scanning electron microscope, says Wright. The building’s basement will house not only to CITRIS’s own computer servers, but will be the main computer hub for the entire northwest quadrant of the UC Berkeley campus.

The open architecture and engineering that characterizes the new building will make it an excellent testbed for the kinds of wireless sensor technologies for which CITRIS is so well known. Sensors to detect gases, occupant movement, and energy use are incorporated into the building design, allowing researchers to further test and develop these devices for improved safety and function.

On the building’s ground floor is the Qualcomm Cybercafé that will jump-start the creative process early in the morning and keep it going late into the night. Next to the café are two 24-hour computer labs that can be used by all students in EECS courses. One of them, room 200, will be used primarily by students from the Machine Structures and the Computer Graphics undergraduate courses.  Room 201 will be the new home of the Computer Sciences SelfPaced Center (  The SelfPaced Center provides tutoring and other supportive services for about 250 students from many different majors.

The CITRIS Tech Museum will be on the third floor at the entrance to the CITRIS administration area. The Tech Museum highlights prototypes and displays of CITRIS’s cutting-edge research, including a screen displaying current traffic information that helps drivers make informed travel decisions; a puma tracking collar used in the Santa Cruz Mountains to trace the movement, range, physiology and predatory habits of these mountain lions; an engaging video game that improves the participant’s balance; and printed items created with a novel way to create electronics.

“In years to come, the Tech Museum may display some of the keys to California’s future as an engine of innovation, new industry, and intellectual and economic vitality,” says Wright.