The La Jolla Laboratory Replacement Project

La Jolla Laboratory ReplacementIn August of 2013, the new Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) Laboratory in La Jolla was dedicated. The original laboratory had been in a precarious position on the edge of a 200-foot cliff since the El Niño winter of 1997-98. The new laboratory was built directly across La Jolla Shores Drive from its predecessor at the northern end of the campus of Scripps institution of Oceanography, U.C. San Diego (UCSD). The structure is cut into a hair-pin turn in the road coming down the bluff from the upper campus of UCSD, thus preserving the view of La Jolla Cove. The new facility contains 38 research laboratories, including an experimental aquarium, a large animal necropsy lab, a specimen processing lab, a photogrammetry lab, an ichthyoplankton lab, genetic labs, physiology labs, oceanographic labs, specimen archives, electronic workshops and a unique large test tank facility for testing new sampling technologies, plus a library, conference rooms and office space for 275 scientists and support staff. The new facility will allow the SWFSC to continue its legacy surveys and monitoring programs while incorporating new technologies in the provision of advice on the conservation and management of living marine resources in the California Current, Eastern Tropical Pacific and Antarctic ecosystems. The design of the new laboratory includes photovoltaic cells, elaborate water retention systems, recycled materials and green roofs planted with California coastal chaparral, and earned a LEED Gold Level Certification. Funding was provided from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. La Jolla Laboratory Replacement Project PDF

Latest News


4/19/13 5:20 pm

We started moving into our new lab in mid-February and will continue into June. The move consolidates 35+ labs, 5 shops, 4 libraries, 1.5 million specimens and 275 people from two locations with as little interruption to ongoing work as possible. Our temporary facility at Torrey Pines Court is almost empty and we've started moving from our old lab across La Jolla Shores Drive. This has involved an extraordinary effort in planning and coordination (the Move Committee has met more than 50 times over the course of two years); ITS and O&M have been stretched thin maintaining three sites simultaneously; and the Facilities staff has risen to the dual challenge of learning to operate a complex facility and helping people settle in to it. But it's all worth it. We're quickly becoming productive and looking forward dedicating the building in August.

New address is 8901 La Jolla Shores Drive 92037

9/25/12 11:30 am

Testing the lights at our new lab

Testing the lights at our new lab. Photo by Jeff Reeder, structural engineer for the building and mastermind of the tech tank.

2/7/12 11:30 am

NOAA La Jolla Lab Construction Progress Aerial Wide View Photo Looking to the South 1-24-12

Another view of the new and the old. Lighter colored roofs on the new lab will be planted with native coastal vegetation. Darker colored roofs will have photovoltaic cells. The excavation on the west side of LJSD between our labs is the foundation for the SIO's new MESOM lab. After we vacate the old lab, three of the four buildings will be removed. Only Building D (closest to the road) will remain. The pad for Building A will be converted to a small parking lot and a coastal lookout will be located at the south end of Building C. Click here for more aerial photos. Be sure to explore other links on the left side of the page. For example, the Innovative Design link, describes some of the things that were rattling around in the heads of the architects.

1/20/12 10:00 am

2012-1-20 Exterior View

View from the street showing the lobby, library and large conference room stack. The concrete and steel structure is done; most of the exterior windows are in place; the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components are nearing completion; interior walls are being framed and wall board hung; freezers are being built in place; laboratory cabinets are being installed; electricity, gas and sea water are connected; additional retaining walls on the east side are being constructed; and the building is beginning to take on a life of its own.

But much remains to be done. In addition, all systems must be running and monitored for several weeks before the building can be considered fully commissioned and ready to occupy. As a consequence, our move-in dates have been pushed back to May through August.

8/12/11 5:30 pm

NOAA La Jolla Lab Construction Aerial Photo Looking North Wide View 7-8-11

The old and the new side by side. The architect's vision is taking shape and will occupy a site as spectacular as our old lab, albeit more secure. We're also on track for LEED Gold certification for sustainable buildings. I came across a quote from several years ago when the lab was just an idea:

“In science when a solution or breakthrough is reached, the comment is ‘oh that was obvious.’ This building has a sense of inevitability, a building that is what it should be. This is the most creative design I’ve seen as a member of this board.” Robert Hamburger, UC-San Diego Design Review Board Member

High praise from the former Dean of Faculty at the School of Medicine, who has been here since the beginning of UCSD and has seen the erection of many buildings on campus.

Our move-in dates have been pushed back to late February through May. Work on the old lab will begin in April resulting in the removal of three buildings, seismic and geo-tech hazard mitigation, some new parking and restoration of the rest of the site to native plants.

Weekly photos of the construction can be seen here . The latest time lapse movie can be seen here .

The view from above. The grey section in the NW corner is the Level 4 roof. The steel framing for Levels 3 and 4 will eventually extend further south with Level 3 wrapping around the the west. The south end of the Plaza (Level 3 deck) is waiting the installation of a large truss that will span the entries to parking and the loading dock.

NOAA La Jolla Lab Construction 7-8-11 - Aerial Close Up Looking North

3/31/11 3:30 pm

La Jolla Cove View

In the last few weeks the new lab appears to have erupted from the hole and is now very visible from La Jolla Shores Drive. The scene above is from the rear of the Large Conference Room on the 3rd (or plaza) level looking toward the cove. Steel framing for the 3rd and 4th levels will start to go up next month and by June the outline of the full building should be clear. In the meantime, concrete will continue to be poured on the southern portions of the first and second levels. Ultimately, the plaza will cover all below and the 3rd-4th level labs and offices will rise above. We are still on schedule to move in during the first quarter of calendar year 2012.

As a reminder:

* Weekly Photos supplied by Matt Vogel, our on-site engineer.
* Architect's Renderings and Animation.
* Latest Time Lapse movie compiled from images taken every 15 minutes from a camera mounted on top of the elevator shaft at the south end of the Keck Center-Nierenberg Hall parking lot.

10/21/10 5:30 pm

One year ago today the excavation contractor started to remove the brush from the hillside. Since then 140,000 cubic yards of earth were removed and a massive retaining wall installed. In May the construction contractor began working and has made rapid progress. Each week more dirt is covered with concrete and the building is starting to take shape. The view below is looking NW over the top of the tech tank; the main machinery room is on the right; the columns are sitting on the lower parking level and forms are being constructed for the 1st level pour.

21 Oct 2010 Overview

View of the tech tank forms in the SE corner of the lab.

21 Oct 2010 Tech Tank

Ramp from 1st level leading down to lower parking level.

21 Oct 2010 Ramp

Click here for additional pictures. We remain on schedule to finish construction in Nov-Dec 2011 and relocate in Jan-Feb 2012.

08/17/10 1:06 PM

LJLRP 08/17/10

Busy, busy, busy ... early this morning on a rare sun day. Footings and foundation walls are being formed and concrete poured on the P-Level. Underground electrical and plumbing is next followed by on grade slabs. Wall in background forms ramp leads to P-Level parking and contains outlets for charging electric cars - thanks to David Demer for the suggestion. Click here for more photos. - Roger

07/13/10 4:45 PM

Aerial 7/7/2010

This oblique aerial photo was taken last week by Rudolph and Sletten, our general contractor. Square hole in middle of site is the foundation for the construction crane which will be erected next week. R&S's field office arrived over the weekend and is sited on the NW corner of the Keck parking lot. More info and photos are at

05/26/10 5:54 PM

LJLRP 052510

After 5-1/2 months the Big Dig is finished. You can get a feeling for scale from the pickup trucks parked on the site. The hole and retaining wall drops another 40-feet behind the pickup truck on the far right. This will form the base for the technology tank. To the left will be the machinery pad and lower parking level. On the far wall is the ramp that leads up to the entry level where the shops, experimental aquarium, necrospy and sample processing labs, loading dock and seagoing storage will be located. On the far left is our old lab with the road rising to the upper campus hidden in the trees.

Rudolf and Sletten were awarded the construction contract and will begin mobilizing later this month. As you can see from their web site, they have built several laboratories, aquariums and other complex buildings on the west coast. We are optimistic that we'll get a good facility delivered on time. Move-in date is early spring 2012. Go to to view progress. The architect's animation (see menu on left side of page) was re-encoded by Robert Holland and looks even better. This is the best way to get a feel for the overall concept of our new lab.

03/11/10 5:53 PM

LJLRP 031110-1

Only about 5,000 cubic yards remain as progress is now limited by construction of the retaining wall. The hole is approximately 30-feet deeper that the Keck parking lot. This will be the lower parking level and the base for machinery rooms and the large tank. Early morning wide angle shows north and east walls with our old lab is just visible behind the trees on the left. Two drilling rigs are parked in the center. A sense of scale is apparent in the photo below showing a rod being inserted into one of the drilled holes.

LJLRP 031110-2

02/09/10 5:53 PM

LJ Repl Proj 020910 - 2

After 70 days, 103,000 cubic yards gone, another 27,000 left to go. The back wall that will wrap around two sides of the lab is 25% complete, being built from the top down using soil-nailing technology.

LJ Repl Proj 020910

12/24/09 3:50 PM

LJ Repl Proj 122409-1

After 39 days, 50,000 cubic yards gone, another 80,000 to go. The photo shows an approximately 180-degree view looking north. La Jolla Shores Drive curves up around our site and through the trees in the background. "Soil nailing" has begun, which will culminate with a 70-foot vertical wall behind this portion of the laboratory. Sixty-foot steel rods are grouted into holes drilled 15-degrees down from horizontal and across slip planes. Rods are set into a 15" thick concrete wall with two layers of wire mesh reinforcement. The wall is built from the top down as soil is excavated.

LJ Repl Proj 122409-3

LJ Repl Proj 122409-2

- Roger Hewitt, SWFSC

11/13/09 9:04 PM

This aerial mosaic (JPG image) was taken during research flights by Wayne Perryman and the SWFSC Photogrammetry and Life History Program during an overflight with the NOAA Twin Otter.

- Roger Hewitt, SWFSC

LJ Repl Proj 111309

11/10/09 4:13 PM

8,000 cubic yards gone, 119,000 yet to go. This is a view from the top of the construction site. The construction trailer and La Jolla Shores Drive are visible on the left. The corner of our current lab is peeking out from behind the trees in the middle of the image. The dirt road is the one used by the trucks but it is early in the morning and they haven't started their runs yet. The excavator is clearing some rocks out of the road and will move up on the shelf (where the photographer is standing) to load the trucks as they rumble by. As the dig progresses, they will corkscrew downward to about 100 feet below.

- Roger Hewitt, SWFSC

LJ Repl Proj 111009

11/2/2009 4:54 PM

These photos are composites taken by Wayne Perryman and the Photogrammetry and Life History Program at SWFSC from the NOAA Twin Otter during research flights designed to sample school size and size distribution in common dolphins. The first set of images was taken during the Ground Breaking ceremony on 15 September 2009 and the second set were taken a month and a half later, on 2 November 2009. Visible in the second image, is the construction trailer in the southwest corner of the site, the "race track" that the dump trucks will follow, and the excavator is the top of the hill.

- Roger Hewitt

LJ Repl Proj Aerial Image 091509

LJ Repl Proj Aerial Image 110209

10/21/2009 9:16 AM

The Big Dig at 8901 La Jolla Shores Drive (the new address for The SWFSC La Jolla Laboratory Replacement Project) has started.

Some clearing of vegetation will occur this week as the contractor lays out a circular path for the trucks and excavators to follow on the site. Next week they will start to remove dirt and will continue for 5 months, interrupted only when they need to install shoring.

Best places to view the construction are top of Biological Grade (on west side of La Jolla Shores Drive) or the Keck parking lot (on the east side of La Jolla Shores Drive).

- Roger Hewitt, SWFSC

Last modified: 12/24/2014