Case Study: UC Santa Barbara

In Blog, case study, Design Resource, Local Sourcing, solid wood, Wood is Good by Morgan Dix

Summary: Creative collaboration and a passion for sustainable furniture solutions were the hallmarks of our partnership with UCSB San Joaquin Apartments. Together, we crafted a solution that featured modern design, solid hardwood, and local manufacturing.

Name: UCSB San Joaquin Apartments

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Size: 57 Apartments, 322 Bedroom Spaces

Building Type: Multi-use Residence Hall

Project Team: UCSB, DCI

Product List: Bed, 3-drawer chest, Desk, Pedestal, Wardrobe, Dining Table, Coffee Table, TV Stand

UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara is a prestigious Public Ivy and one of 10 campuses in the University of California System.

Nestled atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a beautiful backdrop of rolling hills and the mountains of the Pacific Coast Range, UCSB’s stunning campus is home to 21,574 undergraduate students, 2,772 graduate students and 1,163 faculty.

As a public research university, UCSB offers 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. It’s distinguished faculty have won 6 Nobel Prizes, 1 Fields Medal, while 39 are members of the National Academy of Sciences, 27 are members of the National Academy of Engineering, and 34 are members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Commitment To Sustainability

UCSB stands out on a number of fronts, but it’s a pioneer in terms of studying the environment.

First, it has one of the oldest and most prestigious environmental studies program in the country with over 6,000 graduates over 46 years. Founded in 1970, the program offers both a B.S. and a B.A.

The University is also home to Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, one of the few elite graduate programs in environmental interdisciplinary studies in the United States.

According to the research and ratings site Best Colleges, UCSB ranks among the greenest universities in America. Here are a few sustainability fun facts they highlight:

  • 47% of academic departments offer some sort of sustainability focus in their curriculum, for a total of 321 “green” classes.
  • 94% of students at UCSB bike, walk or take the bus to campus, which offers 10,000 bike parking spaces and 10 miles of bike paths.
  • While UCSB offers many interdisciplinary options for environmental studies, the campus offers two primary degree programs in this discipline: a master’s and PhD in environmental science & management.
  • 44 of the buildings at Santa Barbara are LEED certified
  • Photovoltaic solar panels have helped the college cut their electrical usage by one-third


You don’t have to look far to see the impact of the environmental programs on campus. UCSB boasts several LEED platinum and gold certified buildings on campus.

One of its newest developments—the Sierra Madre Villages student housing complex—is the first in the UC system to win LEED Platinum in the context of LEED for Homes.

Bren Hall is similarly distinguished, having earned LEED platinum certification in 2002 when it was built, but then it went on to win a second LEED Platinum certification in 2009—the first building to ever accomplish that. Bren was also the very first LEED Platinum-certified laboratory building.

Recently, the University started on an ambitious new project called the UCSB San Joaquin Apartments. The project is a key part of the university’s goal to increase enrollment by 5,000 students over the next nine years, and UCSB San Joaquin will house 1,000 of those new residents.

San Joaquin Sustainability Stats

According to the University’s website:

The San Joaquin Apartments are highly resource efficient buildings that save water, energy and reduce greenhouse gases as it strives for LEED Platinum certification through a program administered by the US Green Building Council. The apartments offer earth-friendly living to approximately 1,000 undergraduate students. Many sustainable measures were incorporated into the project, such as:

  • Reducing CO2 through public transportation: San Joaquin is conveniently located adjacent to four bus lines with 247 weekday rides. Students can access basic resources like grocery stores, restaurants, banks, etc and the university all by public transportation.
  • Water saving landscaping: Drought-tolerant shrubbery is fed by low-flow drip sprinklers.
  • Water saving bath fixtures: Residents use efficient toilets, faucets, and showers.
  • Occupancy sensor/continuous operating fan: Bathroom equipped with Energy Star fans, to bring fresh air in and keep mold out.
  • High efficiency lighting: Ubiquitous LED Lighting fixtures use less electricity.
  • Energy star appliances: Energy Star refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines reduce electricity, gas and water consumption.
  • Non-Toxic Materials: Incorporated low-VOC paints and adhesive on all walls, trims and moldings and Green Label Plus Carpeting to reduce toxins.

Process & Approach

ucsb san joaquin furniture installationIn 2015 UCSB approached DCI about the prospect of furnishing the San Joaquin Apartments. Given UCSB’s strong institutional focus on sustainability, DCI was a great match.

First, they were looking for a local vendor, and loved that DCI’s assembly plant was located nearby. Second, UCSB strives to buy the most environmentally sensitive products possible, without compromising style. Our custom-designed solid hardwood furniture provided the ideal solution.

And finally, DCI has a zero-waste manufacturing policy, a robust furniture recycling policy, and all our furniture is climate friendly.


ucsb san joaquin at nightIn our first discovery meeting, we learned more about the UCSB team’s design goals. Their interior designers and project team wanted to try something new and different to embrace a modern furniture aesthetic to match the innovative and decidedly modern style of the UCSB San Joaquin Apartments.

We turned their ideas into a presentation proposing various approaches and hit on a style that excited them—integrating contrasting colors into the furniture.

So we designed the furniture by combining natural maple, silver steel, and white drawer fronts to increase the contrast and create the modern look and feel they were seeking.


ucsb san joaquin apartments bedroom furnitureFrom this point, we entered into a deeper collaborative process. We proposed several ideas for their feedback which allowed us to go back and forth and hone in on the the final pieces of furniture for the project.

Then we produced rendors of the residence hall rooms from CAD drawings so everyone could see how the furniture looked and fit in the rooms. The UCSB San Joaquin team loved what they saw and wanted to see final samples and the rest is history.


ucsb san joaquin apartments lounge furniture
In the end, we customized a number of unique products for UCSB. We used the contrasting drawer fronts on several pieces of furniture: the wardrobe, bed, three-drawer chest, and desk.

We also created a beautiful custom dining table—borrowing elements from our Glen Mor collection—which featured a solid maple top and a powdered metal base and backed by a lifetime warranty in the spirit of true renewability.

The wardrobe includes three drawers, a mirror and a lower shoe shelf, providing maximum storage. Then we incorporated a center partition and adjustable shelving so students can organize the space to best meet their personal needs.

This solution provides multiple options to hang long and short clothes and choose between extra hanging space or additional shelving.

In the end, projects with this level of creative collaboration are always the most exciting and fulfilling. By incorporating sustainability and custom design dimensions into the UCSB San Joaquin Apartment projects, we are contributing to their outstanding environmental record while providing stylish, functional, and lasting furniture for residents.

We are also ensuring that our world remains just a little greener.

If you enjoyed this article, you can read more case studies here.

(Photos via Flickr CC: Ryosuke YagiGlenn BeltzCarl Jantzen)


To set up an order today or to talk with one of our representatives, you can write to us here or call: (800) 552-8286.

You can also learn more about our industry-leading FSC CoC certification, our MAS certification, and our green materials sourcing, sustainable manufacturing, and our unique zero waste Vertical Integration Process (VIP).

Download the DCI Sustainability overview here.