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Capitol Success

The State of California benefits from just the right approach for a megalithic mixed-use project in its capital city

May 01, 2003 |

The design and construction team for the Capitol Area East End Complex, Block 225, in Sacramento, faced tightened requirements of California's Title 24 energy code, frequent presentations to government bodies, and the need to integrate a public art program into the project.

Working with state and municipal authorities, the Building Team discovered the right formula for a 1.5 million sq. ft. mixed-use building on the state's capitol square, leading to a Merit Award in Building Design & Construction's 2003 Building Team Awards competition.

For starters, California required Block 225's team members to participate in a partnering program throughout the course of the project. This state-mandated requirement brought representatives from each segment of the Building Team together for a total of five full-day sessions of brainstorming, problem solving, and team building.

Scott Johnson, a principal with the project's design architect, Johnson Fain Partners of Los Angeles, says partnering has become a growing trend in the last five to 10 years, especially for large public projects like Block 225.

California instituted the partnering requirement because there had been what Johnson calls "train wrecks" on big state projects, where coordination problems had not been properly addressed early enough. "Smart, sophisticated owners who solicit multiple buildings over time say, 'We have to get ahead of this and find a way to make it work better,'" he says. "The better projects are those on which there is greater communication."

"The point of partnering is to build relationships — that's what it's all about," says Seth Boles, project manager for the project's general contractor, Greeley, Colo.-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. "Every day you're going to have something come up in the field that you need to resolve. How well you work together as a team will depend on how well you deal with the things that come up."

Boles says partnering helped Block 225's Building Team develop processes used on the job site. At one session, for example, the team created a green building review focus group, made up of one member from each branch of the team. This group met regularly to review how the building was tracking with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings established by the U.S. Green Building Council and California's Title 24 requirements.

At the end of each partnering session, the 35 to 50 Building Team members present a completed survey detailing both their progress and areas where they thought they could do better.

Barr & Barr Consultants, Austin, Texas, which performed a post-project debriefing, pronounced Block 225's partnering program "an unqualified success."

"The surest indicator of partnership success is in the desire for partners to want to work together again," says Norma Barr, PhD. "This partnership scored an overwhelming rating of 4.82 of a total 5, representing one of the highest evaluations Barr & Barr Consultants has ever seen."

Savings on top of savings

Energy savings was another huge goal for the team. While California's Title 24 energy requirements were recently made 30% more restrictive, the Building Team set out to make Block 225 an additional 30% more energy efficient, translating to a performance 60% better than typical buildings in its class. This emphasis eventually led to the project winning a Gold LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.

"Building to the equivalent of a Gold-rated LEED building forced us to constantly monitor ourselves and to document everything we did in the right way," says Boles. "It was a challenge throughout the project."

Actions that contributed to the LEED rating included the recycling and diversion from landfills of more than 99% of total construction waste. Building materials were specified and tested for outgassing characteristics and the reduction or elimination of volatile organic compounds and reproductive toxic contaminants.

After construction started, the state added an underfloor air distribution system to the project, a new requirement the Building Team met by working together. This accomplishment particularly impressed Building Team Awards judge Raj Gupta, president of Environmental Systems Design, Chicago.

"This is the strongest project from an M/E/P-design perspective, especially using steam for chilled water," says Gupta, a mechanical engineer. "To reduce the energy consumption by that amount takes a tremendous amount of coordination by the team members — the architect, the engineers, and the owners, even the space planners. Just the collaboration and communication that goes into that type of effort is quite an achievement in itself."

A parade of presentations

Any project of 1.5 million sq. ft. that spans five city blocks and is located across from a state capitol is bound to gain the attention of public officials and legislators, and this was no exception.

The team was called upon frequently to make presentations on its progress to numerous state and city departments. These included the immediate client, the Department of General Services; the eventual tenant, the state Department of Education; the state Department of Energy; the Department of State and Consumer Services; the mayor and city council of Sacramento; and the Joint Rules committee of the State of California's House and Senate.

"If there was a calendar of events for developing the design, then overlaying that was a whole calendar of presentations to these various bodies," Johnson says. "In a way it was the ultimate public project."

Because this was a Design/Build Best Value project, the state was permitted to fix the total construction cost at $395 million and to select the winning firm based on which one could deliver the highest level of performance for the price. This obviated the need to award the work to the lowest bidder, a new approach for California.

As master design architect, Johnson Fain rose to the challenge and completed the entire set of drawings (interior, exterior, and landscape) in just 10 months — an undertaking Scott Johnson said normally would have taken a year and a half.

"We didn't have a choice," he says. "It was all scheduled according to a state calendar. The budgeting and calendar went forward as part of a state bill. There was no way to change it short of going back to the state capitol and rewriting the bill. So we had to salute and say yes."

In addition to the Department of Education, the building also houses foodservice and childcare facilities, as well as retail space.

According to Johnson, Block 225 was specifically designated to be a mixed-use project, in order to provide the surrounding residential neighborhoods with shopping, services, and nighttime security.

"The concern in any city that has a huge government population like Sacramento is that the area is dead in the evening," says Johnson. "This was a way of understanding the 24-hour life of a community by adding services and other things that gave the project more life."

Block 225 is the first of five buildings to face California's State capitol building. The others are currently under construction.

Construction Costs

Site preparation and excavation $2,000,000
Waterproofing 550,000
Reinforcing 762,000
Foundation concrete 2,250,000
Structural steel 1,250,000
Slab-on-deck 6,370,000
Site concrete 170,000
Site utilities 11,000
Landscaping 125,000
Site pavers 750,000
Masonry 455,000
Interior and exterior stone 3,638,000
Metal deck 850,000
Insulation 320,000
Fireproofing 900,000
Roofing 340,000
Sheet metal 82,000
Sealants 35,000
Precast 2,000,000
Glazing 6,024,000
Drywall 3,955,000
Ceramic tile 378,000
Acoustical ceiling 1,100,000
Floor coverings 1,074,000
Painting 520,000
Signage 104,000
Art allowance $670,000
Elevators 1,414,000
Plumbing 1,318,000
Fire protection 835,000
HVAC 7,700,000
Electrical 7,400,000
TOTAL $57,000,000

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