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Orange County opens civic center complex—one of California’s largest P3 projects

Orange County opens civic center complex—one of California’s largest P3 projects

New County Administration North building features state-of-the-art hearing room.

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | September 13, 2022
Orange County Civic Center ext 1
Courtesy LPA Design Studios.

Orange County’s recently opened County Administration North (CAN) building caps an urban center development that constitutes one of California’s largest ever P3 projects. Spanning 17 acres, the Santa Ana property includes 16 county-owned buildings and more than 1.6 million sf of indoor space. An innovative public-private partnership (P3) delivered the $400 million complex on time and under budget, according to LPA Design Studios, which provided architecture and engineering services. The result is a new urban center that promotes outdoor spaces, cuts energy costs, and reworks the way the county interacts with the public.

The six-story, 250,000 sf CAN building includes a state-of-the-art hearing room for the Board of Supervisors designed to increase openness and public accessibility. The new Civic Center complex consolidates and reimagines the workplace for a dozen county departments, and significantly reduces operating costs. The design of CAN and the nearby County Administration South (CAS) building, which opened in 2019, reduced energy use by more than 76% from the AIA 2030 Commitment benchmark, primarily through passive design strategies.

The P3 process began with a Facilities Strategic Plan, co-authored by LPA and Griffin Structures, a multidisciplinary firm that provides innovative project delivery solutions. This plan explored all aspects of the county’s operations and real estate assets. When this evaluation kicked off, the County had not attempted a major capital improvement project since filing for bankruptcy protection in 1994. Many of its buildings were more than 60 years old.

The civic center construction project was structured on tax-exempt financing backed by the county’s long-term lease. When the lease expires, the county will take full ownership of the buildings. The P3 arrangement included a guaranteed maximum price established by the developer and its team. This put pressure on the design and construction teams to meet budget and schedule parameters. The two County Administration buildings were delivered on time and under budget, returning an estimated $8 million in aggregate savings to the county.

The two main buildings were conceived through a resilient design that allowed for higher ceilings and greater infiltration of natural light in workspaces. Interior design elements created more efficient workspaces that responded to the work habits of different departments. Work environments were developed around access to natural light, multi-use conference rooms, and collaborative spaces, creating a workplace expected to help the county compete to attract and retain talent. In the public plaza, landscape architects designed a rich diversity of spaces representing the region’s landscape.

On the Building Team:
Owner and/or developer: County of Orange (California)/Griffin Structures
Design architect: LPA Design Studios
Architect of record: LPA Design Studios
MEP engineer: LPA Design Studios
Structural engineer: LPA Design Studios
General contractor/construction manager: Swinerton

Orange County ext 2
Courtesy LPA Design Studios.
Orange County Civic Center ext 3
Courtesy LPA Design Studios.
Orange County Civic Center ext 4
Courtesy LPA Design Studios.


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