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New ‘Green’ Student Apartments
Win 2009 Construction Award

December 14, 2009

By Rex Graham

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The seven-building “Village at Torrey Pines West” project was built for UC San Diego transfer students and contains 1,060 beds. This project is part of a 3,000-bed building effort currently underway at the campus.

This summer, as Turner Construction was about to add the top floor of the 14-story centerpiece of UC San Diego’s new 1,060-bed apartment-style development for transfer students, the company hit what could have been a major snag. Rather than capping the tallest of seven buildings with a conventional roof as planned, the university informed the company that it wanted a 15th floor glass-enclosed meeting pavilion. The addition would offer stunning views of Torrey Pines Golf Course, the nearby Torrey Pines Gliderport and the Pacific Ocean.

The request was made after UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox had donned a hard hat, rode a construction elevator to the unfinished 13th floor and gazed west toward the ocean. Accompanied by Boone Hellmann, associate vice chancellor of Design and Construction, and Mark Cunningham, executive director of Housing and Dining Services, the three university officials agreed: the campus should take advantage of the world-class view that could take shape about 20 feet above their heads.

Fortunately, the university had adopted a collaborative design-and-build process with Turner Construction that permitted a major change so late in the construction phase. Using that process, Turner quickly redesigned the top of the building and construction crews finished the job in time to permit incoming students to move into their apartments in September as planned.

“If it weren’t for the flexibility of the contractor and the incredibly collaborative working relationship we had created, adding that extra floor could have been a disaster,” said Boone Hellman, assistant vice chancellor of design and construction for UC San Diego. “However, in this case I had no hesitation with this contractor.”

Despite the complex 11th hour change, the project progressed smoothly and on time. The 15-story apartment tower has exterior sunshades, includes sustainable materials and has native landscaping that requires little irrigation water. There are long-term savings from the latest energy- and water-conservation technologies and individual units are illuminated during the day primarily with natural light. Each apartment has its own electrical meter to discourage discretionary energy consumption. The apartments are heated with a high-efficiency heating system and residents cool their units on warm days by simply opening windows: there is no air conditioning.

In recognition of the Village at Torrey Pines West as an “outstanding construction project,” Turner Construction won the top award for a public work in the “2009 Build San Diego Awards” by the San Diego Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. The panel of six judges gave their highest marks to Turner for “excellence in project management, innovation in construction techniques or materials, excellence in client service, contractor’s contribution to the community as it relates to the project, and meeting the challenges of a difficult job.”

The total project cost was $125.7 million, comprised of: $119 million in low-interest University of California revenue bonds that will be repaid by student housing fees; $3.2 million of bookstore reserves for a satellite bookstore; and $3.5 million from campus housing reserve funds for the 15th floor pavilion meeting rooms. The meeting rooms are primarily for use by UC San Diego students living on campus and are also available to other campus groups and organizations in the San Diego area.

Two other innovative UC San Diego buildings completed in this year were also recognized in the 2009 Build San Diego Awards:

  • The San Diego Supercomputer Center Expansion and general contractor Barnhart-Heery won a Merit Award. The expansion project, designed by EHDD Architecture of San Francisco, was awarded the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified equivalent project on the UC San Diego campus because the expansion is 50 percent more efficient than current California standards call for. The project also earned a Best Practices Award from the California Public Utilities Commission. The total cost was $45.3 million, funded primarily by University of California revenue bonds that will be repaid by federal cost recovery generated by research to be conducted in the building. (http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/supercomputer/10-08CampusBuilding.asp)
  • The Conrad Prebys Music Center and PCL Construction Services also won a Merit Award. The Music Center project this year was named the best “Higher Education/Research Facility” in Southern California for its construction and design by the McGraw-Hill publication, California Construction. Local philanthropist and builder Conrad Prebys donated $6 million to complete the construction of the music center. (Prebys further demonstrated his love of music with an additional $3 million gift to establish the Conrad Prebys Music Endowment.) The total project cost was $55 million, funded with $45.7 million of state general obligation bond funds, $6.7 million in gifts, and $2.6 million in campus discretionary funds.

The judges for the 2009 Build San Diego Awards were impressed with the collaborative design-and-build process employed for the Village at Torrey Pines West and the effective ways in which Turner consulted with university officials on construction issues and all key decisions.

The Village project is part of a 3,000-bed building effort currently underway on campus. The buildings will meet LEED silver standards. No state of California funds will be involved in the construction.

"From the first day of move-in, students and their parents have raved about the apartments and their sustainable furnishings as well as the many architectural features of the project. And, of course, the breath-taking views from the 15th floor," said Cunningham, executive director of Housing and Dining Services. "From the convenient mail services, market, bookstore and nearby Café Ventanas to drought tolerant bio-swale landscaping, this development is hard to beat for on-campus living."

“I’ve got a very nice condo in downtown San Diego, and these student apartments are on par with it,” said Jamie Awford, vice president and lead on the construction project for Turner. “It is beautiful. It’s exceptional.”

The award-winning project also affirms the novel design-and-build approach that is revolutionizing the way the university has chosen to grow to nearly 13 million square feet of enclosed housing, instructional, hospital and laboratory space.

Gone is the practice of awarding building contracts to the lowest bidder. “We lost control of projects that way and the costs eventually soared anyway because of the change-orders,” said Hellmann. “Now we go through a pre-qualification process in which builders have had to demonstrate effective project management in previous work.”

At the heart of the new approach is a noncontractual but effective “partnering process” that involves the university, the designer, the builder and dozens of subcontractors.

“With this new methodology, as we encountered each hurdle in the Village at Torre Pines West project, including the addition of the pavilion, it became indistinguishable who each of the players were actually working for,” said Hellmann. “It was seamless. It’s a new paradigm and it works.”

Media Contact: Rex Graham, 858-534-5952 or ragraham@ucsd.edu

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