LEED-designed university performing arts center, academic building completed

The $73 million project for Soka University in Orange County posed unique construction challenges and incorporated sustainable building methods to seek LEED Gold Certification


McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. recently completed construction of Soka University of America’s new Performing Arts Center and Academic Building project, located on 1.9 acres of the Soka University campus. The new Performing Arts Center is designated to become a venue in South Orange County for concerts, theater productions, lectures and assemblies, enhancing Soka University’s role as a cultural center and community gathering place.

McCarthy served as general contractor for the $73 million project that began in December 2008. The project included construction of a three-level, 47,836-square-foot Performing Arts Center housing a reception lobby; various support spaces and a 1,200 seat auditorium. McCarthy also built a 48,974-sq-ft Academic Building located next to and providing support for the Performing Arts Center. The new four-level academic building houses 11 classrooms, 29 faculty offices, a 150-seat black box theater, four dressing rooms, a rehearsal/dance studio, musician warm-up spaces and other support areas. The project’s design and construction team is pursuing United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for the buildings.

Because of sloping terrain, both new structures presented design and construction challenges. The Performing Arts Center structure … is cast-in-place concrete with 65-foot tall radius shear walls. McCarthy performed all of the structural concrete work for the project, providing the formwork, planning and review process to ensure a successful completion on a very challenging structure.

It should be noted that the Performing Arts Center is designed with four massive roof trusses that span the width of the performance hall. At 16.5 feet tall and 114 feet wide, these trusses were so large that they had to be delivered at night with a special California Highway Patrol escort.

Designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP of Los Angeles, both structures were built with a combination of a structural concrete and structural steel frame. Building exteriors feature smooth plaster walls, travertine stone bands, aluminum curtain walls and clear glass glazing.  The Performing Arts Center features a green roof and solar panels, while the Academic Building has a clay tile roof to match the existing campus.

To successfully address the LEED aspects of the project, the design and construction team employed 15 LEED accredited professionals, and McCarthy used sustainable construction methods throughout the project. These included: recycling approximately 75 percent of construction waste; maintaining proper indoor air quality; utilizing local labor and ensuring that the subcontractors install the specified “green” materials.

Likewise, the design of these structures incorporates numerous sustainable and energy efficiency solutions. The academic building features operable windows and displacement ventilation. The Performing Arts Center’s “green roof” and sunshade structure surrounding the lobby uses photovoltaic (solar) panels, and a bioswale will help manage storm water runoff. McCarthy used building materials made from recycled content and that are locally extracted, processed and regionally manufactured. Additionally, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood and low emitting adhesives, sealants, paints, carpets and composite wood products were incorporated in both structures.

The project team achieved 33 percent below Title 24 requirements for energy efficiency by utilizing the LEED Energy Cost Budget methodology. This energy efficiency rating was achieved by incorporating:

  1. displacement ventilation to reduce the amount of space being conditioned
  2. photovoltaic panels
  3. green roofs
  4. sensor lights
  5. operable windows for views/climate control
  6. white roofs
  7. instantaneous gas water heaters for the dressing room showers and theater support areas
  8. automatic daylight lighting controls in all classrooms and theater lobbies

Working in accordance with LEED 2.2, McCarthy is in the process of submitting the construction documentation needed for official certification.

Other project team members included Program Manager R.W. Buck and Associates of Rancho Santa Margarita; JAMA of Los Angeles, structural engineer; RBF of Irvine, civil engineer; Syska of Los Angeles, electrical and mechanical engineer; and SWA of Laguna Beach, landscape architect.

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