Whitepaper: 05.09.2012

Aligning Sustainability Construction Goals with an Owner’s Mission

by Nate Ray, McCarthy Senior Project Manager

“One of the guiding principles of Soka University of America is to foster leaders for the creative coexistence of nature and humanity. The Soka Performing Arts Center project demonstrates this socially responsible ideal to our students. We deeply appreciate the project team for helping us meet our objective to create a world-class LEED Gold Certified facility.”
Arch Asawa, CFO and vice president for finance and administration, Soka University

The design and construction team on the new Soka Performing Arts Center and Academic Building was challenged to develop a project in line with the guiding principles of the university. The team stepped up to the challenge, delivering a LEED Gold venue that now serves as a premier destination in south Orange County for concerts, theater productions, lectures and assemblies and furthers Soka University’s role as a cultural center and community gathering place.

Designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca and completed in 2011, the project included construction of a three-level, 47,836-square-foot performing arts center housing a reception lobby, 1,000-seat auditorium and various support spaces along with an adjacent 48,974-square-foot, four-level academic building housing 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.

Bringing Forward Sustainable Solutions
With an innovative design, the project offered many opportunities to feature sustainability. In addition, as the builder, McCarthy’s expertise in green construction enabled the team to maximize all opportunities. For example, original drawings for this project did not show support for photovoltaic (PV) arrays. The McCarthy team worked with the PV vendor, installer and design team to incorporate PV supports into the project prior to PV design completion. The PV supports were then incorporated into the structural steel shop drawings, allowing for proper waterproofing of the support penetrations and eliminating a potential schedule impact.

Since the city of Aliso Viejo and the Moulton Niguel Water District (MNWD) had not seen a combination green roof and PV arrays before, McCarthy scheduled a meeting with LiveRoof, the city of Aliso Viejo, MNWD and the design team to review the design. This helped greatly when it came to plan review approvals and inspections. During this meeting, it was discovered that the current design called for the reclaimed water lines to be installed through the building. Since MNWD would not allow this, the team developed another solution, re-routing the reclaimed water lines through faux downspouts on the exterior of the building. The same copper faux downspouts are also used throughout the campus so consistent architectural language was maintained.

The design and construction team employed 15 LEED Accredited Professionals, and McCarthy used sustainable construction methods throughout the project, including: recycling approximately 75 percent of construction waste; maintaining proper indoor air quality; utilizing local labor; and ensuring that the subcontractors installed the specified green materials. To construct the LEED Gold-designed structures, McCarthy used building materials made from recycled content that were 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 completed LEED Gold structures incorporate numerous sustainable and energy efficiency solutions. The academic building features operable windows for climate control and displacement ventilation to reduce the amount of space being conditioned, sensor-controlled lights that turn themselves off in unused rooms, and a glass sunshade structure with 570 panes of laminated safety glass to diffuse light and reduce solar heat-gain in a large, all glass lobby.

The Soka Performing Arts Center features a green roof and solar panels, while the academic building has a clay tile roof to match the existing campus along with a green roof. The green roof holds three to four inches of soil filled with succulent plants providing sound insulation as well as insulation for heating and cooling. The roof also absorbs rainwater to filter it before it goes into the wood canyon watershed and converts carbon dioxide to oxygen. A bioswale was also built to help manage storm water runoff. The performance hall features adjustable floor diffusers below most seats, allowing audience members to adjust airflow. Water-saving features employed include low-flow water fixtures and high-efficiency instantaneous gas water heaters.

Energy modeling simulations performed prior to construction showed an overall energy cost savings of about 25% over the baseline. To that end, the 140 kW photovoltaic system generates an estimated 15% of the energy needed.

Meeting both projects’ LEED Gold certification goals required rigorous tracking and monitoring as well as developing innovations to those green challenges presented. In the end, the team’s proactive approach resulted in a facility that meets Soka University of America’s sustainable goals while aligning seamlessly with the university’s mission.

Nate Ray, LEED AP BD+C, is Senior Project Manager for McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. With approximately 15 years of industry experience, Nate oversaw all construction activity on the Soka Performing Arts Center and Academic Building projects, working closely with owner, design and subcontractor representatives to achieve success. He holds a bachelor of science in Construction Management from Colorado State University. Nate can be reached at nray@mccarthy.com.

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