Design-Build Means Business, Especially at UC Irvine

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Design-Build Means Business, Especially at UC Irvine

Issue 2 of 2016

As you may know from a good (or poor) group project experience in school, the best results come from open channels of communication where ideas and functional considerations are laid on the table and pieced together by the whole team. When the University of California, Irvine’s Merage School of Business began the process of constructing a new facility, they did something that ensured this same type of collaboration could take place between all the players that would be at the table. The owner chose to deliver it using design-build.

But UC Irvine not only used design-build, they followed DBIA’s best practices to achieve Design-Build Done RightTM. Maintaining a broad goal of constructing a high-quality, iconic, forward-looking building that fostered a flexible, warm and inviting feel, the new facility would need to be constructed by a design-builder with this vison in mind. According to Rashmi Mehta, Vice President of Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company, which served as general contractor on the project, “The University’s well-honed design-build process focused on best-value—factoring in quality, functionality, flexibility and operational design standards within a Maximum Acceptance Cost of $36.5 million.”


Joined by Carrier Johnson + LMN Architects, the design-build team excelled in the preliminary competition phase being guided by UC Irvine’s “Vision and Hopes,” and won the award by a unanimous decision according to Former Campus Architect and Associate Vice-Chancellor Rebekah Gladson, FAIA, AUA, DBIA.

Originally conceived around a central courtyard that linked new and existing buildings, the inherent collaborative nature of design-build allowed the team to reconcile the challenges of their proposal with the practicalities of the campus. To gain access to the client group, the design-build team generated a client engagement strategy to identify critical project issues from the client’s perspective. According to Mehta, “From there we generated multiple iterations of alternative designs for each set of key issues, seeking client responses to the full range of possibilities.” Interestingly, the design-build team found that the ultimate design was derived more from these considerations rather than the formal architectural proposals.


uc-irvine-3But as with any project, the result is what truly made this facility stand out as a Design-Build Project/Team Award winner. Not only is the new facility a fun space to engage the interest of its students, but it provides students the opportunity to interact within the same corporate environments where they hope to work. In total, the team delivered a facility that amasses 79,500-square-feet, and created a unified business education complex with an outdoor courtyard, technologically advanced classrooms, collaboration spaces, assembly spaces, and state-of-the-art research space.

But perhaps most importantly for the project’s eventual success, a special relationship was created between the school and the team that will last beyond the completion date. In a letter supporting the project’s Design-Build Project/Team Award nomination, Associate Vice Chancellor of UC Irvine, Rebekah Gladson added, “One of the measures of success for me is simple: Does the team want to work together again? The answer to that question is a resounding YES. This means that not only was the project on budget, schedule and superb quality, but the School of Business’s every need was met.” In fact, the relationship between owner and design-builder was so strong, that when the design-build team finished their work, the Assistant Dean said, “I feel like my friends are going away and I am sad.” That’s the kind of teamwork design-build should regularly deliver.