Best of the Best: Portola High School honored
“This announcement comes as the culmination of a nearly year-long effort put forth by dozens of industry judges and the ENR editorial team to identify the pinnacle of design and construction achievement in the entire U.S., among projects completed between May 2016 and May 2017,” ENR said about the annual awards, which were announced in the magazine’s March issue.
Portola High School doors opened to its first class of freshmen students in August 2016. Built on 43 acres near the Orange County Great Park, the school draws students from North Irvine, including Great Park Neighborhoods. The school will eventually enroll some 2,600 students in grades 9 through 12.
“To be able to pursue our vision in this state-of-the-art facility has been a dream come true,” said Portola High School Principal John Pehrson about the award. “Many times the facility can get in the way of what is trying to be accomplished, but at Portola, it actually inspires us to do even more than we can imagine.”
The state-of-the-art facility, Irvine Unified School District’s fifth comprehensive high school, features classrooms with common areas and flexible furniture for collaborative learning; an electives building that houses video production, 2D and 3D art, music rooms and science labs; dedicated science labs and a makers space. There’s also a 2,044-seat gymnasium, a 2,940-seat stadium, two soccer fields and an aquatics center with a 50-meter pool, among many other innovative facilities and educational amenities.
“Portola’s design creates an environment for students to engage, problem solve, take intellectual risks, and work together in flexible learning spaces where they can share their thoughts and ideas with their peers and educators, as part of their everyday learning process,” says IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker.
The ENR competition began last March with a call for entries to the construction industry, which resulted in approximately 700 industry project teams submitting their work to the regional Best Projects competitions. In each of the 10 regions, the editors assembled panels of judges to select the regional winners in 20 categories.
Once the regional winners were chosen, the top winners in each category from each region moved up to the national competition. “A brand new set of judges from across the country and from all walks of the industry examined each project in an effort to distinguish the best from the best in terms of teamwork, safety, overcoming challenges, innovation and quality,” according to ENR.
The U.S. and California Best Project awards recognize IUSD, the owner of the school; HMC Architects, the lead designer; C.W. Driver, the general contractor; and the civil and structural engineers on the project, Epic Engineers and RM Byrd & Associates, respectively.
The ENR judges noted that the school’s “tilted roofs look like airplane wings, and a walkway through the center of the campus resembles an airport runway. Buildings made of earthen wall slabs, and the student union’s green roof, blur the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Best Project judges also noted the use of four separate construction teams to manage an aggressive construction schedule: a 19-month construction window for what would typically be a 27- to 30-month project.
“Portola is our first high school built in accordance with IUSD’s award-winning Education Specifications,” said IUSD Board of Education President Sharon Wallin. “These specifications detail the features needed to support instruction and 21st-century learning at the highest levels and are the result of collaboration with our teachers, administrators, facilities staff and architects.
“On behalf of the district and the board of education, we are immensely proud of our Facilities and Construction team for their innovative implementation of IUSD’s vision and we thank our partners HMC Architects and C.W. Driver.”