UCI designs and builds for its future
“A central pillar of our strategic plan is to foster excellence in teaching and learning,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman, as quoted in a UCI press release. “That commitment is now exemplified in this magnificent building, which will feature lecture halls, impromptu conferencing spaces and the latest technology.
The 70,000-square-foot building will serve the full range of active-learning and academic tenets of the university: exploring, discovering, advancing theories, testing ideas and collaborating.
The classrooms extend to interior and exterior community spaces, providing students with choices for group work and social connection, according to architect George Shaw of LMN Architects.
The building features two floors of day-lit classrooms and circulation areas (the mixing hall), and a third level that houses student offices and computer labs. Natural light filters through the exterior sunshade latticework to the mixing zone’s circulation and collaboration spaces. Accessed from large campus plazas on two sides, a series of community spaces capture expansive views of Aldrich Park and the campus landscape, creating an interconnected indoor-outdoor student experience.
The project is composed of three primary elements: a two-story elliptically shaped pavilion housing lecture halls; a three-story classroom wing framed with a continuous student mixing hall; and the bridge, a central vertical circulation and gathering space that connects the functions of the two primary structures.
The Anteater Learning Pavilion is part of a construction boom addressing the growth of student and faculty populations and research endeavors projected in UCI’s 10-year strategic plan. Recent additions include the six-story Mesa Court Towers housing complex, and the on-campus headquarters for the Division of Continuing Education, which offers community programs and classes. An art museum and a nursing school building are also in the works.
The new classroom space will be designed and equipped to promote active learning, in which students engage and participate more energetically with materials and collaborate with each other.
“Our faculty no longer expect – or want – students to simply listen to lectures, take notes and memorize facts,” said UCI physics and astronomy professor Michael Dennin. “In order for our students to be prepared for a complicated and competitive world, they have to be ready to understand and demonstrate processes, analyze arguments and apply what they’ve learned to real-world situations.”
In keeping with UCI’s focus on sustainable construction, the facility is expected to earn LEED Platinum certification upon completion. The builder is Hathaway Dinwiddie, and the architectural firm is LMN Architects.
The two firms have collaborated on other design-build projects at UCI, including the addition to the Paul Merage School of Business and the recently completed Department of Continuing Education Classroom Building.
“UC Irvine was one of the first U.S. campuses to institute design-build delivery, and over several decades they have developed one of the most sophisticated and well-defined design-build processes in the industry,” said Rashmi Mehta of Hathaway Dinwiddie in a company statement about the project. “Based on best design and best value, UCI’s system provides a unique opportunity for flexibility and creativity in the design process, which has resulted in high-quality yet cost-effective, sustainable architecture on their campus.”
The design-build method of efficiently completing new buildings has many advantages over traditional design-bid-build methods. Traditional design-bid-build is a sequential process where the owner first contracts with a design professional to prepare detailed, ready-for-construction plans and specifications, then uses the detailed plans and specifications to solicit competitive price bids for construction, and finally awards the construction project to the low bidder.
Experts say that design-build may result in earlier completion and occupancy of the project, because there’s no down time between completion of design and start of construction for the bidding and contract process.
The design-build contractor can begin construction of early infrastructure phases of the project before design of later phases is complete.
Some argue that it was the design element of the original Orange County Great Park process that took so long and cost so much, but the designers were contractually bound to complete the design documents before construction could commence.
In retrospect, design-build may have been a more efficient method, though historically California public contract law has not favored design-build contracts. Perhaps future city of Irvine projects, such as the Cultural Terrace at the Orange County Great Park, should be evaluated to see if design-build is a viable option. It seems to work well at UCI.