PCL Construction teamed with architectural partner Steinberg Hart to design and build the new, 65,000-square-foot Southeastern Live Well Center (SELWC) for the County of San Diego. The facility provides an array of community services including food and nutrition assistance, financial and employment assistance, public health, child support, social services for older adults and people with disabilities, and military and veterans’ services.

One cornerstone objective of the County was a commitment by the design-builder to invest a minimum of 10 percent ($6 million) in the local community through local subcontracting and workforce opportunities.

“The design-build team made a commitment to spend $6 million with contractors from the zip codes around this building,” said Marko Medved, Director of the Department of General Services for the County. “They ended up spending over $8 million. They also set a goal to hire no less than five percent from local hires and they ended up with almost 14 percent. Thank you!”

SELWC became a vehicle for economic growth in the region, built for and by the local community. The project facilitated on-the-job training for local apprentices, providing invaluable professional experience in the construction industry. Through partnerships with local organizations and schools, the project inspired young individuals from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in architecture and construction. The design-build team sponsored “Work in Construction” events, where local laborers or aspiring youth could learn about employment opportunities on the project. PCL was also able to hire local community subcontractors and provide opportunities for new careers in construction.

“Hearing the stories of local community members whose lives were changed by gaining employment was the most rewarding part of the build,” says project manager Pramodh Siddhareddydina. “And this happened throughout every step of the process.”

The project also incorporated artwork, both inside and outside of the building, from local artists. More than 100 applications were submitted and nearly 30 local artists were selected. They produced many pieces to enhance the interior and exterior of the project. The public art program integrated within this project creates a space that truly reflects the community. 

When a client’s goal is to exceed the requirements of the California Energy Code (commonly called Title 24), they’re well on their way to a sustainable, resilient building. That was one of the County’s goals, and PCL assembled the right team to find the best way forward.

As a result, the center is all-electric and zero net energy, designed to offset at least 110% of energy consumption through renewables. The wall systems are R30 and high-efficiency light fixtures and mechanical systems have been used. There are 24 EV chargers in the parking structure and the infrastructure for more high-capacity chargers.

Adding to the center’s sustainability, it was built on a brownfield site next to a San Diego Trolley light rail line, and all stormwater is managed through a combination of bioswales, stormwater retention and modular wetland systems. Recycled water is used for irrigation systems.

To provide the greatest value to the client, PCL prepared projections for each of the selected systems. “We wanted to show that we were giving the best total value over the 50-year lifespan of the building when you consider replacement costs, repair costs and maintenance costs for each of the systems,” says project manager Patrick Goforth.

Overall, SELWC is 15 percent better than the performance baseline required by Title 24.

SELWC is in a FEMA flood zone and next to a flood channel, so all vertical construction was completed above the level of a 100-year flood. “The building needed to be at a certain elevation, and we positioned the building so it would not be in the flood’s pathway,” says Goforth. “The second floor was cantilevered for the same reason, and no fences or other obstructions were built in the pathway so they would not collect debris.”

To ensure the long-term viability of the building, and to protect the County’s investment, hidden retaining walls were added so water will not get in the building, and heightened water infiltration testing was conducted.

This care and attention to detail soon paid off. In January of 2024, San Diego was pummeled by a massive rainfall. Forecasters were expecting a significant downpour, but nothing compared to what transpired. Three inches of rain dropped in under three hours – almost a third of the projected yearly rainfall for the region. Witnesses along the flooded Chollas Creek, which winds through the area, saw cars dragged into the progressively rising waters. At the epicenter was the County’s recently completed SELWC.

The property incurred zero damage during the storm. In fact, PCL and Steinberg Hart received kudos from County representatives, who let the teams know that they should take a collective bow for how well their plans held up in the extreme weather.

Project Manager Brian Chen says SELWC is a great example of an effective design-build partnership. “Together, the team provided peace of mind to owners and clients, collectively finding effective solutions for problems prior to them even existing.”

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