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Unusual Delivery Method Highlights New Long Beach Courthouse Project

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“It’s certainly a unique delivery method – a Public-Private Partnership utilizing Performance-Based Infrastructure design/build,” says Chip Hastie, vice president at Clark Construction Group-California, Costa Mesa. “That really has shaped many of the design decisions and, ultimately, the end product, which is a facility that can be operated with optimal efficiency and reliability.”

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The facility is the 545,000-sq-ft Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach, a $490-million project that will replace the city’s existing – and long outdated – main court building. Construction began in earnest in June.

When completed in August 2013, the complex will cover two city blocks and feature a five-story main building containing 31 courtrooms, administrative offices, below-grade inmate transfer and detention facilities and a 37-slot parking facility for judges and sheriff’s personnel. A second building to the north, four stories tall and smaller in square footage, will include space leased to the county, a retail food court, loading/receiving areas and a large jury assembly room on the top floor.

A roof “hat,” cantilevered some 48 ft over the front of the main building, will extend across a five-level “great room” atrium to cover a portion of the smaller building. The atrium will be enclosed on the east and west sides by a glass wall system, supported by cables 1.65 inches in diameter, serving as an entry point for the public. A 399,000-sq ft, 972-slot existing offsite parking facility will be renovated and expanded as part of the project.

The project is being delivered under an unusual agreement between the public owner, the Judicial Council of California’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and a private entity called the Long Beach Judicial Partners (LBJP). The group is part of a consortium established by Meridiam Infrastructure North America, New York, which arranged financing and hired Clark Design/Build as design/builder and Johnson Controls, Cypress, as operating service provider. Clark Design/Build, in turn, hired Clark Construction Group as general contractor and AECOM, Los Angeles, as designer. Nabih Youssef & Associates, Los Angeles, was brought in by AECOM as the project’s structural engineer. 

To help streamline the permitting and inspection process, the AOC selected the private firm TMAD Taylor & Gaines, Los Angeles, to serve as the project’s Independent Building Expert. Taylor & Gaines is reviewing and approving construction documents and providing Inspector of Record and materials testing services. The State Fire Marshall, Corrections Standards Authority and the Division of the State Architect, maintained their usual oversight of the process. 

While public-private partnerships are relatively new but increasingly popular ventures in the U.S., the Long Beach Courthouse project is believed to be the first public facility in the country being built under the principles of Performance-Based Infrastructure. The AOC charged the LBJP with not only designing, constructing, financing, operating and maintaining the facility over a 35-year period, but also with ensuring it is in good repair at the end of that period. According to Hastie, that agreement played a major role in forming the design/build process.

“The way Performance-Based Infrastructure works is, if a system in the facility goes down and a portion of the building goes out of service, the AOC reduces its service payments for that time period,” Hastie says. “We’re constantly driven in the design/build process to make decisions that design in reliability, to ensure the AOC is going to have a facility that works and works well.”

To ensure maximum maintainability and reliability, the design/build team frequently chose to select certain systems and materials over others based on their durability and long-term maintenance needs. Faced with a choice of carpeting versus terrazzo flooring, for example, the team considered that terrazzo could withstand 35 years of use without needing to be replaced, while carpeting would need to be replaced a minimum of three to five times during the contract term. 

Similarly, plans call for the installation of redundant systems. Air-handling units with multiple fans and variable speed drives will be housed in five separate penthouse equipment rooms, each serving independent vertical air distribution stacks. This ensures the ability to cope with equipment operations and maintenance needs while isolating the potential impact of any failures.  

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