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Terraced High School Embraces Natural Habitat

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Best K-12 Education Project: Sage Creek High School, Carlsbad

Photo by Emil Kara, Courtesy of Balfour Beatty Construction
The Sage Creek High School campus will eventually serve up to 2,400 students.
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Completed in June, the 139,000-sq-ft, $80-million Sage Creek High School campus sits on a 56-acre sloping site next to a natural preserve. Initially serving 1,500 students, the campus was designed to accommodate another 900 in the future.

The school was designed, in part, so that students could experience the hydrology, flora, fauna and ecosystems of the surrounding environment. In that spirit, building materials and finishes blend in with their surroundings. Earth-tone concrete masonry and cast-in-place concrete, for instance, were used for paving, colonnades and seat walls.

The project scope included an administrative facility, science/fine arts building, gymnasium and athletic facilities with synthetic turf fields. Crews also built a baseball field and bleachers to accommodate 4,000 spectators. Sitework and infrastructure improvements included new utilities, roadways and environmental compliance.

"The project team successfully created a campus that features an efficient, compact footprint with eight buildings on four levels, spanning 100 ft in elevation," says Brian Cahill, Southwest division president for contractor Balfour Beatty Construction. Five multistory structures were built into hillsides, forcing the team to face environmental constraints and strict stormwater compliance requirements, Cahill adds.

Energy-efficient ventilating systems and the buildings' orientations are expected to reduce overall energy costs by as much as one-third, while ample skylights assist with trimming lighting loads. Water-efficient plumbing fixtures were installed as well as a rainwater harvest tank system for irrigation use. The site's natural drainage path was retained, directing water to a bioswale planted with native vegetation. During construction, more than 50% of building waste was diverted from landfills.

Crews had to overcome a 30-year flood that occurred when site grading was almost complete. They also had to contend with a landslide that occurred during mass grading and re-compaction for a buttress area. That work was intended to stabilize soil that had never been built on before. The project team reengineered its stabilization effort by manually replacing geotextile fabric between the layers of fill material.

Crews even had to eliminate high-decibel equipment within 450 ft of critical nesting habitat for the endangered Least Bell's vireo at an adjacent environmentally sensitive creek bed.

Judges were impressed by the variety of structures and amenities. One judge said, "I wish I had gone to high school here!"

Key Players

Contractor Balfour Beatty Construction, San Diego

Owner Carlsbad Unified School District, Carlsbad

Lead Design Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects, San Diego

Structural Engineer SDSE, San Diego

Civil Engineer Flores Lund Consultants, San Diego

MEP Engineer Syska Hennessy Group Inc., San Diego

Subcontractors Gould Electric, Poway; David Shaposhnick Inc., San Marcos; South Bay Welding, El Cajon; Soltek Pacific Construction, San Diego; Able Heating & Air, Chula Vista; Valley Crest Landscape, Calabasas

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