The UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center will connect to an existing medical center in La Jolla, CA.
Building information modeling optimized design, cut down on change orders and aligned subcontractors.
An early commitment to relationships permitted the UCSD team to successfully overcome late-game project challenges.
Tracked for completion early and below budget, the UCSD project is beating client expectations.

UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center

Solution-Oriented Project Team Shares Common Vision, Memorable Journey as ?It Winds Down Successful Project Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget

“As a team, inspire…” has been the established mission and mantra for the team involved on the $135 million, California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD)-regulated, University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center project. An early and ongoing focus on five core project values—openness, progressive, determination, integrity and enjoyment—have netted some remarkable results.

To start, DPR is currently tracking ahead of schedule and below budget on this new four-story, 128,000-sq.-ft. building expansion—something that is “unheard of” for a hospital of this size and complexity, according to owner’s representative Randy Leopold, principal architect with UCSD Facilities Design and Construction.

The new center, slated for completion later this year, will connect to the existing medical center on the UCSD campus in La Jolla, CA, and will include cardiovascular and non-invasive clinics, a new emergency department, CT scan and radiology, four catheterization laboratories, three operating rooms, one hybrid operating room, 22 pre/post procedure rooms, and 54 patient rooms.


The long and challenging journey started with some $18 million in “get ready” work that needed to be completed in the existing facility before the new center could break ground in 2008. That allowed the team, including DPR, the owner and architect, RTKL Associates, to begin the relationship-building process long before the cardio center project ever got underway, said DPR Project Manager Carlos Crabtree, and the momentum built from there. “It was a very intentional process,” he said. “When you combine core values, a mission statement and then add relationships and trust, you create a very powerful combination that can really overcome just about any exterior challenge that comes your way.”

From the outset, the team’s approach incorporated many innovative elements, including building information modeling (BIM). A BIM model of the project was created to optimize the design and was continually refined as subcontractors became involved.

“BIM helped minimize the risk of having a lot of change orders, and the process also kept the project team engaged while the project was in OSHPD review,” said Crabtree.


The team’s proactive approach also helped maximize cost savings in several instances. For example, obtaining an early release on a steel mill order saved the project about $500,000 as it sidestepped the significant hike in steel prices that occurred just a few months later. A virtual shop drawing review on structural steel work reduced that review and approval process by about two months. The project team also procured several key trades very early in the process, minimizing the deferred approvals that in the OSHPD-regulated environment can create delays.

The team’s collaborative approach proved particularly vital when it hit major roadblocks. For example, nearly 75 percent of the fireproofing work had been completed when it was discovered that the fireproofing product was not performing as expected. The team devised a solid inspection and replacement plan that was acceptable to the owner and OSHPD, while still keeping the project on track.

Another formidable obstacle came some 16 months into construction, when the owner needed to reconfigure the fourth floor from offices to patient rooms. “The team was able to rally and work very closely to implement the change,” said Crabtree. “Being able to absorb such a significant change at that stage of construction proved to be one of the biggest challenges, but also one of our biggest successes as well.”

UCSD Sulpizio Family Cardiovascular Center

Team Players

Architect: RTKL Associates

Scheduled to open in spring 2011, this facility is the first of its kind in the San Diego region. The center will unite leaders in cardiovascular medicine, cardiothoracic surgery, pulmonary vascular medicine, vascular surgery, stroke, cardiovascular imaging and cardiovascular research under one roof, further enhancing UCSD Medical Center’s exceptional level of care.

  • Early engagement of key trades to minimize OSHPD approval-related delays
  • Proactive approach resulted in seven-figure savings by developing strategic procurement strategies, utilizing multiple full-sized mock-ups and integration of OSHPD as a “team member”
  • Emphasis on relationships permitted team to overcome late-game challenges to the satisfaction of the owner and OSHPD

“For the first time in my career, I really don’t want a project to end. The DPR team has continually provided leadership and inspiration, challenging us all to raise the bar.”

Randy Leopold
Principal Architect with UCSD Facilities Design and Construction