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CSU Chico | Science Replacement Building

CSU Chico | Science Replacement Building | Chico, CA

‘Team First’ Mentality Drives CSU, Chico Science Building Project Despite Historic Fire, Pandemic

This CSU collaborative design-build project consists of the design and construction of a new multi-story science building near the center of campus. This building will replace the functions currently housed in the existing Physical Science Building.

The new building will house the departments of chemistry, physics, GEOS, and science education, including spaces for science teaching labs, prep rooms and storage areas. A neuroscience program with both teaching and research lab space will also be included. In addition, there will be faculty offices, collaborative spaces, classrooms, and other support spaces.

Construction began in June 2018 with anticipated completion in 2020.

The Challenges

From acts of nature to city permitting delays, the project team confronted back-to-back difficulties and challenges throughout design and construction.

Once they broke ground on the project and began demolition and major sitework in May 2018, the team ran into a major challenge – a jurisdictional permitting approval delay by the state fire marshal that brought work to a standstill for three months.

In addition to the delay, critical utilities and campus fiber optic networks had to be relocated early on, as they served the nearby data center and the entire university campus. Crews worked diligently to complete rerouting work and new utility tie-ins within the scheduled shutdown window.

By November of 2018, construction work was in full swing, but the team then faced another major hurdle: the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history swept through the area and decimated the nearby town of Paradise, CA. The project and the entire region suffered widespread impact from the Camp Fire, including poor air quality for weeks. Project workers and staff were personally affected, including a key client representative who was one of many in the region to lose his home.

Finally, as the project moved into the last stages of construction, it was again impacted with another unforeseen challenge – COVID-19. New protocols and procedures, which were continuously updated every week, had to be implemented to keep workers safe. When one craftworker tested positive early on, the entire project immediately halted operations for two weeks, adding to the schedule delays.

Group of people at ceremony
Exterior of building in progress.
In construction jobsite
The Solutions

The highly collaborative design-build team worked seamlessly to make up time where possible to overcome the unexpected delays. Extensive communication and coordinated efforts enabled them to successfully accomplish the utility relocation and stay on track to meet key milestones.

DPR self-perform crews played a vital role in helping drive the aggressive schedule, mitigate the limited labor pool in the region and elevate the level of quality workmanship.

The project team and design-build MEP trade partners delivered numerous energy savings strategies for the facility. They worked closely with the university’s Institute for Sustainable Development to identify and incorporate features that go beyond what was required. The HVAC system was tailored within each space to optimize energy efficiency while providing health and safety benefits to occupants. Chilled beams and displacement ventilation systems contribute to the energy-saving solutions.

Rendering of inside building
Rendering of inside facility

"Despite these tremendous challenges, I have been overly impressed with the “Can Do” attitude of DPR and SmithGroup, and their awesome team-first mentality. I truly feel they approach problems not from a customer/contractor perspective, but from a one team, one fight mentality where we are linked arm-in-arm working a problem to conclusion. The building itself will be an icon on campus for years to come and I’m extremely proud to have been a part of the team that’s making it a reality for our students, faculty, and staff.”

Mike Guzzi, P.E.

LEED AP, associate vice president of Facilities and Capital Projects, California State University, Chico