Company:
Rancho Mission Viejo
Status:
Awarded
Awarded:
Urban or Land Development Project of the Year
Additional Files
Illustrative Exhibit of Esencia, Rancho Mission Viejo
Aerial Photo showing site progress as of October 2016, with Phases 1 and 2 open, plus Phase 3 in progress.
Additional Information

Esencia, Rancho Mission Viejo

Project Location:

Esencia is the most recent village in the master-planned community of Rancho Mission Viejo.  Rancho Mission Viejo is in south Orange County, just east of San Juan Capistrano.

Project Description:

The village of Esencia in Rancho Mission Viejo is an award-winning master-planned community in South Orange County.  The first and second phases of Esencia have opened, and were awarded the 2016 Southern California Community of the Year.  The first two phases of Esencia include 18 unique neighborhoods by numerous builders.  Esencia will ultimately consist of approximately 2,700 dwelling units, in addition to retail, commercial, and medical spaces.  The community includes a wide array of amenities, including several clubhouses, pools, parks, and even a community farm.  A new K-8 school is slated to begin construction in 2017. 

In addition to the large scope of neighborhoods and amenities, Esencia relied upon the construction of all new infrastructures.  The project has included the construction of a new backbone transportation system with miles of new roads and bridges, including two County arterials – Cow Camp Road and Los Patrones Parkway.  New water infrastructure included the construction of five steel tank reservoirs and miles of pipelines to deliver domestic and recycled water to the community.  Storm drain systems and seven water quality basins were designed and constructed to meet the current water quality and hydromodification requirements.  Sewer infrastructure included a lift station to pump flows to the nearby treatment facility, which produces recycled water for the community. 

One of the major elements that distinguish Esencia from other Orange County communities is the magnitude and scope of earthwork operations required to construct the community.  The grading for Esencia and associated infrastructure exceeds 40 million cubic yards of earthwork!  Because Esencia exists on a large ridgeline that is flanked by deep canyons, grading was particularly challenging.  Cuts and fills exceeded 120 feet deep in order to achieve the proper backbone road geometries, and to achieve the proper configuration of building pads that optimize acreage and views.

Esencia is a worthy candidate for Geotechnical Project of the Year due to the sheer magnitude and complexity of the project.  From a geotechnical standpoint, many challenges and constraints were identified and overcome.  GMU’s services for Esencia have spanned a period of 16 years, beginning with initial feasibility, planning, and entitlement studies in 2000.  Our services have extended all the way through final design, grading, and construction.  As a key team member, we helped celebrate the Esencia Grand Opening events in 2015 and 2016.  Major geotechnical constraints and challenges included the following:
• Earthwork: Earthwork in excess of 40 million cubic yards had to be addressed in the geotechnical designs, and had to be observed and tested by GMU during construction.
• Land Planning:  GMU identified geotechnical opportunities and constraints early in the entitlement and land planning process, and our studies had a significant influence on the project limits, developable acreage, and ultimate community design.
• Fill Control:  For fill control, GMU’s field staff has taken nearly 40,000 field density tests.
• Field Geology:  GMU’s on-site geologists have monitored all remedial excavations and have mapped all of the exposed geology. 
• Landslides:  Numerous landslides up to about 40 feet deep had to be removed and stabilized.
• Slope Stability:  Cut slopes in excess of 120 feet high had to be stabilized using large keyways and buttresses.
• Settlement:  Fills in excess of 120 feet deep required increased compaction at depth, and long-term settlement monitoring programs to mitigate settlement.
• Liquefaction and Lateral Spreading:  Earthquake-induced liquefaction and lateral spreading created hazards for settlement and slope stability, and needed to be mitigated using deep remedial grading that included dewatering and wet removals.
• Rippability:  Rippability had to be addressed due to the 120-foot deep excavations.
• Infiltration:  GMU’s infiltration testing and geologic studies played key roles in determining the sizing and locations of water quality basins throughout the community.
• Retaining Wall Designs:  GMU provided the geotechnical and structural designs for numerous mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls, conventional retaining walls, and soldier pile wall.

Project Justification:

Esencia stands out as the Geotechnical Project of the Year due to the sheer magnitude and complexity of the project.  16 years of geotechnical studies culminated in the final design and construction of this landmark project, which celebrated Grand Openings in 2015 and 2016.  For the 2016 ASCE awards, no other project in Orange County has included 40 million cubic yards of earthwork, accompanied by the major geotechnical constraints and challenges noted above.  Additionally, this project is unique because it encompasses all major aspects of geotechnical design and construction services within one large-scale master-planned community.

Special Circumstances:

The design and construction of Esencia involved many stakeholders.  The master-developer is Rancho Mission Viejo, which is a family-owned and historic ranch that was settled in 1882.  Rancho Mission Viejo previously developed the cities and communities of Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Las Flores, Ladera Ranch, and Sendero.  Knowing that a new community requires great coordination, Esencia was built upon the relationships and partnerships that had been cultivated by Rancho Mission Viejo through their long history of community development.  Key stakeholders included the County of Orange, Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD), Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), numerous utility providers, and numerous wildlife agencies.  GMU’s geotechnical services and consultation were a key component to the design and construction interface with the County of Orange, SMWD, and TCA.  GMU provided the geotechnical reports and documentation required to gain project approvals through these partner agencies. 

Esencia and its related infrastructure have already received several awards.  Esencia was named the 2016 Southern California Community of the Year, and the Orange County Register named Esencia the Best New Home Community.  Several neighborhoods within Esencia have also been awarded Gold Nugget Awards by PCBC.  Other key infrastructure related to Esencia has also been given awards.  Cow Camp Road earned awards for geotechnical and structural engineering, while the Gobernadora Multi-purpose Basin earned several awards for water infrastructure. 

Project Attachments:

The Esencia project is a great example of utilizing geotechnical consulting services early in the land planning and entitlement process.  GMU was an early part of the Esencia design effort, and helped Rancho Mission Viejo to develop grading plans and community designs that optimize all of the competing opportunities and constraints.  Esencia is a success due to the outstanding planning and team collaboration led by Rancho Mission Viejo, and GMU’s geotechnical studies and consultation played a major part in that success.

Award Citation::

The 2016 Geotechnical Project of the Year is awarded to GMU Geotechnical and Rancho Mission Viejo for the new master-planned community of Esencia.  Esencia stands out as Geotechnical Project of the Year due to the sheer magnitude and complexity of the project.  GMU’s services for Esencia have spanned a period of 16 years, beginning with initial feasibility, planning, and entitlement studies in 2000, and then extending all the way through final design and construction of this landmark project.

Suggested Award Summary:

The 2016 Geotechnical Project of the Year is awarded to GMU Geotechnical and Rancho Mission Viejo for the new master-planned community of Esencia.  Esencia stands out as the Geotechnical Project of the Year due to the sheer magnitude and complexity of the project.  GMU’s services for Esencia have spanned a period of 16 years, beginning with initial feasibility, planning, and entitlement studies in 2000, and then extending all the way through final design, grading, and construction.  As a key team member, GMU helped celebrate the Esencia Grand Opening events in 2015 and 2016.  The project included 40 million cubic yards of earthwork, which was accompanied by major geotechnical constraints and challenges related to landslides, slope stability, seismic hazards, deep fill settlement, and extensive fill control.  Other project elements that required geotechnical design and construction services included new roads and bridges, (including Cow Camp Road and Los Patrones Parkway), five steel tank reservoirs, seven water quality basins, a sewer lift station, a recycled water pump station, and miles of pipelines and storm drains.

CEC

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