Cypress College North Orange County Community College District (NOCCCD)
Structural Engineering Project of the Year
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Additional Information

Cypress College Science, Engineering & Math (SEM) Building

Project Location:

9200 Valley View Street
Cypress, CA 90630

Project Description:

The SEM Building project at Cypress College is a 106,000 square foot classroom and lab building primarily occupied by the Science, Engineering and Mathematics (SEM) Division that consists of Biological/Life Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences.  In addition to SEM classrooms, the building includes space for the SEM Division office, Faculty offices, a 100-seat Immersive Digital Classroom, and a Crematorium as part of the Mortuary Science Program. The new three-story SEM Building will help the college address anticipated campus growth while providing state-of-the-art lab and classroom spaces for the sciences. The building contains 25 laboratories, 22 classrooms, 23 faculty offices, seven support spaces, an interior courtyard, mechanical yard, and multiple outdoor learning spaces. The SEM Building provides research and teaching laboratories, laboratory support areas, administrative spaces, instructional areas, multidisciplinary classroom/lecture spaces, conference rooms and will serve as a campus collaboration hub. 

The project site covers about 5 acres, including an extended interior courtyard with access from classrooms for informal gatherings; and substantial landscape areas surrounding the building with outdoor learning spaces, pedestrian paths, paved promenades, and bioretention basin that provide storm water quality treatment. 

Project Justification:

The Cypress SEM project team leveraged the Integrated Design practice at LPA to enable close and detailed coordination of site and Civil design improvements.  With in-house Architectural, Structural and Landscape design practices, LPA Civil was able to successfully develop and implement site design strategies that closely aligned with the project goals for the SEM Building. 

Site elements were specifically designed to be a resource for the Science, Engineering and Math curriculums taught within the SEM Building.  Outdoor learning spaces directly accessible from classrooms were provided within an interior courtyard and adjacent the outer perimeter of the building.  These extended learning areas enhance and complement the learning experience by allowing the student to seamlessly observe and experience the relationship between SEM curricula and the natural world. 

To further reinforce elements of the SEM curriculum, the shape and layout of various site features such as pedestrian paths and landscape planters resemble shapes that might be observed in courses such as organic chemistry.  Exterior floor tiles were chosen in a hexagonal shape to resemble organisms observed under a laboratory microscope. 

Plant layouts and selections were inspired by the Golden Ratio, where the layout of plants is based on natural sequences and spirals commonly described within a Mathematics curriculum by a Fibonacci sequence.  Students can also observe the occurrence of these natural spirals and sequences in the growth and development of leaves and petals on plants species specifically chosen to exhibit this effect. 

LPA Civil incorporated and merged the various site goals to provide a sustainable civil design.  Large bioretention areas were developed to function seamlessly adjacent outdoor learning spaces.  These bioretention areas provide full treatment for storm water runoff from the SEM Building and infiltrate treated water directly into the subsoils.

The LPA Structural Engineers also had some interesting things on the project.  First, the two wings of the building were designed as part of an inter-connected seismic ring diaphragm system at each floor with horizontal trusses in the connecting corridors and pedestrian bridges completing the “ring” of seismic resistance at each level. By providing both shear and flexural stiffness that completely encircles the building’s large outdoor courtyard the vertical buckling-restrained braced frame system was pushed to the external, non-courtyard facing sides of the building allowing for uninterrupted visual and functional connections between the exterior social spaces and the learning environments within. Second, the building’s steel-framed floors were “tuned” to reduce the effects of floor vibration on the building’s teaching laboratories. While optimizing structural stiffness, mass and damping to reduce the effects of floor vibration, LPA’s structural engineers collaborated closely with LPA’s architects and interior designers to lay out spaces that both discourage the heavy footfalls the induce significant floor vibrations and keep the most vibration-sensitive laboratory equipment away from the most heavily trafficked corridors.

The overall close collaboration between architecture and engineering proved critical to the success of the project for the Community College District.

Special Circumstances:

Due to the large size of proposed landscape areas and the feasibility of site subsoils for infiltration, bioretention basins were chosen as a water quality solution.  However, the Maintenance Staff at Cypress College resisted construction of bioretention areas due to concerns about maintenance and operations.  Further, the Staff questioned why installation of water quality treatment features was necessary.  After a series of meetings and discussions with LPA Civil, the Maintenance Staff was able to understand that water quality treatment was required, and that bioretention basins could provide a sustainable, efficient, and economical water quality solution that could be easily maintained. 

Although the project site for the SEM Building was located on an existing asphalt parking lot without any existing structures, several existing utilities that serve the campus were within the limit of work. These systems included electrical and communications duct banks; fiber optics conduits; fire and domestic water pipes; sanitary sewer pipes; hydronic/mechanical pipes; and a 36-inch storm drain pipe that conveyed off site storm water flows.  Planning and design of relocation, reconstruction and/or protection of these existing utilities required close coordination with Cypress Staff and Sundt Construction, the Project Manager at-risk. 

Project Attachments:

LPA designed the energy systems for the building to meet the requirements of the 2030 Challenge which requires a 70% reduction from the baseline Energy Use Intensity (EUI).  The proposed EUI of 27.4 for the SEM building will provide a 77% reduction in EUI and exceed the requirements set by the 2030 Challenge.

Award Citation::

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Suggested Award Summary:

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