SMACNA members won all the sheet metal work available for the Southwestern Community College’s new Performing Arts and Cultural Center in Chula Vista, Calif. California Sheet Metal (CSM) is installing the architectural panels, A.O. Reed and Co. is the HVAC and mechanical contractor, and Certified Air Balance (CAB) is providing TAB services for the $52.7 million, 48,576 square foot complex.
The Center broke ground in September 2018 and is on schedule for completion in March 2021. To accommodate both school activities and community events, the two-story building includes classrooms and offices, stage and set construction spaces, a dance studio, areas for concessions, and two different theaters. But the first sight visitors will see is the spectacular artwork on the building skin.
“California Sheet Metal’s work looks really good,” says Mark Russell, project manager for CAB. “This is the level of craftsmanship that brings our contractors high-profile jobs.”
CSM is installing approximately 35,000 pounds of aluminum, galvanized steel, and stainless steel panels, including the perforated image of a rising sun on the exterior. The building’s sloped walls pose a special challenge because the framing contractors and CSM had different tolerances.
“We usually release panels based on the drawings, but this time we held over 2,000 panels while we waited for the project to evolve,” says Brian Johnson, CSM project manager. Johnson also spent extra time coordinating with the general contractor and other trades. “While upfront GC/subcontractor coordination may seem tedious, it pays off in the end. We were able to get the results we were after by putting together a quality project plan and goals.” Johnson added.
Meanwhile, A. O. Reed is installing a $3 million hydronic HVAC system. They are using a Daikin split system air conditioning unit with three custom Huntair rooftop air handling units. The Center receives both hot and cold water from the central boiling plant through a below-grade campus piping loop.
A. O. Reed built the plant 10 years ago and upgraded it about a year ago. “Once the controls contractor has programmed the system, and I have calibrated the air handlers,” says Russell, “the facilities staff will be able to manipulate the settings from the central plant, or even remotely from home.”
Although A. O. Reed and CSM have worked with Southwestern College before, they could not depend on prior relationships to win the contracts. “This was a Project Labor Agreement job with public bidding,” explains Johnson. “We submitted our bids in sealed envelopes, and the contractors with the lowest bids won. CSM’s bid of about $2,118,000 won by just a few thousand dollars.”
With tight competition, the contractors depended on precise estimating to succeed. “What you see on the drawings is what you bid. Sometimes a job might be missing some necessary component, like integral flashings, but if you add that to your bid, you’ll lose. You only bring up amendments after you’ve won.”
A. O. Reed won the mechanical bid in July 2018 and used the months before they started the underground to fine tune the HVAC system. “The project looks straightforward on the surface, but the mechanical contractors had to fit 65,000 pounds of galvanized steel ductwork around the intricate rigging and lighting systems for two theaters,” says Aubrey Taft, vice president of business development for A. O. Reed. “Our early involvement with detailing was critical. We allocated our detailing team to assist the engineering team in resolving coordination issues with structure and the mechanical systems. At one time, our detailers were basically redesigning the project to make everything fit within the constraints of the structure.”
A. O. Reed’s prior relationship with the facilities personnel helped them appreciate the wants and needs of the end-user. “We understood the vision of what the client wants the campus to look like. That perspective (helped us) give the community and the college what they want from this project.”
CAB will do the bulk of the TAB work in March after the other contractors have gone, but Russell has started regular walk-throughs and is reviewing the drawings to ensure that everything adds up. “At this stage, I’m communicating with the controls contractor and confirming that everything is installed correctly,” he says.
Besides the three large air handlers, he is monitoring 26 variable air volume boxes, four exhaust fans, and six fan coils. “Air balance is all about integrity and honesty. If you keep good quality work going, you keep getting good jobs,” Russell adds.
Taft agrees. “The owner is looking for the best, especially for this project. They want the best educated, most skilled labor that they can find. CSM, A. O. Reed and CAB are all signatories to Local 206, so not only do we bring the SMACNA advantage, but we also bring the union education and work force as well.”