Occasionally projects come along that allow us to revisit some of our favorite completed structures, and Mt. San Jacinto College (MJSC) gave us that opportunity when MSJC purchased two office buildings at a biotech office park to create a new STEM oriented campus for their students. The campus included two five-story office buildings and a central plant that completed construction in 2007. The original owner wished to move part of the business to the Midwest, and MSJC was able to take advantage of this real estate opportunity to build a new college campus. The challenge was the certification of the project by the Division of State Architects (DSA) which would require the buildings to be seismically upgraded to meet the higher earthquake standards required for community college facilities in California.
MSJC provides access to higher education for residents of the Southwest Riverside County and serves about 27,000 students in a district covering 1,700 square miles from the San Gorgonio Pass to Temecula. Campus locations include San Jacinto, Menifee, Banning and now Temecula. In March 2018, MSJC purchased this 350,000-SF facility in Temecula to expand their facilities rapidly, rather than starting from a greenfield site. This new campus provides classrooms, science labs, and computer classrooms to students focused on careers in STEM. Amenities also include a learning resource center, career center, library, health center, veterans center, bookstore, café, art studio and campus safety office. It serves as a center for student life and services including enrollment, transfer office, counseling, and financial aid.
Our team was entrusted to bring these buildings to the same demanding seismic standards for educational facilities required by DSA. The upgrades were not limited to the seismic retrofit, but also included a complete remodel and renovation of the interiors. The goal of the project was to minimize seismic retrofit impact into the existing spaces and re-use as much of the original building spaces as to keep the project both economical and sustainable.
When we began to review the compliance issues for the structural upgrade, we started with an initial evaluation that was based on a traditional code-base prescriptive approach. This revealed the need for significant foundation strengthening that would be achieved by adding numerous micro piles at the foundations. In essence, the building needed to be pinned down at the base of the building to satisfy prescriptive uplift requirements. The construction effort behind adding micro piles would have involved the demolition or temporary removal of some very costly architectural and MEP components that were in great condition and planned to remain. Therefore, to meet the goals of our client, we proposed a slightly non-traditional approach for DSA buildings. Using advanced evaluation techniques that included nonlinear analysis methods in a performance-based design framework, we were able to justify a more delicate retrofit approach by capturing the explicit and realistic seismic rocking motion that would naturally occur in a foundation without micro piles. With this approach we could demonstrate the effects of a more subtle retrofit that not only eliminated the need for micropiles but also minimized the amount of strengthening conditions in the superstructure. Due to complexity and advanced knowledge required to perform this type of analysis, our design was peer reviewed by UCLA faculty members Dr. John Wallace and Dr. Sofia Gavridou in collaboration with DSA plan review.
For nonstructural components of the seismic upgrade, we conducted a comprehensive evaluation of existing parts to justify the adequacy of attachment and seismic bracing of elements like façades, ceilings, partitions, overhead utilities, as well as others. The level of complexity of this undertaking is more intricate because of the stringent guidelines of DSA for these elements. For this effort, we developed an exploratory and investigative demolition program for components that were not visibly accessible as well as a testing program to investigate the existing attachment and bracing system capacities for selected nonstructural components including ceilings, overhead utilities and MEP equipment.
This project, was on a super-fast track from start to finish in order to meet the planned schedule for school opening. With collaboration from DSA we were able to perform a phased seismic peer review process and plan review of the project. The analysis, design, seismic peer review, and plan check approval was completed in about 9 months.
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