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Carlsbad’s new high school taking shape

Environmental, legal hurdles stalled project

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Construction is finally under way for the new Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, and officials hope the school will be ready to welcome its first class of students in the fall of 2013.

The $104 million project has already experienced several delays but construction is now on schedule to be completed by January 2013.

“We’ve always known this was an extremely challenging site,” said Aaron Golde, project manager for Gafcon, Inc. “We’ve regrouped, and we’re back to where we need to be now.”

The 57-acre site, located on the northeast corner of College Boulevard and Cannon Road in Carlsbad, features steep slopes, rocky terrain and a nesting habitat for a protected bird.

A site plan for the new Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad. Image courtesy of Gafcon, Inc.

The project was first slowed by three separate lawsuits challenging different aspects of the project, from environmental concerns to who pays for needed infrastructure improvements.

All litigation was resolved with the school district redesigning features of the campus and rescheduling construction to accommodate the permitting requirements.

The actual construction has had its challenges as well.

As part of its permitting requirements, workers must mitigate noise on the west side of the project during the nesting season of the least Bell’s vireo, an endangered species, which runs from Feb. 15-Sept. 15. To accomplish this, a 425-foot buffer zone has been created where work cannot be conducted during the least Bell vireo’s nesting season.

Developers also faced a challenge in preparing the site. They needed to remove an existing landslide area on one of the hills to make it safe.

“During excavation, more of the hillside let loose,” Golde said. “We ended up excavating a lot more material than anticipated.” Workers were about 80 percent complete with the site grading in December when heavy rains damaged a large portion of the work in place, requiring the grading to be redone.

The grading and underground utilities are now substantially complete, and the installation of concrete footings began in July.

The campus will consist of five major buildings, featuring more than 140,000 square feet of classrooms, teaching labs, a gym, cafeteria, administrative offices and a library.

In order to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint, developers have designed the classroom buildings to be stacked on top of each other and built into the existing hillside. The unique configuration of the classroom buildings allows for efficient stacking of utilities and mechanical systems.

The design is part of the project’s many environmentally friendly features. Developers have applied to achieve status as a Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) school. The program is similar to LEED, where a scorecard with potential credits is used to determine eligibility.

The project also has a bio swale that runs through the site, capturing rainwater and cleaning it before taking it off the site.

“We have a highly efficient HVAC system, which is exceeding Title 24 by almost 25 percent,” Golde said, adding, “We’re using natural ventilation. The campus sits up high enough and is only about three or four miles from the coast, so it does get coastal breezes that we use for the ventilation system.”

Approximately 40 acres of the site is being developed for the school campus with 6.2 acres set aside as a biological habitat reserve. The preserve is in negotiations to be managed by the California Department of Fish & Game, which owns a majority of the area surrounding the school.

The remainder of the campus will consist of separate baseball and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, a football/soccer stadium, track & field facilities and parking lots.

The project contractor, Barnhart Balfour Beatty, is using Building Information Modeling (BIM) to help with the construction plans. The computer system can locate potential construction conflicts before problems arise.

The construction of Sage Creek High School is primarily being financed by Proposition P, the $198 million bond measure that passed in November 2006. Approximately $83.4 million is being used from Prop P with the remaining $20.9 million coming from state matching funds.

Gafcon, Inc. is the program manager and Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects is the architect.

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