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Technical College Brings Technical Challenges

Editor’s Note: Every year, the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry receives many fantastic project nominations for its Excellence in Construction Quality Award, but only one project can win in each category. This month we introduce you to one of those fantastic projects, the Los Angeles Trade Technical College – South Campus, which was a serious contender in the category where the AWCI member contractor’s contract was more than $1 million.

AWCI’s Excellence in Construction Quality Award honors all the AWCI members—contractors, manufacturers and suppliers/distributors—who participated on a quality project. In this project, the AWCI manufacturers and suppliers were BASF (Senergy), CertainTeed Gypsum, Dietrich Metal Framing (now known as ClarkDietrich Building Systems), Great Western Building Management, Radius Track® and West Side Building Materials.

Next month we will introduce you to the winners.

Southern California Drywall Company, Inc. (SOCAL), headquartered in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., faced several technical challenges when they worked on the South Campus of the Los Angeles Trade Technical College located in downtown Los Angeles.

The entire project featured two five-story buildings: the 56,302 square-foot student services administration building and a 66,228 square-foot technology classroom building. The project also includes an 1,800 square-foot masonry utility building, site utilities, hardscape and landscape work. Culver City–based MDA Johnson Favaro Architects designed the new structures and both were built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards.

The total project began in 2001, but SOCAL started its work on the exteriors in November 2007. More than 20,000 man-hours later, their work was completed in August 2009 while the entire job was completed by the end of 2009.

The Student Services Building and Technology Classroom Building feature exterior surfaces of substantial depth and complexity. Materials such as brick, stone, stucco and an exterior insulation and finish system wrap the buildings in a relaxed yet dignified way.

At the entrance court and in the upper levels of the Grand Avenue façades, architects took a simple material, smooth finish plaster, and gave it dramatic form suggestive of draped or blown fabric. Three-dimensional curves in the brick veneer façade offer a contemporary interpretation of the brick warehouse buildings, while the graceful white swoops and curves of plastered surfaces provide a distinctive skyline and striking use of the material.

SOCAL was involved with the engineering of all parts of the exterior, re-engineering and method designing to make the project buildable and affordable. The on-time, on-budget delivery of the project was lauded by the architect, owner and general contractor.

SOCAL brought the architects’ vision of curves to life, a testament to both the quality of the understructure and the drywall finishing work. The bright Los Angeles sunshine played a role too. The distinct sunlight patterns and crisp shadows that play across the building only highlight the careful and skilled workmanship that went into the finishes.

But what’s beneath the rippling waves of the exterior? SOCAL turned to another AWCI member to create a comprehensive framing scheme for each façade’s transformation condition. The geometry of the brick banding is transformed along each façade, but the plans for the original steel design showed different and somewhat complicated framing methods for each condition. The manufacturer developed an alternative framing scheme for each façade that was efficient, easy to understand and simple to install with a minimum number of components.

The framing for the stucco, EIFS and larger brick veneer areas were sub-divided into manageable panels, allowing the SOCAL team to control the installation of each wall section separately and keep the number of key surveying points to a minimum. The extreme accuracy of the custom curved framing provided ideal surfaces for finishing, which was key to the successful outcome.

New techniques were used in the construction. All exterior finishing surfaces were sheathed with a half-inch high-performance sheathing, then a spray-applied acrylic membrane was applied—the first and largest application of its kind.

Stucco and brick surfaces received a cement-based, fiber-reinforced basecoat that was trowel applied over stucco mesh. Then the SOCAL crews just added water to the dry-mix polymer adhesive and basecoat containing portland cement and applied it to the completely mesh-embedded surface. This basecoat was also used as the final finish coat. An EIF system was used for the areas at the very top of the structures.

The innovative framing system allowed for fast and efficient installation. That, coupled with the high quality finish work, allowed a community college with tight budgets to achieve a stunning design that was on time and on budget.

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