By Jim Madaffer / Mission Times Courier / April 12, 2012
The East Village skyline’s architectural landmark is taking shape. The signature dome of the New Downtown Central Library can now be seen from various vantage points downtown and beyond. After decades of dreaming, the City’s newest and most state-of-the-art public building is set to open in mid-2013.
I had an opportunity to tour the main library construction project recently and walked each floor to see what will surely become an icon of perseverance and a gift to future generations of San Diego. The construction site reminds me of an erector set with each piece of the building carefully set with precision equipment and high technology.
The $185 million nine-story New Central Library was designed by San Diego architect Rob Quigley and will undoubtedly be the signature statement of his career. Construction is on schedule and on budget.
What was most striking to me was the use of technology to keep the project on time and on budget. Unlike many public projects where cost overruns are the norm, the New Central Library is being constructed with a fixed budget placing Turner Construction Company, the general contractor for the project, “at risk” for any cost overruns.
Formally referred to as “Construction Manager at Risk”, Turner is employing the latest technology to ensure the project does not exceed the $185 million budget. The funding for this project comes from $80 million in downtown redevelopment funds (CCDC), $20 million from a state library grant and $20 million from the San Diego Unified School District which will operate a charter high school located on the sixth and seventh floors, accessible from their own entry and elevators. The remaining $65 million is from donations raised by the San Diego Library Foundation including large donations from Irwin and Joan Jacobs, David Copley and many more generous San Diegans.
Turner’s Project Engineer Brian Licht and Assistant Project Manager Spencer Evans demonstrated the technology Turner is using to make sure costs are kept in line and things are built right the first time preventing wasteful changes and redesigns along the way. “The nerds have infiltrated the construction industry”, said Licht.
The original drawings from Architect Quigley were digitized by partnering architects Tucker-Sadler. The plans were then added to a three-dimensional digital system that maps each nail, concrete pour, pipe and beam, all the parts and pieces needed to construct the building and ensure everything is on schedule and on budget. If the drawings for heating and cooling systems didn’t line up with the drawings for a wall or a door, conflicts are noted by the computer and adjustments can be made while still on the drawing board and before they are actually under construction. This state-of-the-art system also makes it possible to have the most accurate and up-to-date as-built drawings available in real time.
The construction offices are conveniently located across the street from the project and a conference room, which Licht and Evans refer to as “the nerd room”, is equipped with video boards and computer systems that guide the day to day work. Large printers print out new drawings and week by week schedules are posted that detail the work – and the appearance of the building as it progresses through the construction process.
With the dome under construction and most concrete work complete, crews have begun installing walls and the interior work transforming the facility into the library dreamed of by so many for so long. The dome should be completed by next summer and the building should be ready for final finishes and furniture soon thereafter. Turner
I’ll plan another update in a few months and discuss the many people who have been with this project for so many years – one of them is local attorney Jim Dawe – who is rightfully being honored by many organizations this year as the father of our new central library.
You can view the ongoing construction via webcam by clicking this link.
Click here to watch how computer modeling has detailed the construction process.
Listen to Architect Rob Quigley discuss his vision for San Diego’s New Central Library.
Here’s a fly-through video from second floor of the New Central Library.