Bomel Construction Co. overcomes a number of challenges to complete parking structure complex for UC San Diego.

San Diego, Calif., Jan 09, 2012

The La Jolla patient had several pre-existing conditions: a sloping canyon site, unforgiving soil, an adjacent athletic field and a desire to keep a low profile in a scenic and ecologically sensitive area.

In this case, the patient is a 500,000-square-foot parking complex recently completed for the Thornton Hospital at UC San Diego’s East Campus. The university originally envisioned one parking structure with more than 1,200 stalls on seven or eight levels. But the construction project’s lead surgeons––general contractor Bomel Construction Co. and architect International Parking Design––proposed to build two adjoining garages that would meet the university’s parking needs, allow for a more-aesthetically pleasing facility and accommodate a future soccer field and archery range.

When the patient emerged from the two-year-long operation, the result was a two-level below grade garage (called the East Structure) with 428 stalls and a five-level garage, partially below grade (the West Structure) with 819 stalls. The resulting configuration resulted in a much-lower building profile within the canyon and positioned a synthetic-turf soccer field and archery range on top of the two-level garage, freeing up valuable land for other uses.

This $24 million project is the latest example of the kind of out-of-the-box thinking for which Bomel is known. Established in 1970 in Orange County, California, the concrete contractor has erected and assisted with the planning and design of many complex parking structures for commercial developers and institutions of higher learning, including projects that combine parking and athletic fields at UCLA and UC Riverside.

In the case of the UCSD East Campus project, the scope of construction involved much more than building two side-by-side, poured-in-place-concrete parking structures. “We threw a lot of curves at them. The adjacent medical center had a lot of scope that we had to add to the project without sacrificing the schedule,” said Jay Smith, principal architect at UCSD.

Bomel’s management of infrastructure improvements included trenching and the installation of numerous conduits and electric and gas lines.

“We also installed 10 precast concrete vaults along an active road adjacent to an operating medical center,” said Kasey Shea, Bomel’s senior project manager.

The location of the canyon site, which is visible from the 5 Freeway, necessitated some creative thinking during the project’s planning phase.

“To be stuck with a seven or eight story building on a hillside seemed a bit daunting,” said Cliff Smith, president of International Parking Design, a firm that has teamed with Bomel on dozens of parking structures over the last 20 years. “So we came up with a scheme that had one parking structure with five levels in the canyon with one level above grade and four levels below grade. We made that building lower and longer. We designed the other structure to have two levels of parking underneath the soccer field.”

The two structures are separated by a well that draws in natural ventilation but are connected by pedestrian bridges. The first entrance, farthest from the hospital, is for the staff, who park in the two below-grade levels. Visitors park closer to the medical center, choosing one level at grade, one above and three below.

The sloped site required a 40-foot-high retaining wall that is 240 feet long. “If you tried to use the building to hold the earth back, the forces on the building would become greater than the seismic load, therefore the potential for the earth to push the building downhill is immense,” Smith explained.

“Soil-nailed walls hold the earth back in place,” he added. It also gave us the opportunity to create a 40-foot-high light well to bring natural light into the parking structures.”

Smith said IPD and Bomel were able to create the new scheme for two parking structures and stay within the school’s budget.

“Bomel was able to quickly establish that our designs were going to be within the budget set by the university,” he said. “We have a great understanding of the way they work.”

And like other Bomel projects, this one was completed on time or ahead of time and within the established budget.
“As busy as I am, I really appreciated Bomel’s expediency,” said UCSD’s Smith, who has been in the construction industry for 40 years.

“We ran into a number of unknown conditions, which tends to impact the schedule,” he added. “In my experience, it could have thrown a lot of contractors for a loop and they’d ask for months and months of an extension. But Bomel didn’t and got it all done professionally and maintained the schedule.”

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