IRVINE, CALIFORNIA — The County of Orange has formally opened its new $400 million Civic Center complex developed by Griffin Structures and designed by LPA Design Studios, the cornerstone of a 20-year master plan to modernize the County’s real estate assets in Santa Ana, create healthier work environments for employees and reshape the County’s connections with the public.
The newest addition, the six-story, 250,000-square-foot County Administration North (CAN), opened in July, including a state-of-the-art hearing room for the Board of Supervisors designed to increase openness and public accessibility. A new public plaza connects CAN to its virtual twin, County Administration South (CAS), which opened in 2019 featuring an Apple store-inspired “one-stop shop” for the public to connect directly with 13 County departments.
The complex is part of one of the largest public-private partnerships (P3) of its kind in California, with Griffin Structures as lead developer, LPA as the design partner and Swinerton Builders as the general contractor. This partnership with the County covers 17 acres, 16 County-owned buildings, 4,600 employees and more than 1.6 million square feet of space.
The new Civic Center consolidates and reimagines the workplace for a dozen County departments, and significantly reduces the County’s operating costs. The design reduced energy use in the two buildings by more than 76% from the AIA 2030 Commitment benchmark, primarily through passive design strategies implemented by LPA.
“This is a remarkable story of conservation that creates significant savings, without alternative energy,” LPA President Dan Heinfeld said. “The buildings illustrate that an integrated, collaborative design process can create highly efficient projects to better serve citizens.”
Public-Private Partnership Produces Results
The P3 process initially brought together all the stakeholders to develop a Facilities Strategic Plan, co-authored by Griffin Structures and LPA, exploring every aspect of the County’s operations and real estate assets. At the time, the County had not attempted a major capital improvement project since filing for bankruptcy protection in 1994. Many of the buildings were more than 60 years old.
Construction of the civic center complex was structured on tax-exempt financing backed by the County’s long-term lease. At the end of the lease term, the County will take full ownership of the buildings.
As part of the P3 process, a guaranteed maximum price was established by the developer and its team for the County, putting the pressure on the design and construction teams to meet both budget and schedule. The two County Administration buildings — including CAN, which was largely built during the pandemic — were delivered on time and under budget, returning an estimated total of $8 million in aggregate savings to the County.
“The P3 framework allowed us to make decisions conclusively and expeditiously,” said Roger Torriero, Chief Executive Officer of Griffin Structures. “We established protocols for proactive participation from all the stakeholders, allowing us to monitor and manage the process, while maintaining the budget and schedule.”
The focus was on collaboration and meeting the County’s larger goals. The entire process was undertaken on a full “open book” basis. All trade contractors were competitively bid, increasing efficiency and complete transparency.
“Communication was essential to navigate challenges during the construction process, especially when the COVID pandemic hit,” said Ray Haj, Swinerton SVP and Region Manager. “Griffin Structures, LPA and Swinerton have worked together on many successful projects, which helped smooth the process.”
An Integrated Design Approach
LPA’s integrated design process included the firm’s in-house engineers, interior designers and landscape architects from the earliest stages, helping to solve problems in a timely fashion.
The firm’s structural engineers created a resilient design that allowed for higher ceilings and greater infiltration of natural light in workspaces. In the public plaza, the firm’s landscape architects designed a rich diversity of spaces representing the region’s landscape.
LPA’s workplace interior teams collaborated with the County to design more efficient workspaces that responded to the work habits of the different departments. Work environments were developed around access to natural light, multi-use conference rooms and collaborative spaces, creating a workplace that will help the County compete to attract and retain talent.
“We worked with the County to learn more about how each department operated,” said LPA Design Director Rick D’Amato. “The workspaces were designed to be responsive to the environment and how the County departments will need to work in the future.”
The new center is designed to link to the neighborhood and the County’s larger goals, including an on-site transit station presently under construction for the OC Streetcar and pedestrian corridors. The new Board of Supervisors meeting room is designed to increase participation and openness.
“The design of the project really meets the County’s goal of welcoming the citizens into their government,” said LPA Director of Civic + Cultural Jeremy Hart. “They now have one facility that really modernizes their work and makes a much more efficient and engaging way to bring everyone in the county together.”
About Griffin Structures
Founded in 1982, Griffin Structures is a multidiscipline organization providing a full spectrum of innovative project delivery solutions on hundreds of projects to its public, private and institutional sector clients. The company is also a recognized market leader in the organization and implementation of public-private partnerships (P3).
Griffin Structures has provided award-winning program and construction management services on hundreds of projects throughout California. The diverse and experienced team at Griffin Structures shares a long history of successful project delivery for virtually every project type.
Founded in 1965, LPA specializes in creating innovative environments that work better, do more with less and change people’s lives. An integrated national design firm, LPA includes more than 400 in-house architects, master planners, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects and research analysts, working across a wide array of sectors. In 2021, LPA was honored with the AIA California’s Firm Award, the industry’s top honor in the state.
Swinerton provides commercial construction and construction management services throughout the United States and is a 100% employee-owned company. Recognized nationally since 1888, Swinerton is the preferred builder and trusted partner in every market it serves — proudly leading with integrity, passion and excellence.