Los Angeles City College Student Union

Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles City College
Harris & Associates
$35 Million

The Student Union was a complex project because of its inherent design that required the overlap and integration of building elements between a three-tiered outdoor plaza and a three-story building. Some significant challenges started in the program phase, before the design phase had begun.

The first noteworthy project challenge was to assist the District’s Board of Trustees with the decision whether or not to purchase the prior existing lease of the campus land where the Student Union was to be built. Harris & Associates’ solution was to direct the program criteria architect to revise the program criteria documents to provide two alternatives: one alternative for a two-story building on a larger footprint (in the event that the lease was purchased) and a second alternative for a three-story building on a smaller footprint (in the event that the lease was not purchased).

The central and complex administrative issues that were managed by the construction manager concerned the purchase of the lease, the excessively high seismic parameters, and review and approval of the foundation design by the permitting authority.


The most significant project challenge was recovery from the five-month design delay that occurred after construction had started. The CM issued the construction Notice to Proceed to coincide with Division of the State Architect (DSA) approval of the design. However, approval did not occur until after the sixth submittal. Harris ascertained that the possible basis for the multiple submittals was a debate concerning the best mathematical theory for calculation of the building loads between DSA and the structural engineer. The CM mediated this disagreement by creating an atmosphere where effective, open and candid communication could occur between the parties in two face-to-face meetings. This replaced the previous communication routine of exchanging drawings with written comments with more drawings with more written comments. DSA approval occurred with the next immediate submittal.

To recover from the delay, the CM and the design-builder agreed to Change Order #2. It extended the design phase by 77 calendar days, while reducing the total project duration 25 calendar days. This innovative decision by Harris ensured the project reached completion and the building opened in time for the fall semester 2012.

The LACC Student Union project completed on time and within budget, producing a state-of-the-art building and meeting space for students to call their own. There were many complex issues on the project such as the design, building foundation, amount of square footage, and the budget. The construction manager helped tackle each of these complexities with proactive planning and innovative measures. They reviewed all state regulations and policies with LACC and ensured that the project adhered to these. The CM's leadership helped incorporate all of the needs and ideas of the different college departments and stakeholders into the building and kept the project organized. Due to the proactive planning and strong leadership of the CM, there were daily inspection meetings and weekly construction meetings, which also helped keep the project on track. The construction manager taking the extra steps to make sure the owner was fully involved in the project is what made this project a complete success.

Renee′ D. Martinez


Los Angeles City College