Constructing a Future: Top Buildings in 2012

You may hear different opinions on the subject but there is substantial proof that 2012 was a fruitful year for innovative construction in the U.S. The industry is an intensive and volatile one, heavily affected by an economic downturn. There are also many laws and regulations to follow, which make it a difficult playground: from planning and construction permits to contract surety bonds on the projects, acting as a safety net and guaranteeing to their clients and the project owners that they will fulfill their contractual obligations.

Nonetheless, there was an amazing amount of successful construction during 2012, and it is worth mentioning a few. These are also buildings of social importance that have taken steps into the future with their design and purpose.


Palomar Medical Center: the “Hospital of the Future” in California


Palomar Health Center
DPR Construction

Let’s take a closer look at a resoundingly successful project: the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California. Even before its opening in August 2012, the Center was deemed to be the “Hospital of the Future” because of its innovative design and construction. The $660-million project begun in 2007, and the construction management was taken over by DPR Construction in 2008. The process has been an intensive one, as the team had to re-plan a lot on the way, while still concluding the construction by the set date so that the facility could open its doors for patients. The Palomar Medical Center already has two awards – the ENR California Best Projects 2012 and the ENR National Best of the Best Projects 2012, and there are certainly good reasons for that. The design, conducted by CO Architects, embeds a multitude of sustainable features, aiming at both the patients’ and the staff’s well-being and comfort, as well as at consuming minimal amounts of water and electricity. The area of the Center is 740,000 sq. ft. distributed over 11 floors, which include 12 operating rooms and 50 rooms in the trauma center and can host up to 360 patients. With a living green roof and many terraces, the cutting-edge hospital space creates a real healing atmosphere. It is also one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in the U.S.


UW Molecular Engineering & Sciences Building: Future Science, Technology and Sustainability


Ben Benschneider / ZGF Architects

Another noteworthy project is the $77 million University of Washington Molecular Engineering & Sciences Building, completed in September 2012. Designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, the building hosts the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute, the Center for Nanotechnology, and the Nanotech User Facility in an integrated manner incorporating the multifaceted molecular engineering field. With an area of 90,300 sq. ft., the project includes innovative features not only in terms of sustainability and energy saving, but also from a social perspective by encouraging collaboration and allowing reconfiguration of working spaces, and of course providing modern open laboratories. The Molecular Engineering & Sciences Building is outstanding also in the sense that it is one of the first facilities in the U.S. that gives space for development to the innovative research area of molecular engineering, as well as incorporating cutting-edge technology.


The David and Lucile Packard Foundation: Thinking of the Future


David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters
Photo Credit: David Livingston

The most striking feature of the new $37.2-million headquarters of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a fund provider for non-profit organizations, is its net zero energy use, which has earned its LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Showing the innovative spirit of the organization, even the pre-construction phase was important, as 95% of the waste from the deconstruction of the old buildings was recycled or reused. The two-storey, 49,000-sq.-ft. building uses the most current sustainability features like photo-voltaic panels. It also collects water from rain and storms.  The Foundation’s idea is to spur further change through promoting sustainability in organizations and energy innovation in offices, and their new building is a clear mark of dedication to the future. With DPR Construction as the contractor and EHDD as the architect, the project is an innovation for Los Angeles and for California in general, as it is the largest net zero energy use office in the state.

Back to basics

As seen through these examples, the construction industry in the U.S. is, indeed, producing interesting, innovative, sustainable and technologically advanced constructions despite the challenges of the current times and the amount of rules and regulations in the field. A peek behind the building curtain: there are varying construction laws and necessary permits for different purposes, as well as a requirement to obtain a contractors bond for construction projects.