University of California, Davis
September 2018–February 2022
Drawing new life to an overlooked area of campus, with the first new general classroom building in fifty years, the UC Davis Teaching & Learning Complex was designed to inspire active learning, promote various teaching and learning styles, and provide a communal hub for students and faculty. From the onset of design in September 2018 through final completion in February 2022, this project exhibited an undeniable chemistry between all stakeholders, who came together to bring the facility from concept to reality. UC Davis established a variety of goals that drove our team in the electrical design and build, including achieving LEED Silver or better; maximizing classroom seating while also creating a memorable and comfortable teaching, learning, and gathering space, and turning over the new space for occupancy by March 2022. While the design and construction of this 4-story, 101,000 sf building brought many challenges, Royal Electric Company is proud to have collaborated with the owner, the general contractor DPR Construction, and all of the professional trade partners, in delivering on this exceptional project at UC Davis and adding it to our collective legacy.
By nature of its design, the Teaching & Learning Complex both attracts and inspires change in the ways in which course material is taught, through the innovative and active learning concept. Active learning strategies engage students in performing, as well as thinking about what it is they are learning. By participating in individual and group activities related to the subject matter, students develop their higher-order thinking skills. The facility’s computer and teaching laboratories, twenty next-generation classrooms, three auditoriums, portable learning center pods, and striking gathering areas, including two amphitheater-like staircases, all focus on the active learning process. Classrooms are equipped with adaptive seating that enables numerous configurations. Moreover, active learning technologies, such as interactive glass whiteboards and TechConnect, not only cater to varying student activities, but also help professors pioneer new teaching techniques. All these features, as well as the complex’s prime location – directly adjacent to the Silo Dining Commons, the University Transportation Terminal, a parking garage, playing fields and stadium, – boost the gravitational pull of this social center for the university. It breathes new life into an aging end of campus, which was a critical component and inspiration for the university in the overall design of the building.
Royal’s scope of work included the design and installation of:
Design — Incorporating the specifications outlined in the UC Davis Teaching and Learning Complex Bridging Documents and the Campus Design Guide Manual always takes the highest precedence in the design of the power distribution system, lighting and lighting control, motor control, fire alarm, access control and security systems when working within the UC system. Yet, Royal Electric’s wealth of experience and decades long history of strong relationships with the university team, allowed for mutually beneficial variances that benefit the cost and schedule on the project.
With the student and faculty experience in mind, the university set out to utilize as much natural light as possible within the complex. The original design called for skylights on the roof of the second floor to pass sunlight through to the ground floor by means of glass ceilings and floors, creating natural light throughout the two floors. However, after in-depth review of this design it was determined that the use of a glass floor for the pass-through light was not the right approach. Royal Electric’s project team, along with our engineering partner ECOM, were instrumental in developing an alternative solution with an innovative lighting package that avoided the inherent challenges of a glass floor design, while preserving the original intent.
The extensive use of glass throughout the building, along with the stunning repurposed wood ceilings, made for an elevated student experience. But these features also presented added challenges to the design and installation of the general power and communications feeds, lighting, and lighting controls. These beautiful materials and design components posed an immense uptick in the amount of teamwork and creative solutions necessary to executing the installation.
Schedule — As the project team mobilized into the construction phase, we rallied around a highly aggressive construction schedule. During the project pursuit phase, more than three years prior to the completion of the UC Davis Teaching and Learning Complex, DPR Construction’s Project Manager Aaron Schwartz set an ambitious goal that fortified the entire project team. Our shared objective was to achieve substantial completion by October 2021 and beat the contractual final completion date of June 2022. The extraordinarily collaborative atmosphere that began during design, grew between UC Davis, DPR Construction and all trade partners on site.
Construction — One of the more daunting challenges to overcome by Royal’s management and build expertise, lived within the vast 426 seat, 7,100 sf auditorium and the complicated electrical systems throughout the space. During the initial underground phase in June 2020, 72 conduit stub-ups were placed in the sloped dirt grade that would eventually feed the power and data devices at each of the 426 seats – seats that wouldn’t be received and installed till the final phase of the project.
The extensive active learning systems throughout the building intricately overlapped between several trades’ work. For example, the fire alarm system required the ability to shut down the audio-visual system in an emergency. The mechanical system in the large auditorium, as well as the two smaller ones, was designed with in-wall diffusers for heating and cooling as opposed to the ceiling, dramatically complicating the power system feeds that typically locate within the same wall space. Likewise, heating and cooling in the classrooms was controlled by radiant ceiling panels that replaced traditional acoustic ceiling tiles throughout, interfering with light fixtures and requiring substantial coordination above and around components. And the corridor ceilings were built with a ½” wood slat grid, requiring close coordination and invisible access panels for fixture rough-in and installation.
Design — The level of trust continued to grow during the year and half design phase. Throughout this process our virtual design team, management and build teams, and Royal’s electrical engineering partner ECOM Engineering, collaboratively worked alongside the university design team, DPR Construction and all of the MEP trade partners to brainstorm together, reevaluate approaches, and offer experience-based effective, efficient and aesthetic concepts that benefited the overall project goals and end user experience.
By simulating the feel of natural lighting with mock skylights, we added high efficiency color rendering fixtures with industry leading controls in the soffits around the mock skylight to simulate the outside lighting, which changes throughout the course of the day. They are controlled and programmed to mimic the natural circadian rhythm. In combination with glass exterior walls, the lighting package gives the Teaching and Learning Complex students and faculty an experience similar to true natural lighting throughout the entire space, boosting the mood and focus of the facility’s users.
Our design team and installers took pride in not only the efficiency and reliability of the interior lighting design but also in our ability to deliver on the aesthetic element desired by the university, in providing the students and staff with uniquely beautiful, and physically comforting, lighting.
Schedule — An early decision by DPR to provide a communal job trailer – an idea born out of site space constraints – housed the general contractor and the MEP contractors and was instrumental in cementing the team. The shared workspace had the benefit of sparking organic relationships among the trades right out of the gate. Royal’s project team shared that “no one could have predicted the special bond this would create amongst the team, or how it would be the recipe for success that this team was!” Additionally, although initially challenging to navigate, the COVID-19 pandemic ended up being another silver-lining opportunity for the project team to meet schedule goals together. After successfully putting a health and safety program in place to prevent transmission of the coronavirus, everyone recognized that construction activities could be accelerated with students learning remotely. “Bell schedules” were eliminated, allowing more ease of movement around campus, opening up material delivery windows, and mitigating the safety concerns associated with an active university campus. As in the design phase, the project build team continued to work together with university staff in developing alternative methods to those outlined in the Campus Design Guide Manual, when necessary to meet schedule goals while retaining university efficiency and aesthetic objectives. Royal Electric’s relationships and mutual trust with the university inspectors resulted in collaborate design ideas.
Construction — To ensure accurate positioning of Trimble points in the auditorium, our foreman checked and re-checked the stub up location for feeds repeatedly following the work of other trades, each time spending several days to confirm accuracy and to correct any damage or realignment necessary due to the congested workspace. Thanks to Royal’s thoroughness and expertise, the feed locations were spot on when furniture install happened 18-months later.
Project challenges during the build out were overcome through the outstanding cooperation and teamwork between DPR, Royal Electric, Airco, Valley Communications and all the subcontractor teams. The trades supported each other whether the issue was their own or that of another trade, and a successful solution was found for every system.
From the design and build of incredibly complex systems, to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), limited site space and the COVID-19 Pandemic, every goal was not only met but exceeded! Royal Electric and ECOM helped mitigate design challenges and meet budget goals with a revolutionary lighting package. The LEED Silver goal was surpassed by achieving LEED Gold status. Our teams made the best of an uncertain situation in the global pandemic. Most importantly we cultivated long lasting relationships and delivered a remarkable education facility to a supremely satisfied owner.
"I can't pinpoint exactly what to attribute it to, but something about this team...was just magic."Jim Carrol
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