New Construction Awards 2004: Eureka!

10/04/2004 |

Public/Government Honorable Mention: Capitol Area East End Complex, Sacramento, CA


In only 4 years, California's Department of General Services developed the five buildings that comprise the Capitol Area East End Complex in Sacramento.

With the largest county, as well as the highest and lowest points in the continental United States, nobody does “big” better than California. Combining larger-than-life goals and big-budget plans, the Capitol Area East End Complex was born. This five-building project melds Sacramento flavor with modern functionality in a city where there are no small ideas.

While serving as California’s 36th governor, Republican Pete Wilson (1991-1999) proposed a statewide consolidation of government agencies. Driven by motives to increase operational and economic efficiencies, Wilson’s plan would bring various state agencies from outlying areas to inner-city buildings – areas where underutilized property was losing its value. The plan moved many agencies into the heart of cities and their existing portfolio of area buildings; however, Sacramento’s plan to realize the vision of its former governor chose to make use of underutilized land rather than underutilized buildings.

When the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute identified the high probability for blight in the Capitol Area of Sacramento in Spring 1995, many eager ears listened to the organization’s recommendations. “They had recommended that we take this area called the Capitol Area East End and build it out. It was, at that time, [a] surface parking lot and some fairly marginal housing,” says Richard Teramoto, project executive for the Capitol East End Project and capitol outlay program manager, Department of General Services, Project Management Branch, West Sacramento, CA. Following extensive study, planning, and review, the project moved forward, with the first visible signs of construction being area demolition.

California’s Department of General Services is accustomed to spending $200 million in construction per year, so the $390 million-plus Capitol Area East End Complex was a project on the scale of no other Teramoto had encountered. “In one fell swoop, we built almost 2 million gross square feet in 4 years. Just day to day, it was exciting. You don’t get that kind of project every day,” he says. The buildings would occupy blocks 171-174, 224, and 225 – state-owned land to the east and south of Capitol Park.

Project visionaries saw this as an opportunity to explore new construction delivery methods. “[The project was] unique in that the delivery process – design/build – was a first for the department. Normally, state buildings are all done by low bid. Design/build was allowed as a delivery on this project; kind of like a test case. I think it was pretty successful in that we were able to deliver a $300-million construction project on time and within budget,” says Teramoto. Known as “bridging,” the modified design/build method (and Stipulated Sum, Best Value Design/Build contract) facilitated fast-paced construction. “We delivered it about 10 to 12 months quicker than what our normal timeline would be for a design/bid/build project,” he explains. Through the use of fast-track document delivery and construction strategies (identified by the contractor and architect), overhead and general condition costs were reduced significantly. These savings were then re-invested into the project, enabling improved systems and additional sustainable design features to be incorporated into the complex.

On Aug. 2, 2000, California Governor Gray Davis signed Executive Order D-16-00. This would further the state’s sustainable public design practices and, together with Title 24 (California’s Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings), begin to reduce the impact of buildings on the environment, thereby changing the construction process – including the Capitol Area East End Complex project. “The client ultimately was the State of California, but it was managed by the Department of State Consumer Services … and the contracting agency was the State Department of General Services (DGS). We had a mandate from both of them to attempt to lower energy costs and expenses as much as possible,” explains Scott Johnson, design partner, Los Angeles-based Johnson Fain, the master design architect for the project.

“Our target was to make the East End Complex perform 30-percent better than that allowed by Title 24. We hit that and then some,” says Teramoto. “We’ve approached 40 percent in one of the buildings.” With the 2000 California Energy Crisis still fresh in the minds of many, it’s no wonder that conservation was key. However, energy wasn’t the only sustainable building practice that the DGS and Johnson Fain pursued. In total, the complex’s five buildings contain more than 100 sustainable design features.

One of the Capitol Area East End Complex facilities was designed and built with an integrated photovoltaic system that uses solar active curtainwall to generate electricity. This system is the first of its kind to be designed into a Sacramento building under the new Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) program. Additionally, cool roofs were installed to deflect heat, and smart lighting controls are used to monitor occupancy and daylight, adjusting artificial lighting accordingly. It’s estimated that the energy efficiency gained from these and other building features will save the tenant an estimated $120,000 per year in electricity costs.

An underfloor air distribution system was specified for its ability to eliminate overhead ductwork, improve airflow, and deliver air at a lower temperature and lower pressure. As an added benefit, occupants can control the amount of air they receive by adjusting an individual floor diffuser.

What’s old is new again at the Capitol Area East End Complex. “We were able to trace the path of the steel from the demolition contractor through several hands and have that steel return to the site as reinforcing for the piles,” explains Teramoto. Even salvaged marble from an old government building was reused in each of the five buildings’ lobbies.

The five low-rise buildings have become home to more than 6,000 employees and consolidated the headquarters of the departments of health services and education. With on-site childcare and the latest systems and equipment designed to provide occupant comfort, individuals are settling down to work in the shadows of the State’s Capitol building. The project has impacted more than its occupants; it’s rejuvenated the area. “I think that the East End [project] was a catalyst for an economic revival of that end of the city, called Midtown,” says Teramoto. “Eureka” (the state’s motto meaning, “I have found it” in Greek) is an apt description of California’s discovery of successful and sustainable development. No other project proves this better than the Capitol Area East End Complex.

Jana J. Madsen ( is managing editor at Buildings magazine.

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