OCSD mass timber

HDR Receives California Mass Timber Building Competition Award for Orange County Project

In the first-ever California Mass Timber Building Competition, hosted by California GovOps and administered by WoodWorks, HDR was awarded a grant for Orange County Sanitation District’s Headquarters Complex in recognition of superior design and integration of mass timber.

This inaugural design competition aims to showcase the benefits and potential of engineered wood products, known as mass timber. As technologies in engineered wood products advance, North America has seen a significant rise in the use of mass timber as a structural element within the last decade.

“Increased use of mass timber can benefit forest health and rural economic development, while reducing carbon emissions related to construction in California,” said Jennifer Cover, president and CEO of WoodWorks. “The winning projects further highlight the design possibilities of timber and encourage wider adoption of its use throughout the state and across the country.”

HDR’s design team, in collaboration with mass timber engineering consultant Fast+Epp, developed the award-winning hybrid mass timber design solution for OCSD’s 109,000 square-foot headquarters complex in Fountain Valley, California. As a public agency known for its sustainability practices, OCSD’s new headquarters is designed to be both the operational hub and its public face.

The new complex will engage the public through educational experiences, prioritizes employee well-being and returns value for public investment, all while focusing on precedent-setting, but cost-conscious, sustainability goals of OCSD.

The headquarters complex represents an opportunity to create a mass timber showcase within a very large and visible market. Over 3,500 school children visit the current facility on an annual basis, along with daily visitors seeking to do business with OCSD. In the new building, planned exhibit space designed by HDR will contain information on the past, present and future of OCSD — focusing on the building’s sustainable design features, mass timber integration and its larger role in environmental sustainability and resilience.

The hybrid mass timber design, a core element of the building’s sustainability narrative, takes advantage of the many benefits of engineered wood products. Modular mass timber construction with upstream design integration, in-the-field efficiency, reduced construction duration and less construction noise are all attributes OCSD has embraced. Mass timber can be a cost-effective alternative to other types of construction, including steel and concrete, and provides the promise for a financially viable reduction of small timber ladder-fuels in our forests.

“Buildings that use mass timber sequester, rather than emit, carbon, addressing the emissions required to building a facility in the first place,” said Kate Diamond, HDR’s civic design director. “The building’s design celebrates the exposed mass timber structure to create a comfortable, biophilic environment that sustains our innate need to connect with nature, providing a warmth that cannot be achieved with other structural systems.”

As a facility located in an earthquake-prone area, the design capitalizes on mass timber’s high strength-to-weight ratio—which helps the building withstand seismic events while maintaining functionality.

The awarded grant funding of $40,000 is to be used for activities that include cost studies for mass timber, permitting fees, life cycle assessment studies and information exchange sessions with code officials.

“With this grant award and with the guidance of WoodWorks, we hope to collaboratively make the biggest impact,” said Tom Knittel, design director for sustainability at HDR. “Through education, outreach, research and the use of timber, we aim to demonstrate how a shift in building with renewable resources can be both sustainable and a way to reverse the damages carbon-emitting building materials and processes have imposed upon on ourselves and the environment.”

The project strives for LEED Gold and Net Zero Energy. Expected to reach completion in 2023, the headquarters complex aspires to be an example for innovative hybrid mass timber design, a demonstration of best sustainable practices, and a reflection of OCSD’s commitment to a healthier future.

OCSD Lobby with mass timber
OCSD Headquarters Complex Lobby


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