Built on an existing parking lot between the main entrance and the university’s tennis courts, McCarthy Building Cos., has just completed this new $11.5 million design/build cast-in-place concrete parking structure at Soka University in Aliso Viejo, Calif. The 214,983-square-foot project features 677 parking spaces and was completed two weeks ahead of schedule.

“We’re excited about having this additional parking for athletic events, the Soka Performing Arts Center, and special events,” notes Archibald Asawa, vice president for finance and administration and CFO for Soka University. “McCarthy did an outstanding job of keeping this project on budget and ahead of schedule.”

McCarthy partnered with Choate Parking Consultants of Irvine on the design and construction of the post-tensioned, cast-in-place concrete structure. Designed in harmony with the existing campus, the façade features painted plaster, architectural shapes along three sides, and Italian travertine stone bands around the elevator tower and windows. The entrance to the elevators is further complemented by natural stone tiles in the elevator lobbies at each level.

The four-level structure has been lowered into the slope of the hillside along Wood Canyon Drive to minimize its height so that it does not rise higher than the adjacent street. McCarthy achieved this by creating a 700-foot-long, 30-foot-tall sculpted architecturally finished retaining wall with structural shotcrete and soil nail along three sides of the project site.

Jeff Craven, McCarthy project manager, said sequencing the excavation of the wall required careful monitoring. “Working with the earthwork and shotcrete crews to get the wall cut, remove the dirt, and then erect the wall in a seamless and fluid fashion while maintaining the project schedule required extensive coordination,” Craven says.

The wall, which took five weeks to complete, is not only big, it is also an elaborate piece of art, hand-sculpted by one person using a hand trowel and a boom lift.

“The lone worker followed the application of the shotcrete and sculpted the wet concrete to resemble a natural stone wall,” Craven says. “After one week of curing, the concrete was then stained by the same worker to further enhance the resemblance to natural stone.”

Additional construction details included site improvements, connections to the campus utility systems, and adding a traffic signal at the campus entrance. A stormwater filtration and detention system was installed, and the existing soccer field was leveled and widened to better meet the needs of the university’s athletic program.

Craven says due to existing structures and topography, the project was inaccessible from three sides, which hindered concrete placement and material deliveries. To address this challenge, McCarthy maintained a strict delivery schedule to coordinate all of the materials, and designed a concrete pumping system that allowed them to place concrete more than 300 feet away from the entrance to the site.

“The concrete was pumped through a series of 4-inch diameter steel pipes and placed onto the formwork using a placing boom,” Craven says. “An average of 350 linear feet of pipe was assembled onto the concrete decks the day prior to the pour. After the pour was complete, they were disassembled. This entire process of setting up and dismantling occurred for each of the 11 deck pours. During concrete pour days, an average of 20 workers were assigned to the concrete pour to place and finish the concrete as well as manage the placing system.”

To minimize the environmental impact of the project, McCarthy used sustainable design and construction methods. Prior to construction, six mature pine trees were salvaged from the existing parking lot and relocated onto the project site. All of the stormwater collected from the parking structure was filtered and detained on campus in an underground 8-foot-diameter corrugated metal pipe before being released into the city storm drain system. In addition, about 25,000 cubic yards of soil were excavated for the parking structure and reused on campus. McCarthy also recycled about 80% of all waste generated during construction, exceeding the city’s minimum construction waste recycling requirement of 50%.