The plan room proved useful when questions came up. "Whenever there is an issue or modification, the subs walk in, and we turn on a 50-in. television, and we can walk through the model," Albiani says. "Our engineers on staff are always updating the model so it is 'live,' and this takes a lot of the questions out."

During installation of lab ceilings, the team had trouble getting the required fire detectors installed due to the significant amount of ductwork, piping and telecommunications crammed inside the relatively small ceiling areas. To find room, Albiani says, they had to completely redesign the ceilings in many instances.

"Because of the modeling and the plan room, we were able to solve these challenges in a matter of hours instead of what could have taken numerous back-and-forths, RFIs and multiple site visits," says Scott Grimm, senior project manager with McCarthy.

Meeting Green Campus Goals

Opened in 2005, UC Merced believes it is the only U.S. university to have every building on campus environmentally certified.

"We are building our buildings with high levels of energy efficiency," says campus architect Thomas Lollini. "We are not just chalking up LEED points; we are trying to get to a true energy conservation ethic."

So far, the school has achieved one Silver, eight Gold and two Platinum certifications, with five more Platinum certifications pending.

The current project furthers UC Merced's Triple Zero Commitment—net-zero energy use, contribute zero waste to landfills and produce net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

"We think the building supports triple-net-zero not only from a design standpoint but also from an academic standpoint, because the research that is being studied in the building has to do with sustainability and net-zero energy," says Monis.

Classroom space and labs will cater to students of mechanical engineering, materials science, computer science, environmental studies and bioengineering.