The construction market is a tricky thing, especially in the current economy. But a look inside California Construction Magazine’s annual list of the Top Project Starts for 2010 can reveal some exciting and interesting insights into work going on across the state.

McCarthy Building Cos. and HMC Architects are working on the Kaiser Permanente Fontana replacement hospital project.
McCarthy Building Cos. and HMC Architects are working on the Kaiser Permanente Fontana replacement hospital project.
The new Temecula Civic Center is being built by Edge Construction.
The new Temecula Civic Center is being built by Edge Construction.

“The market right now is generally very mixed,” says David Hobstetter, principal with San Francisco-based KMD Architects. “The housing and commercial office markets are flat, but the public sector side is better. Part of this is stimulus dollars and part is just the fact that a lot of public facilities are reaching the end of their useful life and need to be replaced.”

One of the KMD’s biggest and most exciting current public projects is the new $133-million Public Utilities Commission Building, located in the San Francisco Civic Center. Covering 277,000 sq ft, the 12-story structure is going for a LEED platinum rating while striving to become one of the most energy efficient buildings in the U.S.

The project, led by San Mateo-based Webcor Builders, broke ground in October. When complete in spring 2012 it will boast sustainable features such as raised flooring with under floor air distribution, a greywater recycling system, photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and wind turbines mounted within a wind-accelerating airfoil structure.

“The owner wanted a building that would push the envelope on sustainability and that is how we ended up integrating a lot of these technologies,” says Hobstetter, whose company sees about 45% of its work coming from the public sector.

Another market pumping out projects is the military.

“This market has been real good,” says Dave Roach, senior vice president for San Diego-based Barnhart Balfour Beatty. He says the sector is doing well because of factors such as the “Grow the Force” initiative and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Grow the Force is a 2007 initiative signed by the president to increase the strength of the Army by more than 74,000 by 2013 and the Marine Corps by 27,000 personnel by 2011. The Department of Defense estimates that it will cost around $17 billion to build and remodel facilities to accommodate the planned personnel increases.

And of the $787 billion in ARRA money out there, Roach says the Navy in San Diego got almost $1 billion for construction. At the 125,547-acre Camp Pendleton alone, there is currently more than $3 billion in construction either underway or planned through 2012.

Barnhart, which receives around 45% of its Southern California work from the military sector, is currently working on seven military base projects worth about $150 million.

One of the most interesting of these jobs is the $29-million Wounded Warrior Headquarters and Hope and Care Center at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. Set on the shores of Lake O’Neil, the 18-month-long project is currently in design, with site prep work underway.

The 31,000-sq-ft Hope and Care facility includes therapy and counseling rooms, lap pools, running track and tranquil outdoor areas. The 7,000-sq-ft headquarters will be two stories and feature offices and administration rooms.

Last month Barnhart completed the first segment of the Wounded Warriors project, a $24-million endeavor consisting of a 100-room bachelors enlisted quarters building.

Clark Construction Group is also active in military work. The Costa Mesa-based company just completed a luxurious, three-building BEQ at Naval Base San Diego, and is currently...