Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership
Monterey, Calif.
Best Project

Owner: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Lead Design Firm: Mark Cavagnero Associates
General Contractor: Blach Construction
Civil Engineer: Whitson Engineers
Structural Engineer: Rutherford and Chekene Consulting Engineers
MEP Engineer: WSP Group
Landscape Architect: SWA
Subcontractors: Largo Concrete; Val’s Plumbing and Heating Inc.; M. Bruno Electric Inc.; Brady Co./Central California Inc.; Benchmark Steel Inc.; Frank M. Booth Inc.; Signature Glass and Windows Inc.

The 25,500-sq-ft, four-story Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership is Monterey Bay Aquarium’s most significant expansion in more than 20 years. Designed to enrich the aquarium’s hands-on environmental science and education programs, the interactive space houses learning labs, collaborative workspaces, kitchens, a green rooftop event center and a public exhibit area. 

The center, which expects 80,000 visitors annually, was completed on time, on budget and to LEED Gold standards. The cast-in-place concrete structure required creative use of building information modeling, robotic layout and laser scanning to coordinate the diverse spaces and preempt potential challenges.

Because of water intake and discharge expenses and regulations in the area (including the federally protected Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary), the team created a closed-loop water system for the saltwater tanks. For the center’s Learning Lab life-support system’s eight 200-gallon saltwater tanks, a closed-loop water system and back-up power system allow seawater to be trucked in, filtered, sterilized and temperature controlled for marine residents. As part of the plan, the team transported the aquarium’s housing water from its intake system with retreated water, devoid of harmful chemicals, for discharge back into Monterey Bay.

The center features a back-up hybrid smart power system that runs on batteries, rather than fossil fuels, to keep the pumps functional for 24 hours after a power outage.

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