More than 200 of California's best construction professionals came out for ENR's Southern California edition of its Best Regional Project Awards on October 4 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Downtown Los Angeles.

The awards are a series of special events to celebrate and honor building teams that created the "best" regional projects of 2016. The projects are selected by juries of local prominent industry professionals. Categories awarded cover a wide variety, including best Best Green, Best Airport, Best Higher Education, and Best Renovation, to name just a few. The event also recognized ENR’s Legacy Award.

The event began with a bacon and eggs breakfast, and Gensler CEO Andy Cohen accepting ENR's "Legacy Award" for his lifetime service to both to AEC profession and the community. Cohen spoke about his tough decision to leave his family's business and come to California after college, where he found his home and his passion at Gensler in 1981.

"From designing a wine label to the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower, Gensler prides itself on its diversity and scale of projects," said Cohen, adding that while most  architectural firms are based around one or two stars, Gensler is a "constellation of stars."

One of the big winners of the day was The Broad, a 120,000-sq-ft, LEED Gold museum located in Downtown LA's Cultural District. Awarded Southern California’s "Project of the Year." The Broad features a distinctive honeycomb-styled exterior seen as a "veil" and a the dark, solid core known as the "vault."

The three-story project boasts 50,000 sq-ft of column-free expanses for easy art display, and a 200-ft-square clear-span roof that cantilevers over the front of the museum with 318 skylights. The project team was led by contractor MATT Construction; lead designer Diller Scofidio + Renfro; structural engineer Nabih Youssef & Associates; KPFF Consulting Engineers; and ARUP as MEP engineer.

The Best Projects event not only allowed me to mingle with a lot of my construction industry colleagues, but it also gave me an opportunity to ride the Metro Gold Line light rail, which I've covered extensively over the past few years as it makes its way east and west across LA County.

When I exited the train in Little Tokyo, I met a crew member with Skanska, which is working on the Regional Connector subway construction at this particular station. The crewmember, standing beside a giant, excavated hole and 300-ton Liebherr crane, told me the team is preparing the arrival of the tunnel boring machine (TBM) within a month or so and that the project is about 33 percent complete.

The 1.9-mile, fully underground Regional Connector project is led by Skanska/Traylor, which is comprised of Skanska USA Civil West California District Inc. (Skanska), in partnership with Traylor Bros., Inc. (Traylor). The lead designer is Hatch Mott MacDonald. Metro anticipates its biggest light rail project to be completed by 2019.

Getting back to the Best Project's event, another honoree was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, which won "Best Project" in the Sports / Entertainment Category. This project is comprised of numerous buildings designed to look hundreds of years old, with worn and weathered stone, plaster, metal, and wood finishes, all painstakingly created true to the Hollywood film where it gets its name.

The winner of the Best Green Project was the County of San Diego - Alpine Branch Library. This design-build structure is San Diego County's first Net-Zero building and is highlighted by a solar panel system across its elongated roof that is expected to produce about 108,500 kWh per year.

Accepting the award for the Alpine project was Jim Amundson, S.E., principal at Hope-Amundson Structural Engineers. Other project members include contractor: C.W. Driver; lead design firm Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects; civil engineer Snipes-Dye Associates; and MEP engineer McParlane & Associates, Inc.

Other projects to win awards included Pacific Center Campus Development in San Diego; LAX T6 Wolfgang Puck Food Court; San Diego Zoo Parking Structure; Exposition Light Rail Transit Phase 2 Design Build Project; Del Amo Fashion Center Renovation; Caltrans I-215 Bi-County HOV Gap Closure; California State University Channel Islands Sierra Hall; Biola University Blackstone Residence Hall; ALDI Regional Headquarters and Distribution Center; The Petersen Automotive Museum; and many more.