The University of California, Davis, (UC Davis) on March 7 broke ground on a new student housing complex that will add nearly 3,300 beds to the university’s West Village neighborhood. With its first 1,000 beds expected to be delivered by the start of the fall 2020 academic year, the UC Davis project is currently the largest student housing development in the US, say school officials.

The Michaels Organization is the developer, while Stantec is providing lead architectural, interiors, buildings engineering and landscape architecture services for the project. CBG Building Company is the general contractor.

The project, set on 34 acres, will comprise nine four-story apartment buildings along with indoor and outdoor community space and recreational fields. A 10,000-sq-ft community building will house a fitness center, multipurpose room, and student support services.

The new housing has a goal of reaching 100 % zero-net-energy (ZNE) efficiency on an annual basis, which means it will generate as much energy as it uses within a year. It will achieve this with the help of on-site solar photovoltaic arrays located over the parking lots and on some adjacent open areas. 

In addition, all buildings will be designed, constructed and commissioned to achieve 40% (based upon calendar year 2017-18) or greater reduction in site building energy use based upon UC Davis benchmarks, says Richey Madison, Stantec principal, West Coast Education. 

The project is targeting LEED Silver and includes the careful selection of materials, minimizing site impacts, the use of efficient MEP systems, optimal building orientation, and the development of an energy efficient envelope. It also aims to maximize water efficiency, waste reduction, and design and operation to meet the UC Davis’ goal for zero waste management.

“The site and building designs limit the amount of exposed glazing, while maximizing access to daylighting in units,” says Madison. “The facility also incorporates shading devices over the energy efficient windows.” 

Ample bicycle paths and bike parking encourage bike use, and the site design creates additional separation of vehicular parking areas to assist with stormwater detention. The project also includes infrastructure to support future Zero Energy Vehicles (ZEV). 

Originally, West Village was planned for 1,875 beds. However, UC Davis, the Michaels Organization and Stantec worked together to develop a plan that provides reduced space for student vehicles and more living space, allowing for substantially more residential units.

Designing around the University of California Davis and the City of Davis, which both have a huge bicycle-oriented culture, was a unique component of this project,” says Sean Studzinski, Stantec principal, National Residence Life. “Our team worked with the UC Davis Campus Planners on several versions of how the buildings might layout to create bicycle ‘freeways’ that wouldn’t overwhelm the development. The streets were designed to minimize vehicle traffic speeds and utilize dedicated bicycle lanes that lead to the university and downtown.”

Studzinski says every building block includes pathways that cut through the courtyards for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Large courtyards provide dedicated bicycle parking adjacent to building entrances to encourage bicycle use while pushing the vehicle parking spaces to the perimeter of the site.  

Madison says the campus project represents a plethora of design challenges, including a relatively short construction schedule. The project’s goal is to bring the first 1,000 beds online in August 2020 and help UC Davis be a participant in meeting the University of California’s Systemwide Student housing initiative. 

“In order to accelerate the construction schedules, we evaluated multiple implementation strategies including modular, off-site panelization and other prefabrication methods. The development team made the decision to use Prescient’s system, which is a standardized light gauge framing system that utilizes proprietary software applications for design documentation and production fabrication,” says Madison.

He says working with all team stakeholders to get the project and Prescient’s system through California’s high bar for sustainability and seismic requirements has been a challenge. “This is the largest student housing project in the country, and it’s also the first to use this framing system in California or in any major seismic zone,” says Madison. “Overlay all that with a 100% Zero Net Energy requirement, and you have a complicated puzzle.”

Stantec will also be collaborating with the Michaels Organization on the Orchard Park apartment expansion at UC Davis, which will provide additional housing for graduates and families. Stantec is providing interior design, along with landscape architecture and site planning. The project is in very early stages of re-design and a construction start schedule has not yet been finalized.

The Michaels Organization recently announced the successful closing of $575 million in financing for the project. The full $575 million in project costs will come from the proceeds of a tax-exempt bond sale, the largest bond sale ever in the US for a student housing project, say officials.