Monterey, Calif., May 20, 2019 - Blach Construction, a full-service and award-winning commercial builder serving the Greater Bay Area and Monterey since 1970, recently took part in a "kelp" ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the completion of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's new Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership (Bechtel Education Center). Made possible through contributions from Aquarium members and other donors, the $42 million, environmentally sustainable, 25,500 square-foot building on Cannery Row advances the Aquarium's commitment to inspiring the next wave of ocean leaders. The project was designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates.
"We are thrilled to have been selected by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to deliver their much-anticipated Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership," said Blach President Dan Rogers. "It is gratifying to know that this innovative and sustainable space enables them to expand their ocean education and conservation programs and exciting to have made their vision a reality."
Given the close confines of the building's active, highly-populated location and Monterey's stringent environmental regulations, Blach's in-house virtual design and construction, sustainability and mechanical, plumbing and engineering (MEP) experts played a critical role in bringing the Bechtel Education Center to life. From the building's living rooftop with innovative catch-basins that off-set storm water runoff down through its complex filtration and critical life support systems infrastructure, this project took a great deal of planning, foresight and teamwork.
Featuring intricate chemical, biological and mechanical systems, the four-story concrete and glass Bechtel Education Center includes four learning laboratories, collaborative teaching and office space, and a fourth-floor event space with a native plant roof garden. A street-level exhibit gallery is open and free to the public. The Blach project team relied heavily on 3D modeling, laser scanning and robotic layout to carefully plan, coordinate and execute the installation of the complex systems within the Bechtel Education Center's diverse, open-concept spaces. The learning laboratories boast eight 200-gallon saltwater tanks operating as part of a closed system used to maintain the correct temperature and living conditions for the intertidal creatures occupying them.
Designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, the Bechtel Education Center incorporates natural ventilation and light to maximize Indoor Environmental Quality and minimize energy usage, water systems designed for efficiency, and supplemental solar PV panel and energy storage battery arrays that manage power usage at peak times and serve as emergency back-up in the event of a power outage. Wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council was used on the project. Fire-treated western red cedar was carefully chosen for the building's exterior, while sound-reducing, rift sawn white oak was installed in its interior. Furthermore, the project team was able to divert more than 75% of waste through sorting and separating.
The Bechtel Education Center significantly expands capacity for the Aquarium's education and youth development programs and enables all of the 80,000 students who visit annually to participate in programs led by the Aquarium's team of ocean education specialists. Additionally, over the next five years, the Aquarium will be able to double both the number of teens participating in environmental science and leadership programs and in its teacher professional development programs. Previously, fewer than half of the qualified applicants could be accepted each year. An expanded teen and teacher curriculum will debut this summer, and the Bechtel Education Center's new learning laboratories will welcome students in the fall.