Suffolk-Roel Inc.

A company that was created by the recent combination of two experienced general contractors is working on one of the largest government projects ever undertaken in San Diego County.


Suffolk-Roel began conducting business as a united contracting company in March when Boston-based Suffolk Construction combined with ROEL Construction of San Diego. Suffolk Roel Inc. started work earlier this year on phase 1B of the development of San Diego’s County Operations Center. The project involves redeveloping a 38-acre site in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood in San Diego into a government office campus.

“The county’s objective is to redevelop the entire site to bring all their departments together into one central location for the public,” Project Director Mike Berryhill says. There were 18 existing one-to-two story tilt-up buildings on the site.

The county ultimately plans to develop just under a million square feet of office, parking and other public spaces in the area. Lowe Enterprises is the master developer.

Project Phases

The first of the project’s three phases was completed in fall 2010. The $188.5 million phase 1A involved building two four-story 150,000 square foot office buildings, a utilities plant and a 1,700-space parking garage to replace parking lots now occupied with buildings, Berryhill says.

The current phase, 1B, is projected to be completed in summer 2012. Work involves building two additional four-story, 150,000-square-foot structural steel frame and precast concrete buildings, and a 20,000-square-foot conference center to include a public hearing space and a cafeteria.

The final phase, dubbed phase 2, would add two more office buildings and another parking structure to the site. Funding has not yet been approved for this phase.

Although the office buildings share an identical exterior design, the interior of each floor of each building will be unique. “Each area is occupied by different departments of the county, and they obviously have different needs, so each floor’s interior will differ from the others,” Berryhill says.

The two recently finished office buildings on the site are LEED Gold certified, and the two buildings now under construction also are projected to earn the distinction. Energy efficiency practices employed during construction include the use of local materials and recycling of construction debris. The buildings are also designed to allow maximum sunlight throughout to reduce energy consumption. The conference center, projected for LEED Platinum status, will include a green roof and solar panel array.

The site features the use of drought-tolerant plants and an irrigation system that will provide a 50 percent reduction in water usage. “The master plan of the whole campus features drought-tolerant landscaping because the county wishes to demonstrate how this can be used in the county of San Diego to save water while still looking good,” Berryhill adds.

Close Communication

Building the new operations center on a site now occupied by existing county offices involves constant communication between construction personnel and county employees. “There are several thousand county employees working here around our construction areas,” Berryhill says. “We have to be very aware of existing employees and make sure all construction activities and sites are safe, clean and well-maintained.

“Also, as a public entity, the county has a lot of outside visitors who also need to know how to get around the site and avoid construction.”

Suffolk-Roel Inc. and Lowe Enterprises regularly post traffic and parking updates online and through e-mail, and post signage designating routes throughout the site.

“The site is very clear and organized, with easy-to-read signage when there’s major activities happening,” Berryhill says.

Longstanding Relationships

The multiple phases of the project allow Suffolk-Roel Inc. to bid out subcontracts separately for each office building. “This allows a large volume of subs to do work out here with Suffolk-Roel Inc. and the county,” Berryhill says.

The company has longstanding relationships with many of those subcontractors. “The majority of the subcontractors on the project are companies that we’ve worked with for many years and have strong relationships with,” he adds. Those subcontractors include HMT Electric Inc.

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