Pre-Design Phase

Volume 2, Chapter 6


Pre-design is the phase of analysis that occurs after some form of funding is available and before design begins. During the pre-design phase, studies are done to analyze space requirement issues, the constraints and opportunities of the proposed site, and the cost versus the budget. The amount of funding available in the pre-design phase varies and is a critical factor in determining which studies take precedence. Funds may be available to develop a detailed project program or only to investigate certain technical issues in order to determine scope, budget, or project schedule.

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The pre-design phase may include site analysis, programming, construction cost analysis, and value engineering.

  • Site analysis includes site selection, geotechnical reports, and review of existing structures.
  • Programming defines the project needs of the user. Programming includes cataloging the spaces and equipment needed, and functional relationships.
  • The construction cost analysis provides a construction budget amount for the capital improvement budget (CIB) and a cost plan to assist in explaining the budget and in guiding project management.
  • Value engineering in the pre-design phase scrutinizes the program, site selection, and project budget.

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Professional Services Agreement (see FM3:4.1, 4.2 , 4.3, 4.4, 4.7 and Contract Templates - Design and Other Consultants). Executive Design Professional Agreement (see FM3:3, 4 and Contract Templates - Design and Other Consultants).

A proposed site, an existing building, or existing infrastructure, on- or off- campus, is analyzed through a series of investigations to understand the constraints that may be imposed upon a project and its design. The analysis of gift properties as well as ground leasing campus real property and purchasing campus-related property must follow certain due diligence procedures established by Office of the President and the Office of the Treasurer. These procedures may be used as guidelines to analyze facility sites.

Frequently, multiple sites are analyzed for a single project. This information is used both to guide project development and to evaluate a project's impacts on the environment.

Studies are conducted to evaluate existing conditions. These studies include geotechnical reports, hydrology studies, land surveys (including boundaries, topography, and utilities), existing building analysis, and surveys of existing hazardous materials (environmental due diligence).

These studies are typically performed by consultants who have the specific expertise required. The study reports describe the investigations made and the measurements taken, and they often make recommendations for incorporating the results of the investigations into the building design. These studies also significantly influence project feasibility as well as life-safety and legal issues. Other studies identify existing conditions that may or may not be quantified. These studies include data compilation, site analysis reports, site analysis drawings, and comparative site analysis.

(See FM3:4.1 to 4.4 and 4.7 for the appropriate use of the Professional Services Agreement when contracting for site analysis.)

6.2.1 Geotechnical Reports

A Facility may hire a geotechnical engineer to produce a geotechnical report that provides the Facility with information about the soils and geologic conditions on and below the surface at a project site.

The geotechnical report contains information about existing project conditions. The information typically includes reports done previously for neighboring buildings and actual samples taken at the project site. Sampling techniques vary depending on the project.

Geotechnical Hazards. Critical geotechnical hazards that need to be identified include:

  • Areas subject to subsidence and liquefaction.
  • Landslides and mudflow hazards.
  • Fault zones.

Soil Samples. Soil samples are tested in a laboratory to determine moisture content, soils type, expansion, percolation, bearing capacity, friction, and other factors pertinent to the proposed building. Other important soils information includes:

  • Drainage characteristics and permeability.
  • Depth to ground water.
  • Depth to bedrock.
  • Susceptibility to compaction and erosion.
  • Shrink and swell potential.
  • Compressive strength and stability (bearing capacity).
  • Evidence of fill.

Recommendations. The data gathered are then translated into recommendations for:

  • Site preparation, such as compacting or replacing existing soils.
  • Bearing loads and the corresponding expected amount of settlement.
  • Steps to be taken to deal with ground water and surface water as they may affect construction operations and the finished project.
  • Special foundation requirements.

The Office of the President recommends that the Facility have the geotechnical engineer review the construction documents for compliance with the recommendations made. It is also beneficial to have the engineer present during construction excavation in order to verify that actual conditions agree with the anticipated conditions.

6.2.2 Hydrology Studies

Hydrology studies are performed by environmental consultants or hydrologic engineers. The studies are based on the review of existing maps and records, as well as the collection of site- specific hydrologic measurements. The hydrology studies include:

  • Surface water drainage patterns (on and off site).
  • Floodplain zones.
  • Aquifers and recharge zones.
  • Depth to ground water.
  • Storm drainage system requirements.
  • Erosion hazard areas.
  • Debris flows and mudslides hazards.
  • Coastal flooding and tsunami hazards.

6.2.3 Land Surveys

Land surveys describe existing site features, project boundaries, and legal boundaries (if applicable) such as property lines, rights-of-way, and easements. The surveyor locates physical elements, including structures, roads, trees, and land formations; and reviews existing records to gather information on utilities and boundaries. The survey determines the site configuration and area.

The surveyor's measurements of the elevations of existing elements are particularly important for tying the proposed project into existing roads and utilities and, possibly, to existing buildings. Grades are indicated and related to a fixed point, often a datum established campus-wide.

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When a project involves one or more existing buildings, a variety of studies are used to determine the feasibility of reusing some or all of the buildings. These studies include analysis of functional, structural, and code issues and provide information on the following:

  • Overall building suitability and adaptability for the proposed use (e.g., area on each floor, column bay sizes, floor-to-floor heights, and vibration and acoustical control).
  • Capacity, suitability, and adaptability of the existing engineered systems (e.g., electrical, HVAC, fire protection, and plumbing).
  • Vertical load bearing capacity (e.g., slabs, beams, girders, and columns).
  • Earthquake resistance and lateral load capacity (e.g., shear walls and frame bracing).
  • Accessibility to the disabled.
  • Fire and life-safety systems.
  • Energy issues.

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Consultants are used to inspect existing sites or buildings that contain asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), old fuel tanks, or other suspected hazards and recommend the proper removal or mitigation methods. Although the Facilities are generally aware of hazards on current sites, new sites or previously occupied sites may pose soils or ground water contamination problems as a result of past uses. 

The University established procedures to assist Facilities in the assessment of toxic and hazardous substances on real property. Procedures are also in place for reviewing gifts of real property for hazardous substances. Visit the Real Estate Services Group website for more information. 

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UC CEQA Handbook, Procedural Handbook and Model Approach for Implementing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), University of California, Office of Long-Range Planning, Office of the President, May 1991, revised February 1994.

-Guidelines-EH&S, Fire Marshal and Site Analysis During Project Planning

To identify existing project conditions, data is compiled for a variety of categories including climate, site features, environmental influences, historical data, land-use and regulatory controls, building codes and requirements, visual analysis, and circulation and access. These factors are included in an Initial Study, even though the objective of the Initial Study is to determine a project's impacts, if any (see UC CEQA Handbook.)

6.5.1 Site Analysis Report

The Office of the President recommends that the site analysis report include any of the following studies and reports that may have been previously completed by the University relating to the project:

  • Surveys of asbestos, PCBs, and seismic hazards
  • Disabled access
  • Long-range development plans and related Environmental Impact Reports
  • Circulation and parking plans
  • Utility plans
  • Roadway plans
  • Expansion plans for nearby buildings
  • Precinct or area plans
  • Facility design guidelines
  • Vehicular plans
  • Bicycle plans

6.5.2 Site Analysis Drawings

Site analysis drawings graphically combine a variety of the site analysis studies into a drawing or set of drawings. Although many of the items on these drawings are environmental, the drawings are not intended to be an exhaustive description, or to substitute for any of the requirements of the environmental impact report process.

6.5.3 Comparative Site Analysis

A comparative site analysis measures trade-offs among different project locations against a set of criteria and draws conclusions as to the most appropriate project site. A first step in this analysis is defining the criteria and their relative priorities. The criteria are typically derived from goals, objectives, or specific performance requirements. These measures may be divided into threshold criteria, which are absolute either acceptable or not acceptable requirements and more detailed criteria that have varying degrees of suitability. The criteria may include:

  • Accessibility.
  • Proximities.
  • Hazards.
  • Land availability and configuration (area and shape).
  • Physical characteristics and constraints.
  • Environmental impacts.
  • Costs (development and operation and maintenance).
  • Timing.
  • Design aspects.
  • Acceptability.
  • Compatibility of proposed use with existing uses.
  • Availability of essential services.

A subsequent step in the comparative site analysis is defining functional and Facility requirements for the intended site. The project program, its phasing, and other operational and management considerations must be understood in order to test if the program fits the site.

A comparative site analysis is an essential step if an EIR is to be prepared for the project. An EIR requires an evaluation of project alternatives, which can include alternative site locations. The preferred site must be justified based on its satisfaction of project objectives.

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Supplemental Report of the 1984 Budget Act, Item 6440-001-001 University of California, State of California Legislative Analyst, Sacramento, CA, June 14, 1984.

The University's Facility Audit and Inspection Program was established as a result of the recommendations contained in the Supplemental Report of the 1984 Budget Act. This audit and inspection program is designed to identify and prioritize deferred maintenance projects.

This process also identifies projects or systems that require replacement through the Capital Improvement Program. Facility planners should coordinate with operation and maintenance of plant departments to be aware of the Capital Renewal and Replacement Projects identified in this analysis (see FM6:2).

Campuses identify new utility requirements through the long-range development planning process or through more detailed campus-wide utility plans.

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6.7.1 Programming Objectives

Programming defines the needs of the user. That includes defining a project's functional needs interior and exterior functional requirements including space sizes, contents, activities and relationships. A project program serves not only as a basis for design and a source of information about a project, but frequently as a basis for seeking funding. The final product of programming is the project program, sometimes referred to as the Detailed Project Program (DPP).

6.7.2 The Project Program

The programming process concludes with a clear and orderly statement of the problem. Detailed program information is usually separated from the more general functional data. Project programs establish quality and scope. Quality is often defined abstractly in the project goals and more specifically in the project program. Scope is clearly defined and incorporates the following factors:

  • The definition of the users and the purpose of the users
  • The functions and programs
  • The assigned square feet of the proposed facility
  • Special factors

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This section describes approaches used to establish construction costs for project budgets. The construction cost of a project is part of the total project cost in the present Capital Improvement Budget (CIB).

6.8.1 Sources of Cost Information

Estimating construction costs typically involves using costs from similar prior projects and applying those costs to the present project, allowing for adjustments in location, scope, construction time period, and other factors.

6.8.2 Methods of Estimating Costs

The following methods are used to estimate construction costs (in order of increasing detail):

Cost per gross square foot. This method uses data about the costs for various building types published by cost information services, or compiled in databases by organizations such as the Association of University Architects (AUA).

Cost by building systems/components. Reference books are available that provide costs on components by building square foot and by square foot of building component.

Cost by building trade or Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) division. This level of estimate is useful at the Construction Documents Phase when enough detail is available on the project to break the various systems into component parts and do an accurate quantity survey similar to that done by contractors who are bidding a project.

6.8.3 Contingencies

Contingencies are normally used with all of the methods of estimating to allow for unknowns. Avoid adding explicit contingencies on top of implicit contingencies. The CIB provides for design and project contingencies.

The design contingency allows for the fact that projects often contain more elements when they are fully designed than could have been anticipated earlier in the design process. The project contingency is for unknowns during construction. The project contingency allows for unknown factors that could increase construction and related costs beyond the estimate. Project contingency is not the same as the escalation factor. (See 6.8.5 for information on indexing.)

6.8.4 Preparing the Construction Cost Estimate

The University capital improvement project funding process requires a level of estimating detail equivalent to the Cost by building systems/components method discussed above before a building design is established with components from which to estimate. Estimating the design cost is done from a written description of what is included in the proposed design.

Representative projects can be used as examples. Recommended comparisons are similar University-wide projects. By using the list of factors that influence costs and making assumptions about the factors relevant to the proposed project, these factors can be compared to those identified in the examples. A cost for each building component (factor) can be established by adjusting the related cost (e.g., weight of structure and loading) from the representative project to what are the assumed conditions of the proposed project.

6.8.5 Cost Indexing

Projecting historical cost data forward is accomplished by using the index published by Engineering News Record (ENR).

6.8.6 Donation Guidelines

Where all or any part of the labor and/or materials to be used in the design and construction of a project will be donated for no consideration or transferred to the University “at cost”, state contracting laws and University policies may apply. Consult construction counsel and the Guidelines for Donation to properly characterize the donation and determine the best treatment. Where volunteer labor will be used on a project, all volunteers (and their parent or guardian, if applicable) should complete a waiver form (Also see “Volunteer Labor").

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Revised June 30, 2015 (Change # FM 15-007-P)

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