Design Reviews and Approval

Volume 3, Chapter 5


University projects require review prior to their entering the formal approval process. Project items to be reviewed include design and cost, site, seismic safety, and environmental impact. Normally, program and funding approvals occur prior to site, design, and environmental approvals; occasionally, however, these approvals may occur concurrently.

The review and approval processes described below apply to uncomplicated projects. Projects with multiple approvals require additional lead-time because of their complexity and to resolve any difficulties. In addition to these University approvals, various state, local, and University entities may require their own reviews and approvals for certain projects.

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- University policy: "Independent Design and Cost Review of Building Plans" (see FM1:5.1).

The University initiated independent design and cost review of building plans in 1985 in response to concerns about quality management of a rapidly growing Capital Improvement Program. University policy requires independent architectural design review and independent cost estimates of projects. Additionally, projects with a total budgeted cost, including administrative costs, of over $10 million are subject to Regents' design review and approval (see section 5.6 below); projects with a total budgeted cost over $5 million but under $10 million are subject to design review and approval of the Senior Vice President of Business and Finance (see section 5.8 below).

5.1.1 Independent Reviewer Selection

Independent reviewers must be appropriately licensed, have no connection with the project being reviewed, and not be University employees (with the exception of qualified faculty members).

5.1.2 Design Review Format

Design review format is left to the discretion of the Chancellor. However, the review is to be performed early in the preparation of design, at appropriate intervals during design, and at the time of design completion.

5.1.3 Cost Review Requirements

Cost review shall be made prior to the submittal of the project for Regents' design approval and shall be incorporated into the design presentation. Cost review should include lifecycle, maintenance, and ongoing regulatory compliance requirements.

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Environmental documentation begins during project planning phases, when projects are classified by their probable impact and need for environmental documentation. A Facility must prepare environmental documentation for all projects. A project may fall within the general exemption, may be categorically exempt, or may require an Initial Study to determine the severity of its impacts. The Initial Study identifies areas of environmental concern and is used to assess whether potential impacts are significant and require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), or if not significant, a Negative Declaration is prepared instead (see FM2.5.2).

If potential impacts are significant, a full EIR is prepared, usually with the assistance of outside consultants; this process includes publication and public review of a draft EIR and a public hearing. The final EIR is then prepared, also with the assistance of outside consultants. The final EIR responds to all comments received in writing and at the public hearing during the review period. The final EIR also proposes measures designed to mitigate significant environmental impacts and a program for monitoring implementation of these mitigation measures. The environmental documentation must be reviewed and approved the relevant decision maker depending on delegated approval authority, prior to design approval (see FM5.6.2).

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- University policy: Seismic Safety Policy

- Guidelines: UC Seismic Program Guidelines

5.3.1 Seismic Safety Policy

The Seismic Safety Policy is a Presidential Policy listed in Volume 1, Chapter 5 of the UC Facilities Manual.

5.3.2 Seismic Safety Program

Guidance for UC Seismic Safety Policy implementation and compliance are provided in the UC Facilities Manual Resource Directory, RD4.3 – UC Seismic Program Guidelines.



- Delegation of authority: "Approval of Siting of Individual Buildings or Projects," DA 0606 (see FM1:4.4).

- Delegation of authority: “Approval of LRDP Amendments and Administration of the California Environmental Quality Act,” DA 2135 (see FM1:4.4).

Chancellors have been delegated the authority to approve the project sites that are in general accordance with an approved Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP). DA 0606

Sites that are not in accordance with the LRDP must be approved by The Regents Committee on Grounds and Building for project over $10 million (see section 5.6 below). The President (re-delegated to Senior Vice President - Business and Finance) is authorized to approve minor LRDP amendments limited to:

  1. siting a building project of $10 million or less,
  2. shifting less than 30,000 gross square feet of allocated building space, and/or
  3. changing the land-use boundaries and designations for 4 acres or less of land. (see DA 2135).

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The Regents have delegated to the President the authority to approve project design with the following exceptions which require design approval by the Committee on Grounds and Buildings:

  1. Building projects with a total project cost in excess of $10 million, except when such projects consist of alterations or remodeling where the exterior of the building is not materially changed, buildings or facilities located on agricultural, engineering, or other field stations, and agricultural-related buildings or facilities located in agricultural areas of a campus.
  2. Capital improvement projects of any construction cost when, in the judgment of the President, a project merits review and approval by The Regents because of budget matters, fund-raising activities, environmental impacts, community concerns, or other reasons.

The President has delegated to the Senior Vice President - Business & Finance the authority to approve the design of projects with a total project cost over $5 million but under $10 million. Approval of the design of projects with a total cost less than $5 million has been delegated to the Chancellors et al. for approval. (see DA 2136)

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- Guide to the Preparation of Regents' Materials, University of California, Office of the President, Coordination & Review, Oakland, CA, August 1989 (and succeeding editions).

After the independent reviews (design, cost, and seismic) are completed, projects requiring Regents' approval or Senior Vice President's approval may be submitted. This process involves the preparation of an Action Item, the review of the project with the Office of the President, and a presentation to the Regents. The Office of the President is included in the Facility design review to provide an opportunity for University input on design content and review of Regents' policy. Procedures and guidelines for preparing and submitting Action Items are described below; the Office of the President design review and the Regents' presentation process is outlines in Design Matters.

5.6.1 Guidelines for Preparing and Submitting Regents' Action Items

Site, design, and environmental approvals may all be included in one Regents' Action Item. The general procedures for writing and submitting Regents' Action Items are handled by the Regents' Coordinators for the Office of the President. For more information about these procedures, contact the Office of the President.

Prerequisites. Projects lacking official project budget approval, design professional appointment, independent seismic and structural reviews, or proper environmental documentation will not be accepted for design review and approval. Projects requiring Regents' review are also required to have independent design & cost review completed. All prerequisites must be completed prior to submission of the Action Item. Coordinate all exceptions well in advance with the Office of the President.

Format. The format for preparing an Action Item can be found in the OP Capital Planning website and is appropriate for most projects. Discuss exceptions with the Office of the President. A computer file containing the Action Item template and a template for the Project Statistics sheet (see below) is available from the Office of the President. A computer file and a hard-copy version of the Draft Item are both submitted to the Office of the President. The names and telephone numbers of the planner or project manager and the project manager's supervisor are provided on the item in the location on the right-hand block on the "Drafted" line.

Writing Style. The general strategy for writing Action Items is to be brief while including all important information. Remove extra phrases, adjectives, opinions, unrelated facts, and long explanations.

Statistical and Cost Data. Project Statistics sheet figures may be obtained from either the Project Planning Guide budget or the current project estimate; the chosen source must be noted on the sheet. If project estimate figures are used for the statistics sheet, budget figures must be submitted on a separate page.

Because The Regents often review comparable University project costs in detail, it is important to research costs early and to ensure that these are included in the draft Action Item submitted to the Office of the President.

Lead Time. Design and environmental items require a lengthy review. A draft of the Action Item is sent to the Office of the President approximately six (6) weeks prior to the meeting of the Regents' Committee on Grounds and Building. The Office of the President reviews the design and environmental portions of a Regents' Action Item. The Office of the President circulates and reviews the design and environmental portions of the Action Item. The schedule for submitting Action Items to the Office of the President is distributed to the Facilities as part of the general preparation for Regents' meetings. The Design Review Calendar is also available on the Office of the President's Planning, Design & Construction web site (see Design Matters).

Projects requiring only Senior Vice President's approval also require an Action Item. These should be prepared in the same manner and within the same schedule as a Regents' Action Item. (see section 5.8 below)

5.6.2 Environmental Documentation

The Regents' Action Item states that The Regents have reviewed and considered the environmental document and have certified the EIR or adopted the Negative Declaration document as one of the actions. Within or as an attachment to the item, the Environmental Impact Summary provides the overview of the environmental review process and highlights any significant environmental issues. The Findings are a separate document, reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel, which states in detail how each environmental issue was addressed.

5.6.3 Procedures for Submitting Environmental Documents

The Facility sends copies of the final environmental documents to the Office of the President approximately two weeks before the Regents' meeting. These are distributed to The Regents and the Office of the President.

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The design review process consists of a design review meeting with the Office of the President staff approximately two to three weeks before a more formal presentation to the Regents' Grounds and Building Committee.

5.7.1 Preparation

The Office of the President participates in the Facility design review to provide an opportunity for University input on design content and review of Regents' policy. Informal reviews with the Office of the President Coordinator should be held while the project is in the early design phases. Three months in advance of the Regents' meeting date, the Office of the President must be notified that a capital improvement project with a total cost of over $10 million will be presented for Regent' approval. This schedule is also applicable for projects requiring Senior Vice President approval.

5.7.2 Office of the President Design Review Meeting

The Office of the President design review meeting is held approximately two to three weeks in advance of the meeting of the Regents' Grounds and Building Committee. Upon request, a project may be scheduled for design review at an earlier date. The meeting is held at the Office of the President and is attended by Facility staff, the Assistant Vice President - Facilities Administration, and other Facilities Administration staff, as appropriate. Final presentation materials are not necessary for this meeting; "rough" drawings, a draft Powerpoint presentation, and supporting data are acceptable. The draft Action Item (see section 5.6.1 above ) and project cost data, schedule, and efficiency must have been submitted previously.

The following materials should be presented at the meeting:

  1. A site map or aerial photograph of the project area
  2. Photographs of surrounding areas
  3. Land-use plan of the long-range development plan
  4. Site plan
  5. Floor plans
  6. Elevations on all sides
  7. Major sections (if required to explain design)
  8. Two renderings
  9. A color and materials board
  10. Regulatory requirements summary (during construction and ongoing maintenance)
  11. Design analysis, life-cycle cost analyses, and other support data

The results of the design review meeting, which may include directives or changes, will be sent to the Facility.

This is the only presentation of the project that must be made if the project requires the Senior Vice President's approval.

5.7.3 Meeting of the Regents' Grounds and Building Committee

The meeting of the Regents' Grounds and Building Committee is scheduled before the Regents' Board meeting (see Regents' Item Submission Schedule [pdf])). The meeting is normally held in the Oakland/San Francisco area. However, the meeting location can change and campuses are urged to coordinate with UCOP Design & Construction services to verify meeting date, time, and location.

This meeting is a public meeting and must be attended by a quorum of the Committee, the Senior Vice President - Business and Finance, and the Assistant Vice President - Facilities Administration. The project is presented by senior Facility officials and staff, as appropriate. After a question and answer period, the Committee votes to approve the actions requested. If the project is approved, it may proceed into the next phase of development. Further action by the full Board is not necessary so long as the project does not require adoption of a Long Range Development Plan and the program and funding have been approved.

It is important that the Facility coordinate the presentation with the Office of the President well in advance of this meeting; the Office of the President can provide information on appropriate presentation styles and can determine whether supplemental information, such as budget data or project analysis, is required. In addition to the formal presentation materials, the Facility may arrange to have additional explanatory materials (such as extra slides) available to answer questions. Presentation models are optional and are only used if they are needed to clearly illustrate the project design.


Design approval authority for projects over $5 million, but under $10 million, has been delegated by the President to the Senior Vice President - Business and Finance. (see DA 2136). Once a project has been developed to a sufficient level of detail, (i.e., at the end of Schematic Design) and after all necessary campus design approvals have been obtained, a project may be submitted.

5.8.1 Guidelines for Preparing and Submitting Presidential Action Items

The guidelines for preparing and submitting Presidential Action Items are the same as for the preparation and submittal of Regents' Action Items. Projects require independent seismic review, official project budget approval, design professional appointment, and proper environmental documentation. Although not required, it is recommended that projects also have independent design and cost review.

5.8.2 Environmental Documentation

The guidelines for preparing the environmental documentation for Presidential Action Items are the same as for a Regents Action Item.

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 Revised August 27, 2018

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