Stephanie Barbaran, Los Angeles Business Journal Interim Editor

Stephanie Barbaran, Los Angeles Business Journal Interim Editor

More than a million kids are starting the school year in L.A. County. And just days after I dropped my kids off for their first day, I revisited my alma mater, Santa Monica High School — virtually, for now — to learn about its new $154 million Discovery Building.

It’s the first open-building-concept educational structure in the United States, according to James Mary O’Connor, principal at Santa Monica-based architecture and planning firm Moore Ruble Yudell and one of the lead architects on the project.

 
Open building, in its simplest definition, means flexible. Rather than halls of static classrooms, the 265,000-square-foot structure has spaces that can be easily modified to suit its users. This approach means a structure can be adapted to changing needs over time, increasing its sustainability.


O’Connor and John Dale, founder of the Council on Open Building and a principal at sustainable engineering and design firm HED’s downtown office, collaborated closely on the Discovery Building’s design, which replaces deteriorating science and technology buildings dating back to the 1950s.


“This was new for us,” O’Connor said. “Walls can be opened so that indoor and outdoor spaces can connect. The rooftop is a huge learning space. It really makes sense in a post-Covid environment.”


The four-story, energy-efficient building features rooftop class space, 36 classrooms, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a full-service kitchen serving Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s schools, an indoor and outdoor cafeteria, underground parking and multipurpose rooms. Career tech space in the building is planned to support the school’s Project Lead the Way, a four-year engineering program.


The building opened on time, and students and staff are settling in now.

 
Of the more than 130 contractors, subcontractors and suppliers involved in the two-year project, 43 are based in L.A. County, according to data provided by Alan Braatvedt, Samohi director of projects at SMMUSD’s Facility Improvement Projects and Massetti Consulting. Funding for these improvement projects comes from bond measures BB and ES, passed in 2006 and 2012, respectively.

 
St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Cos., which has an office downtown, was the contractor for the project. Two of its main subcontractors included Glendale-based Moe Plumbing Services and Glendora-based California Commercial Pools.


“It was one of the largest high school building projects in the state,” Steve Massetti, founder of Culver City-based Massetti Consulting and bond program manager and consultant for SMMUSD, said.

 
O’Connor likened the campus redevelopment to the high school turning into a community college.


The Business Journal frequently covers local colleges and universities contributing to L.A.’s diverse talent pool, but schools across the county are nurturing talent at every level of education, deepening that reservoir.

 
Revisiting Samohi reminded me of the years I spent on the school newspaper, dreaming of the day I might work in an editorial role for a prestigious publication. In the most recent phase of my content-focused career, I’ve had the pleasure of being the Business Journal’s managing editor for the last two years, and now I have the honor of serving as interim editor.


Remind your kids that, with hard work and dedication, dreams do come true.

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