Customized Prefab Provides Economy, Sustainability and Flexibility

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Conservation Corp of Long Beach - Environmental Education Center
Exterior view showing cedar siding and metal wall panels 

The recently completed Conservation Corps of Long Beach Environment Education Center, a recycling center and educational community space in Signal Hill, shows that prefab construction can save cost, and contribute to the building’s functionality and sustainability, while not sacrificing aesthetics.

Located on a half acre site in Signal Hill, California, the 9,000 SF building needed to combine economy and flexibility within a structure that also provides a public presence to the street and physically represents the environmental mission of the Corps.  After numerous options were explored, a pre-engineered metal building was selected as the primary construction system.  The metal building, consisting of rigid steel frames set on a 25 foot bay module, and prefinished galvalume wall and roof panels set on a metal girt system, provided a flexible 50 foot clear span space in the most economical structure possible, allowing the building to be constructed below a $100 per square foot budget.  Equally important, the metal building was the most sustainable approach.  It combines a  100% recycled/reusable steel alloy structure and skin with the efficiency of computer designed and factory manufactured components that reduce material use and waste significantly over conventional buildings.  Additionally, the metal building incorporates many energy saving features, such as a cool roof that reduces heat gain, integral translucent poly-carbonate skylight roof panels that all but eliminate daytime lighting needs, and ten operable ridge vents that reduce the need for mechanical ventilation (only a small portion of the structure has a mechanical HVAC system).

Conservation Corp of Long Beach - Environmental Education Center
Flexible interior space with natural ventilation and daylighting

In order to create an interesting façade, the metal building was customized in a few simple yet strategic ways. First, we selected two standard colors for the exterior metal wall panels, but arranged them in a somewhat random pattern of vertical stripes to add some interest to the main body of the façade.  At the street side of the building, which contains the office functions, we elected to forgo metal panels all together, and instead use a screen of cedar panels (Read more about the cedar application in an earlier post here). Operable awning windows give this façade an animated street presence, and a glazed two story lobby, protected from the sun by a steel and wood canopy, provides visual punctuation and a strong presence on the street.

Overall, the combination of a standardized pre-engineered building with some customization produced an economical and sustainable solution for the Conservation Corp, perfectly suitable for its current needs and flexible enough to accommodate any number of future uses.

To see more of the Environmental Education Center, visit the project page on our website:


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