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Complex Coordination Meets Fast Track Schedule

Since 1941 La Jolla Music Society has enhanced the vitality and has deepened the cultural life of San Diego by presenting and producing a dynamic range of performing arts for the community. That artistic inspiration and passion continues with the development of The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, known as The Conrad.

The 49,200-square-foot center was designed by New England-based Epstein Joslin Architects Inc. EJA has a deep understanding of how a venue can enhance a performance experience, as well as the neighborhood and the cultural landscape of San Diego.

The La Jolla Music Society engaged Yasuhisa Toyota, president of Nagata Acoustics America to develop a concert hall that is acoustically-exceptional. Nagata Acoustics, Inc. is a leader in providing the best technologically advanced acoustical design services and the company has worked on many important concert venues such as Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall.

The Conrad houses two performance venues. The Baker-Baum Concert Hall has a capacity of 513, while The JAI can accommodate — depending on the event — 116 people seated at tables, 170 in rows of chairs, or 300 standing. The two venues are named, respectively, after four major donors — retired Sempra CEO Stephen Baum and his wife, Brenda Baker, and retired Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan. In addition to holding world-class performances, The Conrad is available to rent for education programs, conferences, weddings or myriad other uses by individuals and organizations, making the venue an ideal community partner.

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What Made The Project Unique?
Construction of The Conrad came with a bright spotlight and high expectations due to community anticipation and The La Jolla Music Society’s vision for the facility to serve as the heart of cultural, arts education, and community event activity in La Jolla. Aside from the external pressures that a high-profile project like this has built in—the project also had many unique challenges from an electrical installation perspective for the Bergelectric team to overcome.

For one, the added infrastructure installed for the performance lighting and sound—in addition to the normal power and standard low voltage systems—brought a high-level of coordination that had to be carefully executed. Both performance venues (Baker-Baum and JAI) included high-end finishes within a complex concrete structure.

Bergelectric’s project manager, foremen, and journeymen-electricians were all challenged to come up with innovative solutions on a daily basis. “The Conrad was the most complex coordination effort that I have ever been involved with in my 32-years of electrical construction experience,” said Bergelectric Sr. Project Manager Randy Drinkward.

Special Obstacles
The Conrad aims to be known as a music hall, internationally recognized for its excellent acoustics. For that reason, La Jolla Music Society partnered with Yasuhisa Toyota, president of Nagata Acoustics America to develop a concert hall that is acoustically-exceptional. For contractors on The Conrad, acoustic-exceptionalism translated to strict and unusual requirements. Bergelectric’s installation methods had to be evaluated and approved by the acoustic engineer prior to installation—adding a layer of complexity that most projects are not subject to.

The acoustic requirements called for unconventional electrical installations as well. For example, air handling units were installed in the basement of the facility under six-layers of drywall in order to contain noise. Bergelectric provided power to these units by penetrating all layers of drywall in an acoustically acceptable manner.  The coordination effort on The Conrad was both immense and difficult. Bergelectric met as a team (internally) at the beginning stages to determine the best methods to build the project. Right off the bat, they had to make a big decision—do they install PVC conduit in the decks or run conduit in the ceilings and walls after the deck is poured? Berg’s team unanimously agreed that the most efficient approach was to install as much of the conduit in the decks as possible to ensure they could physically fit the large amount of conduit required by this project. Berg’s team also felt strongly that this method would help the entire construction team meet the aggressive schedule.

This method received initial push-back from the structural engineer due to concerns of congestion in the deck, but by establishing a good working relationship with the engineer, Bergelectric was able to work through the areas of concern, and came up with creative solutions that would satisfy the entire project team. Bergelectric relied heavily on their experienced BIM Department during this process to carefully coordinate all of the conduit in the deck and prevent clashes with other trades before installation took place.

“Even with all our upfront planning—and putting as much conduit in the decks as we possibly could—we still experienced issues fitting some of the conduit work that couldn’t go in the decks,” said Drinkward. As an example, Bergelectric had to install multiple 1-1/2” conduits to feed special color changing lights on each side of the Baker-Baum Concert Hall. General contractor, DPR, had to seek and receive approval from the structural engineers to burn holes in the structural steel at specific locations—allowing space for these conduits. “It was really the only option available to us due to how congested the ceilings were,” Drinkward continued.

Bergelectric’s scope included providing and installing cable passes in many locations. Cable passes are used by stage technicians who set up and take down events and productions to safely route temporary cables throughout a venue. These cables include power and control cables for stage machinery, production lighting, and audiovisual equipment. Cable passes and other cable management devices allow temporary cables to pass through walls, floors, ceilings, along walls, above doorways, and beneath walking surfaces. Many of these routes permit cables to safely penetrate fire-rated walls.

The Conrad had two separate lighting design plans—one for the performance lighting power and controls, and one for the architectural lighting controls. These plans were designed by two different engineers who did not coordinate during the design phase. Navigating the installation of both designs was an arduous task for Bergelectric. It required multiple meetings with the designers, engineers, suppliers and Berg’s internal staff to maintain the aesthetic vision of both design firms with minimal compromise.

The Result
Despite all of obstacles The Conrad project presented, Bergelectric’s team was able to take them all in stride. Bergelectric played a vital role in making this incredible venue come to life. The La Jolla Music Society now has a performing arts center that will enable them to expand the audiences they draw and market to. The Conrad will enable them to extend their legacy of ‘bringing the world to San Diego’ and of maintaining their status as a world-class organization, with their new world-class venue.

48,700  Square Feet

Electrical Construction Cost
$3.2 Million

March 2017 – September 2019

Delivery Method
Design Bid Build

Other Team Members
DPR Construction

Berg Regional Office
San Diego




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