Science Center construction advances to completion for July 2021

Milestones mark steady progress to the project as it comes into full view with an end date in sight.


Daniel Hernandez

The final touches on the framework for the highly anticipated Science Center are being completed in this view of the north entrance to the building on Sept. 8.

By Daniel Hernandez, Social Media Editor

The long-awaited Science Center is finally taking shape at the Contra Costa College campus where the last two steel beams are to be placed onto the building’s three-story frame, symbolizing another step toward the project’s completion.

Despite nationwide lockdowns occurring since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction work has not stopped.

In fact, it is a week ahead of schedule according to Herbert Smith, the BHM Construction Inc. project engineer who is overseeing the build.

“That’s a big deal when it comes to these types of projects,” he said.

Upon the site where once stood the Liberal Arts and Health Science buildings, the new Science Center is expected to accommodate modernized teaching facilities for astronomy, chemistry, engineering, physical and biological sciences.

Administrators and STEM faculty of CCC were involved in developing the new building with architect firm SmithGroup to make the layout best fit their teaching needs.

Now that their vision is finally realized, CCC and BHM celebrated this accomplishment with a ‘topping off’ ceremony.

“Anytime you build above two stories, the owners sign a piece of the steel that gets erected into the building,” Smith said, “so that they have a time capsule.”

Traditionally, the final beam that gets placed onto a building demarcates the final height of the structure.

That event was commemorated in a topping off ceremony, but due to social distancing restrictions, the signing was done asynchronously.

“Because of COVID-19, it wasn’t a big fancy formal ceremony,” Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said.

With limited announcement of the event, the two steel beams were placed outside the site so contributors to the project could come place their signatures – by appointment.

“The beam signing was more ceremony than substance, which is to say the substance was in the personal ceremony that each person engaged in with the signing,” said Jon Celesia, physics and astronomy department chairperson. Celesia was one of the STEM faculty who got to partake in the event.

The commemorative beams sat outside for the final two weeks of August before its addition to the frame in the coming weeks. From there on, framework for the interior and exterior walls will be put in place.

Technology Systems Manager James Eyestone, a CCC representative at construction meetings, said “The structural steel for the building is basically now complete and BHM will be pouring material for the decks on all the floors of the building. That will be done next – probably by the end of the month.”

According to Smith, walls will be up by the end of this month so that paneling for the plaster and bricks can begin while dry weather lasts.

Excavators, backhoes and a crane are currently onsite doing work for the project’s third and final phases of construction, known as increment two.

Increment zero was for Central Valley Environmental (CVE) to begin demolition of the LA and HS buildings in 2018 and remove the rubble offsite.

Increment one was done during 2019, where D-Line Constructors took bulldozers to the site for leveling dirt and preparing the foundation.

The bid to work on increment two was awarded to BHM, a Napa-based construction firm, by the district office in September 2019. Foundation work and assembling the frame began in the months that followed.

“It’s been one of our better projects to date,” King said.

Slowly but steadily, the $68 million Science Center funded by Measure E is coming into full view.

The building will be a major upgrade for students and faculty, eventually replacing the Biological and Physical Sciences buildings and their equipment – renowned for being some of the oldest facilities on campus.

Some of the main attractions the Science Center will feature are a 55-seat planetarium, a stargazing observation deck and three floors with dedicated laboratories, classrooms and offices.

“Our Center for Science Excellence and Adelante programs will soon have a first-class home,” Celesia said.

The building will feature a dedicated space suited specifically to the needs of the program departments.

Celesia expressed his excitement for the new building. “The people in the CCC sciences have worked hard to grow and bring exceptional programs to West County,” he said. “This gives students inspiration and support to pursue gainful and rewarding employment in the STEM fields.”

The original opening date for the Science Center was was slated for 2023. However, because of the project’s steady advancements, the opening date is expected to be moved up to July 2021.
“Completion of the Science Center finishes the rebuilding of this community’s own complete college,” Celesia said.