“In a way, the new Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at UCLA is masquerading. We’ve created this building that’s LEED qualified, but it has this antique, old-world charm. It’s wrapped in a Spanish-mission aesthetic, but under the hood, it’s stunningly high-tech. At four stories tall and 23,000 square feet, it will become home to almost 100 fraternity brothers. Generations of PKPs have roamed the halls above this ground, developing character, creating lifelong friendships, and learning the skills, morals, and values that are the launchpad of successful careers. And just like the old house stood for the better part of the past century, we anticipate that this one will be around for many, many years to come.
We had a joke about building the house to ‘prison specs.’ It’s designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear, and we devoted a special focus to its serviceability by investing a little extra cost up front, so the chapter won’t have to spend a lot of money on constant rehab and repair. We designed the foundation to be even more stable and secure than code required, and we carried that principle through in everything from the metal doorframes to the mechanical system. The building’s ‘brain’ is connected to the Internet, so that if there’s ever a problem, it will alert the service contractor, and they can diagnose it remotely.
We’re shooting for LEED Silver, and the sustainable highlights are truly impressive. The majority of the building is designed with LED lighting, which will help offset the utility bills. The water fixtures are also ultra-efficient. There’s an up-front cost for a lot of that, but it’ll pay huge dividends in the long term.
We’re also using a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) that’s essentially a more flexible method of air-conditioning and heating. When you try to cool down a space, the output is heat. So if there’s a temperature difference between two rooms, the heat created from cooling one will be distributed to the other and vice versa. Each room is independently controlled, and the system knows to shut itself off when the windows are open.
There were a couple of win-win scenarios, and the demolition is a perfect example. The old house was torn down very carefully, with each brick being chiseled out in order to be reused somewhere else. We were lucky to find these huge, rough-sawn redwood beams and sell them for salvage. We salvaged as much as we could, even down to the concrete, which was crushed and used as the gravel for drainage underneath the garage slab.
All of this scored LEED points, but it also kept the cost down. We initially got demolition bids of $120,000-plus, but by allowing the contractor to salvage the materials, we were able to offset that cost. It may have taken a little extra effort to save $80,000 on demolition, but because this project is funded in large part by donations, we tried to be very conscious with the budget. Alumni have been the cornerstone: guys like Bob Rayburn, who have been exceedingly generous with their time and money. You want your donors to trust that their money is used wisely. That’s why every dollar we spent was for a good reason.
Bottom line: We wanted to design a building that would be here a long time. We’ve had a long tradition with UCLA, and we have fond memories of our time with the fraternity. It’s important for kids coming here in the future to have a building that they will take pride in. Just like those of us who came before, they’ll have a home to call their own. And it’s one that will stand the test of time.”