The Crown Jewel

Collecting awards is easy for the Village of Woodbury, a new residential community in Irvine, Calif., designed and developed by the Irvine Community Development Company. Voted “Best Master-Planned Community of the Year” in 2006 by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), it is one of four major awards for the village. One of the NAHB judges remarked it was “refreshing to find a community where asphalt isn’t the main amenity; where residents are only five minutes maximum from a park.”

Jim Maloney, a principal of the SWA Group, the planning and landscape architectural firm involved in the development, says that Woodbury’s amenities are “on the edge of being above and beyond the typical.” Maloney is hedging his bets with that statement.

Kevin Chudy, General Manager of the Woodbury Association, isn’t as modest as he talks about the multiple features that comprise The Commons, the 30-acre central gathering place and the crown jewel of the community.

Irvine Village Of Woodbury--An Architect’s View

“To describe Woodbury, one must first describe Irvine, Calif.,” says Maloney. The City of Irvine was the Irvine Ranch, which stretched 100,000 acres from the Pacific Ocean to the ClevelandNational Forest. In the 1960s, Irvine began to grow with a series of villages.

Woodbury is a one-mile square chunk of the northern portion of Irvine. The master planning for this village started in 2000, and it is anticipated that Woodbury will have approximately 4,100 residential units at full build-out--including single-family detached homes, townhomes, condominiums and apartments--in four neighborhood areas.

Located in The Commons is Woodbury Community Park, with a soccer field, two baseball diamonds, two lighted full-size basketball courts, a tot lot, picnic areas and a community center staffed by city parks personnel. WoodburyElementary School also is located at The Commons.

Also within The Commons is The Club--a resort-style recreational complex exclusively for Woodbury residents. The Club includes three swimming pools, four lighted tennis courts, a lighted basketball court, a sand volleyball court, garden courtyards and other lushly landscaped social seating areas, an outdoor fireplace, a Great Lawn for outdoor events and a clubhouse with two multi-purpose buildings available for private parties, one with a service kitchen.

The swimming pools provide for almost any aquatic need. The “sports pool” is an eight-lane Junior Olympic-size competition pool with a grass seating area for spectators. It is the home of the Woodbury Waves Swim Team, and also accommodates water polo games, swim lessons and lap swimmers.

The “family pool” is a lagoon-style pool with beach edge that is ADA accessible. It includes a children’s water garden (spray park) and wading pool. The children find the water-garden “guardian” delightful. The guardian is a precast concrete figure with an interactive water spray.

The “resort pool” is the quietest of the three, with readers stretched out in lounge chairs. This pool has a spa, cabanas and a barbecue.

Maloney explains that the design of the pools was inspired by the Venetian pools of Coral GablesPark in Florida--a park built in the 1920s. “The arcades and pergolas set a precedent for the architectural design,” he says. “The original pool was developed in an old spring-fed quarry, which had a beach entry. We tried to emulate that design, keeping in mind the vast differences in building code between 1920 and today.”

Add a clubhouse with a multi-purpose room, fitness/activities room and courtyard for indoor/outdoor events, and one can see why Woodbury wins awards.

The General Manager’s Viewpoint

Summer 2007 was the first summer season for the facility, and the pools were packed. “Our lagoon pool is unbelievable,” states Chudy, who took possession of The Club last September. “It is a huge draw for families.”

Chudy keeps the activities rolling for the community too. There is an assortment of classes and clubs held in the multi-purpose rooms, from standards such as yoga and children’s gymnastics to others tailored specifically for new homeowners, such as Home Depot’s “Do-It-Yourself” event. There are movies in the park, holiday celebrations and even a kid’s bike rodeo.

Chudy is quick to point out The Commons is not the only space for recreation within the village. Multiple paths link the distinct residential districts to each other, The Commons area and the commercial area. There are multiple planned districts within each quadrant, and each is designed with at least one signature park or garden--perfect for socializing or play. There also will be four neighborhood pools with gas barbecues, fireplaces, grass lawn areas, play equipment and restrooms. With approximately 1,900 of the anticipated 4,000 units built-out, not all the areas are developed.

Managing a resort-quality facility means high-end pool service with cleaning and servicing occurring five days a week. It also requires neighborhood support, realistic budgeting and financial backing.

Pre-construction Service -- Saving Money, Decreasing Delays

Building a project as complex and expansive as The Club in Woodbury could have left many areas open for change orders, cost over-runs and construction delays. The Irvine Community Development Company, the developer of The Club, chose to use the services of Consolidated Contracting Services Inc. (CCS) to provide pre-construction services. In doing so, CCS saved thousands of dollars, reduced the number of change orders, and finished the project sooner than anticipated.

Brent Mathews of CCS explains the advantages of pre-construction services. Before going out to bid, a team of experts reviews the plans under several different categories, including:

Plan overlay--The construction team identifies potential conflicts and points out improvements that can be made to ease the project’s overall constructability.

Material selection and procurement--The contractor works closely with the architects for verification of design and materials that will be best suited for such high-quality projects and will meet the architect’s overall design intent. Materials with long lead times are identified and pre-ordered to be available in time for the start of construction.

Schedule and cost estimate--The team performs a comprehensive budget review to aid the owner in plans to fund such a project and give an accurate schedule and cost for completion.

All this helps to ensure that time- and money-consuming change orders are kept to a minimum.

With the Woodbury project, the team reviewed the elevations on civil plans, buildings, pools and concrete decks. A full schedule was then developed to include thousands of individual tasks and corresponding milestones. The budget was reviewed at the 50 percent- and 80 percent-completion points in design development, allowing the owner to have a tight estimate of real project costs and subsequent funding options.

“With our experience on similar projects, we know problematic areas,” says Mathews. “For example, we understood clearly the scheduled sequence of work and helped with design suggestions, including the pool heater venting, pool deck concrete design and layout, and custom precast. It helps to have a second set of eyes to prevent conflicts that, if not caught until the job is under construction, can cause delays.”

He adds, “We identified 70 or 80 items of varying significance on the Woodbury project. On a job of this magnitude, this held the change orders to just over 2-3 percent of the job. On general competitive bid jobs with no pre-construction review, it is common to have 6-8 percent of the cost in change orders, not to mention time delays,” he further explained.

As part of these pre-construction services, CCS actually constructed full-scale mock-ups of the Woodbury Recreation Center project. These mock-ups included a full-building section, decorative concrete samples, pool coping, tile and brick paver sections. Due to the replicas, the team was able to make improvements to the entry concrete color, brick-paver layout design, and the precast concrete attachment and interface with the building. These changes were incorporated into the final design and overall construction of the project, once again preventing delays if changes were made.

“Pre-construction services appear to be a new trend,” Mathews says. “The past three years have seen more interest in up-front review and more people becoming accustomed to the service.”

While this type of review typically happens on larger jobs, all projects can certainly benefit from a pre-construction review of some type.

For those considering pre-construction services on a job, Mathews has a few words of wisdom. “Make sure the contractor has experience working on the same type and size of project.” At the beginning of any project, his firm presents to the owner a team description and resumes for the individual staff involved. “Sometimes a company as a whole may not have experience on a particular type of job. At a minimum it should submit the team’s qualifications and how it can meet the needs of your job.”

Perhaps the biggest advantage is the peace of mind knowing the owner/manager will save time and money.

Linda Stalvey is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Parks & Rec Business and Camp Business magazines. She gave up Washington, D.C., public relations to indulge her passion for parks, the environment and outdoor activities in Medina, Ohio. You can reach her at