Completed in 2016, Mesa Court Towers’ three six-story residence halls house as many as 1,016 students and include study areas, computer labs, great rooms, a fitness center, a recreation room, community kitchenettes, laundry facilities and a 780-seat dining commons. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Dec. 7, 2017 — Mesa Court Towers, the University of California, Irvine’s trendsetting freshman housing complex, has been selected as the 2017 Project of the Year by the nation’s leading design-build association.

The Design-Build Institute of America praised the three six-story, mid-rise residence halls as a “state-of-the art, dynamic community hub … relegating the very idea of dorm living to the dusty pages of old college yearbooks.” The DBIA award recognizes beautiful design as well as exemplary execution of the whole project, from design through construction.

Completed in 2016, the towers house as many as 1,016 residents in the sprawling Mesa Court community of 3,000 first-year students. The 250,000-square-foot complex includes 269 rooms, study areas, computer labs, great rooms, a fitness center, a recreation room, student office space, shared kitchenettes and laundry facilities – not to mention a cutting-edge, 780-seat dining commons, the Anteatery, that redefines the concept of the college cafeteria.

“Mesa Court Towers was designed to create a first-in-class experience in what we call a residential ‘living-learning community,’ which blends together student life and co-curricular learning to provide a safe and fulfilling campus living environment,” said Thomas Parham, UCI’s vice chancellor of student affairs. “The design combines residential and dining facilities with numerous amenities and public spaces to promote peer-to-peer learning and social connections that help our incoming students adjust to campus life and support their academic success.”

“A physical manifestation of UCI’s strategic pillar ‘growth that makes a difference,’ Mesa Court Towers demonstrates the strength of a team approach to delivering our projects,” said Brian Pratt, assistant vice chancellor of design & construction services and campus architect. “This award recognizes the full project: a beautiful living-learning environment for our students, a seamless process and a team working in lockstep to achieve something bigger. We are so proud of this team and project, and we are thrilled with this recognition from such a prestigious organization.”

This isn’t the first award for Mesa Court Towers. Earlier this year, it received the UC’s Best Practice Award for overall sustainable design; an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles chapter’s Committee for the Environment; and a Merit Award from the AIA Seattle chapter.

All 2017 DBIA award winners can be found online.

What is design-build?

Design-build is a method of project delivery in which one entity – the design-build team – works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. This creates one unified flow of labor from initial concept through completion, reintegrating the roles of designer and constructor. Because it employed the design-build process, the $96.7 million Mesa Court Towers project was finished only 28 months after the contract award date, at least a year faster than traditional contracting methods would allow.

UCI retained general contractor Hensel Phelps Construction as the design-builder. The complex was designed by the architectural firm Mithun Inc., and KHR Associates and Michael Wall Engineering provided engineering services.

“This project exemplifies the best of what design-build delivers. Innovation and collaboration resulted in not only a spectacular student residence but also a real contribution to the entire UCI community,” said Lisa Washington, executive director and CEO of the DBIA.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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