California State University – San Marcos Student Union Building

We think of ourselves as a university that is student-focused, innovative and vibrant … This building represents exactly what I think are the characteristics of our university.”

Campus Vibe: Venue makes ideal setting for academic camaraderie

DCI Engineers’ familiarity with the interplay between dual engineering systems was key to the success of this new four-story, 89,000-sf student union building at California State University – San Marcos.

The student union building is located at the major entrance to CSUSM, and serves as a center of campus life. The student union building features four different dining options, a coffee shop and lounge, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, a convenience store, a quiet lounge, a spiritual lounge, a TV lounge, activity room and commuter lounge.

The large, landscaped plaza at the upper level was located over the ballroom, requiring the design of deep, long-span steel trusses to support landscaping and assembly loading. The combination of lateral force resisting systems required sophisticated computer analysis to accurately predict the distribution of seismic and wind forces to the structure.

Location Pin Icon
San Marcos, California
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Square Feet:
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Higher Education
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Primary Material:
Concrete, Steel

Project Highlights

  • The building features a large rooftop plaza for lounging and eating, and a stepped grass open seating area.
  • The student union building was built with sustainable amenities.


  • Association of College Unions International (ACUI), Facility Design, Award of Excellence, 2015
  • American School and University, Outstanding Design, Architectural Portfolio, 2015
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Dick Hemmen

Principal Emeritus, Seattle


The best experience you can have as an engineer is when your client has a problem or challenge that defies common practice or typical designs, and you can come up with a simple, elegant, and economical solution that not only meets that challenge, but also saves the project. People do not want us to tell them why something won’t work, they want us to find something that will work.”

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