[caption id="attachment_95340" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Offices and workspace in the new Marin County Emergency Operations Facility at Marin Commons in San Rafael.[/caption]

SAN RAFAEL -- A $78.4 million project to transform a former insurance company offices into new quarters for county of Marin emergency services departments was completed under budget, but it could have cost a lot more.

The alternative to buying and renovating the 315,000-square-foot, three-story office building at 1600 Los Gamos Dr. was to construct an 85,000-square-foot, $100 million near Lagoon Park at Marin County Civic Center, according to Matthew Hymel, county administrator. Redevelopment consultant, property manager and general contractor Sares Regis Group of Northern California convinced county officials to renovate instead.

"There is a lot to celebrate,” Mr. Hymel said in a statement. “We had a longstanding goal to have an emergency operations center that could withstand a major earthquake. We bought the building when it was really a good time to buy. The project came in on time and on budget, so overall we’re very pleased.”

[caption id="attachment_95341" align="alignright" width="300"] A stairway in the new Marin County Emergency Operations Facility at Marin Commons in San Rafael.[/caption]

Renovations and final tenant improvements are completed for the new Marin County Emergency Operations Facility, and county staff began moving into the building last month. The Sheriff's Office will occupy 118,000 square feet on all the first floor and half the second and third floors. About a dozen information technology employees will also work there.

Another 45,000 square feet will house other county employees who work in leased offices in the area.

The rest of the building will be leased to tenants.

“For the first time, infrastructure and technology that is critical to the safety of the entire county will be housed in a seismically-safe building designed specifically for that purpose,” said Marin County Sheriff-Coroner Robert Doyle.

Strengthening the building to remain operational after a major earthquake plus structural alterations, seismic upgrades, 911-call center radio equipment, data centers and server technology, interior redesign and furnishings cost more than $50 million.

The building, one of two at the 465,000-square-foot Marin Commons office development on 35 acres, received LEED Gold certification after retrofit.

To meet LEED standards, water-conservation measures were implemented, including use of reclaimed water in cooling towers and elsewhere in the structure. Also, a 463-kilowatt photovoltaic array was installed, meeting a county goal of 1 megawatts of photovoltaic panels on county facilities by 2015.

“We are very excited to complete this vital community emergency facility in an economical and sustainable manner,” said Jeff Birdwell, president of Sares Regis' commercial division. “This project will provide much-needed emergency services, along with the ability to bring in new revenue for the County by initiating a fresh tenant leasing program for this desirably-located property.”

The county bought the 41-year-old larger of the Marin Commons buildings in December 2011 for $28.4 million. It was once home to Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, which relocated to a three-building campus in north Novato.

The building has almost four times the space the county needed but replaces costly leased space. The county will have rental income when the remaining space is occupied.