The Sound School Regional Vocational Aquaculture Center

New Haven, Conn.
August 11, 2010

Since 1980, the Sound School has been providing a unique education in aquaculture and marine sciences to high school students from 17 towns in the New Haven, Conn., public school system. In 1998, the local office of engineering firm Dewberry-Goodkind (based in Fairfax, Va.) was brought in to coordinate a major expansion that included completely renovating four of the original wood-framed buildings (two of which required extensive mold remediation) totaling 26,000 sf.

Moreover, the Building Team, led by Dewberry engineer Francis Kobylenski, had to deal with an abandoned 1930s wastewater treatment facility on the site. Polychlorinated biphenyls—those dreaded PCBs—had leached into the brick and mortar, making the building unfit for use. However, it was determined that the 30,600-sf slab on which the structure's steel cofferdam rested could be salvaged. Reinforcing the cofferdam with sheet piles and using lightweight concrete to backfill the original storage tanks saved $1.5 million in construction costs for the new $21 million Regional Vocational Aquaculture Center.

In response to a request from neighborhood residents, the 40,000-sf center was styled to reflect the Art Deco look of the original treatment plant, using masonry and precast materials.

The Building Team and Sound School faculty visited the world-renowned Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., in an effort to virtually replicate the best equipment, laboratories, and aquaculture facilities that could be found in the most advance industrial settings. With its pathology and toxicology laboratories, greenhouse, fish production facilities, veterinary and animal science programs, and marine technology shops, the new center arguably could rival any such facility in academia or industry.

Other improvements include a 300-foot dock for boating and seamanship training; a 425-foot pier (built over a stormwater outfall sewer) for fishing and marine studies; and two new boat launches. A new trail on land previously blocked by the treatment center has given nearby residents better visual and physical access to the harbor. The Building Team even preserved a floating machine shop used to repair vessels at sea in World War II.

If experience is any measure, 80% of the Sound School's 320 students will go on to college. No matter what, they will have had a remarkable high school experience. Perhaps that is why a number of the judges for the Building Team Awards said, "I wish I could have gone to school there."