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A fresh start: upgrades and expansions mark new school year

Education Facilities

A fresh start: upgrades and expansions mark new school year

Projects typically emphasize natural light, collaborative spaces, and resource efficiency.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | September 24, 2019

The 19th-Century Beaux Arts Flagg Building within the Corcoran School of Arts & Design is now a state-of-the-art environment for education and exhibition. Image: LEO A DALY

Another school year has begun and has ushered in the start or completion of myriad new construction, renovation, and/or improvement projects at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels.  Here’s information on some that have crossed our desk this month:

•On September 21, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the opening of the Regenerative Learning Garden at Arroyo High School in El Monte, Calif. The garden was selected as the fourth Legacy Project by the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles, which provided $20,000 in funding, as well as design and project management support that allowed Eco Urban Gardens, which proposed the project, to renovate 12,900 of the 32,000 sf of garden space. Over 400 plants were installed, as well as bioswale and an EcoLab to increase biodiversity of insect, bird, and animal species. The goals of this project include growing organic food, reducing water use to maintain green spaces, and instructing students about environmentally friendly careers.

The end goals for the Regenerative Learning Garden include growing organic food, and reducing a community's carbon footprint. Image: USGBC-LA


•The architectural firm LEO A DALY, working with construction manager Whiting-Turner, recently completed the first renovation phase of George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts & Design, which represents the most significant upgrade to this landmark Beaux-Arts building in 90 years. Functions that were previously housed in the basement and sub-basement are now elevated. Every level now features a mix of social, learning, and studio spaces. Functions that were previously housed in the basement and sub-basement are now elevated. Every level now features a mix of social, learning, and studio spaces. On the first floor, former director’s suites have been converted into seminar classrooms, and the former bookstore into a computer lab.

The heart of the building is the Colonnade, an atrium that serves as a display site for exhibitions and a gathering place for visitors and employees. Image: LEO A DALY.

The team used hygrothermal wall analysis to forensically analyze the building’s envelope for air leakage, moisture ingress and degradation of the building envelope.  Then, computational fluid dynamics modeling determined whether mechanical and architectural design solutions would achieve National Gallery of Arts criteria. This iterative process continued until NGA was satisfied with the model’s performance. Consultants on this project included Mueller Associates (MEP), Silman (SE), Davis Buckley Architects and Planners (historic preservation), GHD (life safety and fire protection), Meridian 3D (laser survey), WPD & Associates (building envelope assessment) and Loring (computational fluid dynamics studies).

•Earlier this month, the CM firm Shawmut Design and Construction completed the renovation of Brown University’s 164 Angell Street in Providence, R.I., originally built in 1970. The building’s second, third, and fourth floors were gutted and transformed into a research and innovation hub. The redesign of this space focused on opening it up to more natural light.

164 Angell Street is now occupied by the Carney Institute for Brain Science, the Center for Computational Molecular Biology, the Data Science Initiative, the Department of Education, and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. The spaces include state-of-the-art conference rooms that feature updated technology and video conference capabilities. The building’s systems and structure were substantially overhauled, including replacement of 40% of the precast façade with curtainwall, new MEPs and elevator systems, and an updated enclosed lobby. The Brown Bookstore, located on the ground, mezzanine, and basement floors, remained operational throughout the project, requiring careful planning and coordination.

The renovation of 164 Angell Street creates a vibrant, multidisciplinary hub for five entities at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Image: Warren Jagger Photography.


•Shawmut also completed work on the 40,790-sf, six-story North Hall at the Rhode Island School of Design, the first cross-laminated timber-steel hybrid residence hall in New England. This $25 million project, which houses 148 first-year students, is the school’s first residence hall to open in 34 years. The building is designed to use 27% less energy than a typical code-compliant building, and save more than 3,200 gallons of water per day. Students have control over their thermal and lighting comfort. The project’s consultants included Landworks Studio, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., Odeh Engineers, Environmental Systems Inc., Reilly Electrical Contractors (RELCO), Arden Engineering Constructors, Jensen Hughes, Kalin Associates Inc., Colliers International, DiGregorio, SyNet Inc., Encore, GZA, John Strafach & Sons, Ocean Steel, HB Welding, Worcester Air, Chandler Architectural, Sweeney Drywall, Grande Masonry, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Andelman & Lelek Engineering and Acentech.

North Hall at Rhode Island School of Design is the first CLT-steel hybrid residence hall built in New England. Image: John Horner


•On Sept. 5, the two-story T.W.Ogg Elementary School opened in Clute, Texas, for 750 pre-K through 4th-grade students. Designed by VLK Architects, the building replaces an elementary school that opened in 1957. The new school is organized around a media center, with connected green space to encourage healthy outdoor learning experiences. A large multipurpose area functions as a cafeteria, gym, and event space. Durable and sustainable building materials are installed throughout, as are LED light fixtures. The building design allows for more natural light to enter classrooms, and has dedicated collaboration spaces within each classroom wing. Ogg is the third of five replacement elementary schools financed by a 2014 bond.

Opening day ceremonies at the Brazosport Independent School District's T.W. Ogg Elementary School, which replaces a 63-year-old building. Image: VLK Architects


•VLK and the Socorro Independent School District also broke ground in El Paso, Texas, on September 17 for the reconstruction of Socorro High School, which upon completion will accommodate over 2,500 students. Crews began demolishing parts of the school in July to make room for a new academic and career and technical education wing, projected to open for students in Spring of 2021. The entire project will be completed in phases with the renovation of 136,967 sf and new construction of 386,275 sf, concluding in Spring of 2023.

The Socorro Independent School District in Texas breaks ground on a new high school in El Paso that will be built out in phases over the next four years. Image: VLK Architects

The design features next-generation learning spaces in general academic, Socorro Early College, Health Professions Academy, and Career and Technical Education areas. Site improvements will include a fully renovated and expanded fine arts and athletic areas, two multi-sport practice fields, track-and-field event area, band practice area, softball stadium, and bus staging area.

•Friends Seminary, the oldest coeducational independent school in New York City, has been expanded to create a single accessible facility for 780 students. Kliment Halsband Architects designed a new structure behind the facades of three 19th-Century era townhouses, and connected them to the school's main building. This East Village project integrates contemporary architectural solutions into the historic fabric of the campus. A two-story Great Room with retractable glass façade opens directly onto the central courtyard. The roof of the Great Room forms a garden terrace adjoining the Upper School Commons. A six-story, skylit gallery with exposed steel bracing bridges the space between new spaces and historic facades, providing layered views of the street from classrooms and offices through the historic townhouse windows beyond. 

The renovation and expansion of Friends Seminary in New York City's East Village includes a two-story Great Roon with retractable facade that opens onto a central courtyard. Image: Kliment-Halsband Architects


•Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif., unveiled a new 25,000-sf Innovation Hub, designed by Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (QKA) and built by Swinerton, with Blach Construction serving as CM for the Fremont Union High School District’s school facilities improvement program. The Innovation Hub replaces a previously underutilized shop building with new flexible spaces for classrooms, labs, and shopwork. (The project is designed to meet Collaborative for High Performance Schools criteria.)

The school district also broke ground on a QKA-designed, 9,500-sf Guidance and Student Services building for this high school.

Homestead High School's new Innovation Hub replaces an old shop building. Image: Blach Construction


•Lake County Schools in Orlando, Fla., is scheduled to break ground next March on what would be the first public school in the state whose kindergarten through 8th-grade curriculum focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, with an environmental emphasis. The 160,000-sf, three-story Four Corners K-8 E-STEM school, sitting on a 40-acre campus, will include STEM labs for all grades. This $33 million project is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2021 for 1,200 students. Zyscovich Architects unveiled its designs for the school yesterday. The GC is Wharton-Smith, Inc.

When it's completed in two years, Four Corners K-8 STEM School in Orlando will be Florida's first pre-K through 8th grade school whose curriculum is dedicated to STEM subjects. Image: Zyscovich Architects

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