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Novel construction approach speeds K-12 school projects

The Folia system uses pre-engineered components to deliver school buildings at 20% less cost. 

August 23, 2016 |

The two-story, 44,000-sf Central Middle School in San Carlos, Calif., is the first school to be constructed using Folia, a K-12 concept that leans on pre-engineering to provide greater design flexibility and customization, as well as quicker delivery (in under a year) and lower overall costs than traditional building methods. The concept is the brainchild of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, Blach Construction, and structural engineer Gregory P. Luth and Associates. The firms have been refining the system for five years. Image: Tomasz Biernacki, Pechara Studio.

The San Carlos (Calif.) School District was in the midst of implementing its master plan when it awarded Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (QKA) and Blach Construction a $30 million contract to build a new 44,000-sf, two-story classroom building at Central Middle School, and remodel the existing building.

That project became the testing ground for Folia, an economical method for school construction that QKA, Blach, and structural engineer Gregory P. Luth and Associates had been working on since 2011. 

Building K-12 schools in California poses two problems: it takes forever and it costs a fortune. The San Carlos School District needed to accommodate a student population that’s projected to grow to nearly 4,000 students by 2020, from 3,400 today. Given the high cost of real estate in northern California’s Bay Area, the district chose to optimize its existing properties to address its capacity needs.

Folia, which derives from the Greek word meaning “nest,” provides an alternative to traditional steel-framed classroom construction. Unlike modular construction, the Folia system offers design flexibility for any campus or classroom configuration.

A key to Folia is customized pre-engineering within standardized parameters, says Steve Kwok, a AIA, Partner with QKA. For example, all braced frames are 10 feet wide. The width of the foundation is the same for all school models. Blach produces the building’s braced frames and 10x30-foot exterior steel wall panels in its shop and delivers them to the job site.

Kwok estimates that a Folia school costs about $400 per sf, compared to $500-plus for a traditionally built school. As important, the Building Team took 10 months to complete Central Middle School, which Kwok says is much faster than conventional building methods.

A Folia school is designed to exceed California’s Green Building Code and Energy Code standards. In June, The Division of the State Architect pre-checked a Folia two-story
L-shaped prototype with 12 classrooms. A DSA pre-check shaves months off the design and construction time.


Read about more innovations from BD+C's 2016 Great Solutions Report

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