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Presentation to ESBC focuses on new school’s ‘calming, natural’ theme

by | Apr 10, 2024 | Education, Featured: Education

Robert Bell, educational programmer for architectural firm Perkins Eastman, said the design elements of the new elementary school project have an “overarching theme that is calming and natural.”

His presentation on Tuesday to the Elementary School Building Committee (ESBC) focused on the colors, concepts and curriculum ties the new Grade 2-4 school will feature, thanks to input from educators over several workshops in February and March.

He explained how the themes of meadow, forest and river will permeate throughout the building and described the effort to examine seven major subject areas and incorporate them into the design.

“It gives us great background to see what connections we can make,” Bell said. The idea is to “keep it simple, natural and beautiful and not overcomplicate [things].”

Some features he used as examples included sundials, growth height silhouettes, fixed displays, animal tracks stamped in concrete, animal/plant graphics, a courtyard weather station, maps, path naming and more.

Bell noted the interior finishes are meant to be “durable and economical,” with each academic wing’s colors correlating to meadow (green, browns, different shades of purple), forest (green, beige, oranges) and river (blues, turquoise).

“Teachers helped assemble and guide direction,” Bell said. “As summed up, there is a real strong passion for how it came together and how the colors complement each other.”

Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh said it was a great process, and the design “fits nicely with what we’ve done with naming the school Charleswood.”

She added that a lot can be done to the interior using suggested names that were not chosen such as Headwaters and Quinobequin, which is the indigenous people’s name for the Charles River.

ESBC chair Jon Graziano said he is impressed how much ownership the educators took in articulating ways the building’s design could enhance learning.

ESBC member Bill Flannery, who is on the Appropriation Committee, said he would like to see numbers attached to these features as the project continues.

Bell said nothing he described are “add-ons. … As we reconcile costs, it can be done inexpensively. Smart choices go a long way.”

Consultant for data systems described

In other business, Jeff D’Amico, project director at Vertex, talked about the importance of controlling data systems, noting this would be a more energy-efficient school than the town has had before. The goal is an all-electrical building with low energy-use intensity, D’Amico said.

He said initially a lot of work is done by the design and construction teams as well as the Massachusetts School Building Authority commissioning agent.

Fine-tuning and monitoring systems as well as tracking data are other layers, he said, while recommending the services of consultant IDS (Integral Data Systems) Automation Consulting Services. The most important time for this involvement is the first 15 months after occupancy, he said.

D’Amico gave examples of IDS findings on other projects that ultimately saved money and boosted efficiency. These included discovering the use of the wrong energy cycle on weekends, unnecessary equipment oscillation during unoccupied hours, excess CO2 that resulted in additional sensors and their proper relocation.

Other issues are ensuring defaults are not overriding each other or short cycling.

Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Susan Rothermich said she and Director of Facilities Tim Persson discussed the value of seeing trend data of this type. It is not something that exists in other school buildings. The closest systems in the district are in the walk-in fridge and freezer, she said.

“The first thing they’ll do is flush out kinks in the system and get schedules right,” Rothermich said. “It has a lot of value, especially for a building of this size.”

The $126,000 for these services will come out of a $300,000 line item in administrative costs, D’Amico said. “Money is set aside for it … to address future sustainability challenges and the goals we have to meet. This is a known [cost].”

D’Amico said IDS could do a peer review of design specs at each milestone, make sure controls are not undone during the construction phase, watch that the commissioning agent is keeping in line with controls architecture, and track data and monitor systems.

“They will be able to help you troubleshoot your building to the way it should be running,” said Dan Colli, project manager at Perkins Eastman.

D’Amico said the original IDS proposal totaled $157,000, and the consultants were asked to get the number down after looking at the schematic design.

The ESBC approved the $126,000 expenditure for the services, which will fall under Vertex’s purview.

Next steps reviewed

D’Amico reported Vertex had been meeting with representatives from planning, public works, conservation and fire over the past several months in preparation for report submittals to MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act) on April 26 and the MSBA on April 29.

Those agencies will review and respond, and by June he anticipates being done with the design development phase and moving on with the construction documents phase.

At the ESBC meeting on April 23, he expects to present a report updating the cost of the project and talk about Hayden Rowe Street improvements. The meeting will be held in person at the high school library because HCAM is not available.


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