Friday, December 11, 2009
December 17 deadline nears for Carlisle School building designs
The Carlisle School Building Committee (SBC) is working full steam ahead with HMFH architects to complete schematic designs before a formal presentation to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on December 17. The state has agreed to provide up to 40% reimbursement if MSBA and the town agree on designs for the project to replace the Spalding Building and renovate other school buildings. The SBC met for three hours last Thursday, December 3, to prepare for a preliminary meeting with MSBA scheduled for the next day, as well as to consider energy usage, renovation options and whether the town will be required to include $325,000 in accessibility upgrades.
MSBA asks questions
On December 4, SBC Chair Lee Storrs, member Robert Wiggins, Owner’s Project Manager (Carlisle’s consultant) Sean Fennell, HMFH architects Laura Wernick and Arthur Duffy met with MSBA officials. Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle participated in the meeting via phone link while on a trip to China. According to Storrs, three of the five MSBA officials were familiar with Carlisle’s proposal and had visited the campus.
Storrs said it was hard to gauge whether the questions raised by MSBA during the lengthy meeting indicated genuine preferences, or were simply to probe whether the SBC had thoroughly investigated and dismissed less expensive alternatives. Questions included: Could the size of the new building be reduced? Would one-story suffice instead of two? Could the new building be turned 90° in order to link the Corey, Wilkins and Robbins Buildings? Could the exercise room be used some other way? Could the “mistake room” be renovated?
The Carlisle delegation explained the thinking that had led to the proposed design for the Spalding Building replacement (see diagram above). Storrs said the two-story design was chosen for energy efficiency, as well as to minimize the footprint to preserve more space for play areas. If the new building were turned 90° to link with Robbins, there would be “large areas in the new building without windows.” He noted, “MSBA said they recognized that that would be an issue.”
Using MSBA’s standards, Carlisle’s gymnasium space could be smaller and MSBA explored the idea of converting the exercise room into a classroom or other use. Storrs said the SBC has pointed out that the school needs three gym units and the exercise room is used regularly. Storrs also noted that the exercise room would not be appropriate for a classroom, since it is an interior basement room.
Another space in the Corey Building basement being considered by the MSBA for possible conversion was the “mistake room” a 1,450 square-foot space created when the Corey foundation was accidentally built too large. Used for storage, the room has few windows and no heat. Storrs said there would be “costs to get it to the point where it would be usable.”
MSBA officials told the SBC group that the state may ask a consultant for an assessment and would issue a letter or email this week with comments and any follow-up questions. It was noted by Wernick at the December 3 SBC meeting that HMFH might require additional funds if the state requests significant changes to the schematic designs.
Energy recommendations debated
At the SBC meeting on December 3, the group reviewed recommendations by the architect’s engineering consultants, Garcia, Galuska and DeSousa (GG&D) for ways to improve the energy efficiency of the Wilkins School Building. The consultants looked at four options for lowering heating costs for Wilkins: adding insulation in the walls, or roof, replacing the windows or improving all three parts of the building envelope. Adding $13,500 of wall insulation was the only option GG&D found to be cost-effective, with a 10-year payback period and an estimated annual utility savings of $1,295.
Replacing all the windows was estimated to cost $265,650, but yield only an annual utility savings of $379. Improving insulation in the roof would cost $43,500, with a predicted annual savings of only $383. SBC member Bill Risso expected newer windows would yield greater energy savings. There were questions about the energy modeling software and whether they were using actual fuel usage data for the buildings, or using approximations. Risso said, “If the cost of fuel doubles or triples, there goes your model.” Wernick said, “These numbers may be off by some factor, but upgrading the windows will never be cost effective.”
Storrs later noted, “A lot of the work on the existing buildings was going to be based on payback.” For instance, the wall insulation appeared to be cost effective for Wilkins, whereas data had indicated costs would be higher to insulate the Robbins walls. Similarly, he said that the roof insulation would probably be added to the school library and other sections of Robbins where it was easy and inexpensive to do.
Meeting stretch code to cost $23,000
The consultants determined that following the optional “stretch” building code for energy efficiency would add roughly $23,000 to construction costs, with an annual fuel savings of $664 per year. Because a representative from GG&D was not present to explain their calculations, the SBC decided to invite GG&D to a meeting with town Energy Task Force members, tentatively set for Friday, December 11. A Public Hearing to discuss whether to adopt the stretch code has been scheduled by the Selectmen for Tuesday, December 22.
Renovation “add-ons” ranked
The draft estimate of project costs prepared by Daedalus Projects, Inc. on November 19 listed a total project cost of $20.56 million. This included construction of the new building for preK - grade 2, as well as $4.7 million in renovations to the other school buildings. Any upcoming scheduled maintenance work that can be included may be eligible for the 40% reimbursement. However, the SBC has been advised not to exceed $20 million in total costs. The committee has since refined the specifications in an attempt to keep within the target budget. On December 3, the total estimated project cost stood at roughly $19.3 million, with a wish list of 25 additional items proposed for inclusion in the project.
Which renovations are most important? Which could wait a few years if necessary? SBC members each ranked the priority of the 25 suggestions and the results were tallied (see table below). The nine highest-priority renovations brought the project to just under the $20 million target. The group then discussed each item on the list. While costs for some items are clearly known, others such as the science lab renovations and technology upgrades, are rough estimates and subject to change as planning continues. The cost for insulating existing buildings, for instance, will be revisited after the energy modeling data is reviewed.
The elementary music room, as new construction, would cost $232,000 and received a rank of 12, below the cut-off. It was suggested that music classes could share space in the multi-purpose/choral room if a movable divider were added. Alternatively, Wernick suggested that a spare classroom in the existing buildings might be repurposed. Projections predict the school enrollment will decrease for the next several years.
After further discussion, it was decided to remove a new gym divider curtain ($76,000) from the project in order to free up funds for the tenth item on the priority list, a new play structure for first and second grade ($75,000).
ADA may require $325,000 in upgrades
It had been known previously that the building project would trigger Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements for accessibility upgrades, because the cost of the renovations exceeds 30% or more of the buildings’ assessed value. However, SBC members were surprised to hear that the required ADA upgrades may cost as much as $325,000. Duffy of HMFH said existing facilities, including the most recent construction in the Grant Building, failed to meet ADA codes. He said handrails were a little too high and ramps were slightly too steep, “Everything’s off by just an inch.”
School property assessment
The SBC hopes to avoid the accessibility requirements through either obtaining a higher school real estate valuation, or by pruning the amount of renovations in the school building project. The Carlisle School currently has a low assessment, far below its replacement cost. This is because in the past, the town has not needed to update the valuation, since the school is public property and not subject to real estate tax. The school assessment would need to rise to at least $14 million to allow the $4.7 million in planned renovations without triggering the ADA upgrade. Some wondered if a higher assessed value could affect insurance costs. The SBC agreed to confer with the Board of Assessors about whether it would be worthwhile to hire an outside expert specializing in assessing school buildings. (See related article, page 9) ∆
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