The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 8, 2010

CCHS facility shows its age

At the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) Facilities Master Plan Committee Meeting on December 16, a number of experts gave presentations of their findings of existing conditions of the building and its systems. The roof will need to be replaced and major modifications were recommended for many of the walls to improve energy efficiency. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are all near or at the end of their expected life. Jon Buhl, president of Foley, Buhl Roberts & Association (FBRA), said the building does not meet current codes, but it is structurally sound and safe.

The Office of Michael Rosenfeld (OMR) Principal-in-charge Whitney Granger explained the stages of construction and upgrades of the high school (see diagram, page 7). Original construction was done in 1958 with additions of the “S” building in 1964 and the addition of the “I” and “L” building in 1973. The “S” and “H” buildings and the auditorium have new walls. The high school was built on 4- to 6-inch slab. The upper gym was done with reinforced concrete.

If the building should have any major renovation done to it, the whole building will need to have a sprinkler system installed. FMP Chair Michael Fitzgerald said it was a depressing presentation but not surprising. FMP and RSC member Jerry Wedge pointed out, “This is the third independent study and we’re hearing the same thing.”


Nitsch Engineering Project Engineer Steve Ventresca said the water pipes that come from Walden Street and surround the building are asbestos concrete-lined pipes and will need to be replaced with iron pipes. The water distribution system may need to be upgraded. An investigation of water-reuse should be done.

The sewer system has an eight-inch pipe. There was no talk of upgrading this, although Ventresca felt the pipe is probably clay pipe and hence is at the end of useful life. Further investigation of the sewer line and structure was recommended.

The storm water management system needs to be upgraded to current regulations.

The envelope of the building

Ann Coleman of the Boston office of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) gave an overview of the envelope of the building and its thermal inefficiencies. The original window walls were thermally inefficient and in the gymnasium and the cafeteria, there is steel on the outside and the inside which causes thermal bridging. This is an issue in several places around the school. Coleman explained that in 1992, many of the walls were improved. The skin was removed; masonry and new windows were added, but the top of the building was not addressed. “The 1970 construction lacked thermal continuity between the roof and the walls.” She said the mortar joints would need to be maintained in the next two decades. She also said the sealant conditions were deteriorating.

Prior to the study it was already known that the roof needed replacement. “There are ponds on the roof,” Coleman told the committee. The roof of the library has been patched in many places and she found a two-foot split.

In terms of the HVAC systems, “Major exterior improvements would be required” on the “I” and “L” buildings, the library, the cafeteria and both gyms. The single-pane curtain walls in the cafeteria and the upper gym would need to be replaced. As mentioned, some walls have already been improved. Coleman said all the remaining exterior walls need to be improved. She added that some upgrades are needed in the “S” and “H” buildings and the auditorium walls improved earlier. Coleman recommended whole building air tightness testing.

Coleman said the design of the current school would be great in San Diego, but a school in New England would be more efficient with a two-story design. “Minimize the building enclosure surface area.”

The mechanical system

Dominick Puniello of Garcia, Galuska and Desousa Consulting Engineering, spoke about the current mechanical system located in the “H” building. “The current boiler is below current efficiency levels,” he said. It’s around 70% efficient, new systems are over 90% efficient. “The pumps and boilers are getting to the end of service life.” He explained the hot water system is a constant flow system. “Today, we would use a variable system.” The high school has a large centralized plant. He would recommend putting in de-centralized high-efficiency hot water boilers and a variable volume pumping system. Currently, there is large heat loss over the distance the water has to travel.

“The chilled water pumps do not have variable speed drives. Today, there are much more efficient chiller systems,” Puniello told the committee. He would recommend a high efficiency chiller plant with a variable volume pumping system. He also recommended a magnetic compressor for its efficiency.

“Puniello explained that many areas of piping distribution are located in inaccessible tunnels. This causes concern if there is ever a leak. He said the expense of such repairs and the safety of the people doing the repairs should be considered. There was a 20,000-gallon leak earlier this year.

Puniello said units in each classroom that heat and ventilate are noisy and inefficient. Granger pointed out the air intake is low and can bring in fumes from the buses. They recommended replacing these units. The gym, cafeteria and the locker room get air from an outdoor trench, which “is not the best,” Piniello stated. Variable Air Volume systems (VAV) are inefficient. The noise from this system is an issue in the cafeteria.

Puniello said the automatic temperature control system is a combination of pneumatic and direct digital controls. The system is expensive to run; it has limited energy management and uses compressed air. “In our opinion, it’s past the point of no return.”

Electrical system

Principal Carlos G. DeSousa of Garcia, Galuska and DeSousa, Inc. said the electrical equipment has reached its life expectancy and requires replacement. He said, “The original parts in the mechanical spaces are severely corroded and have live bussing . . . It’s really antiquated. The equipment is obsolete.” He said extension cords are used throughout the building due to a lack of electrical receptacles and the abundance of technology in the school.

DeSousa said the updated lighting in the building has saved money. “It was a very good thing to do.” He said if the building is renovated, the light system should be replaced to have more controllability and fewer issues with glare.

There are emergency light issues. CCHS Principal Peter Badalament said the lower gym is designated as a town shelter but is not tied into the generator. If used as a shelter, the generator needs to provide power for lights and a ventilating system. Facilities Manager David Anderson said that [Concord] town officials are well aware of the problem.

Fire Protection

DeSousa said the fire alarm system is in good shape. The system is up to code for the most part. Smoke detectors and emergency pulls could be added to the system. Emergency shut-offs are needed on each wall in labs and in the kitchen. Ten to fifteen percent of the building is covered by sprinklers. Only the mechanical spaces in the “H” building and the lower gym are covered. The whole building would need a sprinkler system if a major renovation is done.

Plumbing system

Chris Garcia of Garcia, Galuska and DeSousa, Inc. said the plumbing fixtures are in fair condition but the bathrooms do not meet code for accessibility. He would recommend replacing fixtures with high efficiency fixtures. “There are lots of ways to save lots of water.” Also, the showers in the science labs are fed only with cold water. The code says the water needs to be tepid, 70 to 90 degrees.

Garcia explained that some of the original water distribution piping is below the concrete slab and therefore not very accessible. The valves are showing signs of corrosion. “New piping is recommended.”


Lisa Pecora-Ryan of OMR gave a summary. While the structure of the building is satisfactory, a new building envelope is recommended, including new walls and a new roof. New systems are proposed for mechanical, electrical, water, plumbing and fire protection. Pecora-Ryan pointed out that none of the above improvements have addressed the changes needed for interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

The next Facilities Master Plan Committee meeting will be at 6 p.m. on January 13 on the third floor of the CCHS Library. OMR will present several program options, some using parts of the existing building, and will review the pros and cons of each. Michael Rosenfeld of OMR said, “We need to do serious and creative thinking here. We have clear goals. Hopefully we will find a solution that feels good to everyone.” ∆

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