The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 14, 2010

Highland Committee architects outline repairs, suggest restoration options

Proposed stabilization measures are shown on this front view of the building’s exterior. (Drawing by Menders, Torrey & Spencer, Inc.)

The Highland Building Committee is working with architects to prepare detailed specifications for the project to stabilize the former school building, as well as to glance ahead at possible future renovations.

The committee reviewed plans to stabilize Highland with architects Menders, Torrey & Spencer (MTS) on May 6. Principal architect Lynne Spencer and architectural designer Tom Burgess discussed the existing conditions assessment along with a set of construction drawings described as 50% complete. When finished, the plans will be used to bid out the project to construction firms.

Clarifying “stabilization”

“When the town voted the CPA funds to do this stabilization,” said committee member Bob Stone, “I interpreted that as a vote for preserving this building and putting it to use. We have to balance stabilization with preservation to accomplish that end.” Balancing preservation with stabilization involves predicting what preservation work can be done now in a cost-effective manner so that it will not have to be repeated when the building is renovated for use.

Defining the line between stabilization and preservation, given the available funds, is a challenge shared by MTS. Spencer admitted that all her projects up until now have been preservations and restorations. “This is my first ‘stabilization,’” she said. “You really don’t see many of these.” Spencer emphasized that the more preservation the committee can do at this juncture, the more stable the building will be.

The committee’s interpretation of this concept is evolving based on MTS’s assessment of the existing condition as well as the decision to wait to install a sprinkler system until the building can be hooked up to the new cistern planned for the Carlisle School building project. Highland Building Committee member Nathan Brown is concerned about communicating the committee’s interpretation of this concept to the Selectmen and to the town.

It is the committee’s opinion that installing a temporary sprinkler system that would have to be removed when the building is renovated would not be cost effective. They have asked the architects to recommend alternative fire protection measures, including reducing combustible materials currently in the building, that they can present to Fire Chief David Flannery within the next two weeks. In the meantime, the money designated in the original budget for a temporary sprinkler system could be used to better preserve the exterior of the building.

Architect’s recommendations

Spencer and Burgess presented drawings (see above) along with primary recommendations and three alternate ideas for the committee’s consideration. They cautioned that both the porch and crumbling fire escape are safety hazards and should not be used. MTS recommended that the porch be repaired and the fire escape removed. Other recommendations included repairing the wooden rim around the building near the base of the clapboard (called the “water table”) with hardwood such as mahogany; replacing the flashing at window heads; installing roof ridge and hip vents; repointing the chimney and “full lead paint stripping on the exterior and windows according to code.” Spencer and Burgess also recommended replacing the small metal roofs over the side doors (currently rusted out) with copper, which is low maintenance. They suggest replacing three doors, repairing others and installing weather-stripping. Discussion of the basement doors tended toward installing temporary panels for security, making one operational, for safety. MTS is still expecting reports on structural assessments and hazardous materials to complete these recommendations. In the meantime, the committee will review the material they have before them and submit their comments to MTS in about a week’s time.

Additional recommendations

Since the boiler failed this year, the committee is considering adding a new heating system into the stabilization project. At the moment, temporary electric heaters are being used to provide enough heat to prevent the pipes from freezing in winter. The group reviewed a proposal from mechanical engineer Jeffrey White, of JRW Engineering, to install a new high-efficiency gas-fired boiler. White estimated design and engineering charges of $6,800. In addition, meetings beyond a pre-agreed number would be charged at a rate of $150 per hour for engineers and $75 per hour for design/drafters. JRW is an affiliated consultant of MTS. Adding the cost of the boiler, Stone estimated a total cost of roughly $25,000.

Spencer noted that, “Doing this stuff will have an impact on the windows, dampness and ventilation issues.” She said it was feasible to keep the temporary heaters and maintain the winter temperature at 55 degrees, and said, “I suggest you sit on this for a while and think about how you want to handle it.”

The other two alternates in MTS’s recommendations concern roofing and storm windows. The architects recommend replacing the present asphalt shingle roof, which was added in the mid-1990s and “has about five to ten years of serviceable life remaining,” as well as fully restoring all windows. The original roof shingling was wood. Stone said, “There are advantages to us to do this now, as there is $40,000 in the budget for staging, and both items will go a long way toward not only stabilizing, but preserving the building.”

Preliminary estimates

A preliminary estimate by MTS projects the total cost of the job as $423,175. This encompasses recommended alternate work on the roofing and windows, but not a new boiler. A $48,675 contingency is included. Without the alternates, the project would be $371,655 including a $41,955 contingency. “These are architects’ figures, not contractors’,” Spencer reminded the committee. “They will be adjusted as we go along.”


The set of construction drawings to be used in the bidding process will, Spencer said, be ready by May 20, when the architects are to review the documents with the committee. In the meantime, committee members will meet with Carlisle School Building Committee Chair Lee Storrs regarding the site plan and speak with Flannery about fire protection. They will also schedule some time on the Selectmen’s agenda, hopefully at their June 3 meeting, to update them on the progress of the project. Once the committee has approved the construction drawings, the project may go out to bid. Spencer thinks that a three-week bidding period is reasonable, allowing two more weeks for checking the bids and contracting the job.

Renovation ideas sketched

MTS will be offering flexible designs for future renovations as plans go forward, which the committee can use in recommending possible uses for the building. At their last meeting, the committee looked at drawings that presented three options for the layout of the interior of the building (see sample layout below). Refurbishing the inside of Highland will be a separate job with separate funding once the town has determined how the building will function.

As part of the stabilization project, the Highland Building Committee asked Menders, Torrey & Spencer, Inc. to provide sketches of how the interior might be reconfigured during a future renovation. The interior renovation will be a separate project, and will be influenced by decisions about the future use of the building. Shown here is one option. Other layouts showed the new elevator and staircase inside the core of the building instead of in the location of the present fire escape at the rear. Also, the program space on the second floor could be divided into two smaller rooms. The committee plans to discuss the various options at their meeting on June 3.

Two of these options divided the space into at least two program spaces on each floor, and one presented a larger, single program space on the second floor. Committee member John Ballantine commented later that “some combination of two plans [in the initial designs] would work, but we do not have a schematic design that we are comfortable with just yet.”

Stone said, “The options were differentiated by the location of the required elevator (inside the front of the building, inside the rear, outside in the rear of the building) and by varying degrees of ‘open floor plan’ (preserve the classrooms, preserve the center closets, remove the classroom walls, open up the floor space).”

He added, “After a quick committee discussion, I think the eventual interior option will be a compromise of several good components of each of the three options that were presented. We’re scheduled to discuss the final interior plan at our first June meeting.” ∆

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