Track 1: Decline vs. Revival: Tempering the Impulse to Tear Down and Start Over
2 - Retaining Historic Neighborhood Schools
Monday, September 24
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: BNCC- 101AH
In 2009, the school board engaged our firm to help them ascertain whether to tear down their two historic neighborhood schools or renovate them. Pressure was mounting to provide 1000-sf classrooms, large gyms and separate cafeterias, and acres of outside space to have parity with new schools being built at the edge of town. These newer schools supported twentieth century teaching methods.
The school board held heavily attended public meetings. We presented the options and gathered input from the community participants. Overwhelmingly, the neighbors wanted schools their children could walk to, that had creaky wood floors and historic character. The community members not sold on the idea wanted assurances that the buildings would be energy efficient, easy to maintain, and didn’t place lower-grade children on the second or third floors.
We studied and presented the national educational standards, and countered them with the standards modified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The latter demonstrated how existing schools on inner-city lots could provide quality education. We analyzed methods to provide equality between new school buildings and the existing: to improve the existing’s energy efficiency, to take advantage of the inherent ease of maintaining solid masonry buildings, and to provide the space (in additions) for the educational and recreational spaces not part of the original 1906 program.
We compared the costs for tearing each school down and building anew. We assessed seismic retrofitting, selective demolition, and mechanical system costs (of installation and operation). Renovation was estimated to be 5% higher than new construction, yet actual costs were ultimately less. After receiving more public comment and deliberating, the school board opted to renovate the existing schools and build an addition to each.
The renovations included demolition of unsympathetic additions to allow room for compatible additions with space for programmatic functions, secure entries, and competition-quality gymnasiums. The exterior masonry and roofing were restored, wood trim and flooring refinished, double-hung windows installed, and hollow metal door replaced with wood doors. Structural enhancements included installing plywood diaphragms at the ceilings and tying the framing back to the masonry walls. Electrical and mechanical systems were replaced, and fire protection provided. The latter allowed for greater leniency in the treatment of the large public spaces and stairways, and for removal of prior fire barriers.
Each addition included a new secure entry with drop-off lane, an elevator, cafeteria, gymnasium, some additional classrooms, and a direct link to the existing building.
1. Energy performance exceeds newly constructed schools in the school district by approximately 15-20%.
2. Handsome, restored buildings that now resist seismic forces.
3. Schools with a comfortable historic character to which children can walk.
- Counter claims that elementary schools need to be on large acreage.
- Plan for seismic improvements that don't destroy the historic character of historic school buildings.
- Understand the inherent value in existing masonry buildings and their lesser maintenance costs.
- Understand the inherent value of latent energy in masonry buildings, and the positive impact on energy efficiency strategies.