Masonry is the Answer for Sustainable SchoolsThe construction of three elementary schools in Spokane was made possible by a $165.3 million facility improvement bond passed by area voters in March 2003.
The development of specifications began right away. When Spokane Public Schools entered these early planning stages to replace three aging urban schools, one of the primary design goals was for the new buildings to be as durable and sustainable as possible, requiring minimal maintenance. Greg Brown, AIA, Director of Capitol Projects for Spokane Public Schools, said that keeping this in mind, concrete masonry (CMU) was the “obvious choice” for the primary material for Lidgerwood, Ridge-view, and Lincoln Heights Elementary Schools. Each of these schools opened to students in the fall of 2006.
“To maintain a building over its lifespan, it costs 3–10 times more in upkeep and utilities than the original cost of the building,” said Brown. “With a nice sealer, masonry is easy to maintain and has great aesthetic appeal, as well.”
The firm of Madsen Mitchell E PLLC (MMEC) was selected to develop the education specifications that would provide continuity for all three schools. According to MMEC principal Craig Conrad, AIA, Spokane Public Schools wanted these new schools to achieve the environmental and green building goals for design and construction set by the new Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol (WSSP) for High Performance Schools, even though they did not go into effect until 2007. Like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) qualification, WSSP qualification is earned through a system of points. One way to earn these compliance points is to purchase locally produced construction materials. The CMU and brick were manufactured in Spokane or in the immediate region, for all three buildings. “We tried hard and were successful in making sure that project dollars were invested in Spokane—we used local architects and made sure that materials were available locally,” said Brown.
According to Brown, all three new schools will meet the Washington Sustainable Schools Program (WSSP) Protocol for High Performance School Facilities, with Lincoln Heights Elementary School also achieving Silver LEED Certification. “You can build a green and high performance school without looking out of the ordinary,” said Brown.
As the “conductor of the orchestra” of people who had to work in harmony to successfully complete each building replacement, it helped that Greg Brown is an architect with 21 years of school planning and construction experience. In addition to understanding the technical process from a designer’s point of view, he knew how important is was to include individual school principals in the process to select each architect. Brown was also committed to involving community business as much as possible.
Another of the goals set by Spokane Public Schools was for each new facility to have a unique identity to its neighborhood and to be tailored to the needs of students, staff and parents. Each building involved community members and teachers in the design process, allowing opportunities for meetings with architects when their needs and desires would be addressed.
Ridgeview Elementary School
Architect: ALSC Architects
Mason Contractor: Silker Masonry
Block Producer: Mutual Materials
doors and under a bell tower on their way to new classrooms. For three years, together with staff and community members, she helped to create plans for a new building to replace a cramped, aging school and its portable additions. She is thrilled with the end product that was designed to serve the neighborhood for the next 50 years.
|Throughout the 2005-2006 school year construction of a new building to replace the 1953 Ridgeview Elementary School in north Spokane, Ridgeview Elementary Principal Kathy Williams faced the challenge of continuing to do her job serving students who were temporarily farmed out to various area schools.
In September of 2006 Williams was rewarded for her long year of commuting with the sight of smiling children entering through Ridgeview’s
“ALSC did a great job of making our vision a reality,” said Williams, referring to ALSC Architects, project architects for the school. “We wanted a traditional, timeless design in brick with lots of fun, geometric shapes—something the kids would be able to replicate with their blocks or Lego® bricks.” Designers chose the next best thing to building with Lego® for creativity and flexibility—concrete masonry. By using several varieties of block in many different natural colors, the team of six ALSC architects came up with a fanciful design that replicates brick. Smooth-face, ground-face, and split-face blocks were utilized in shades of burgundy, charcoal, khaki and gray, to create playful and multitextured walls.
“The community really liked the look of brick —it has the feel of permanence and is very durable,” said Dave Huotari, principal-in-charge of the project at ALSC. “It had been a long time since the school district built schools in classic burgundy brick. CMU was an economical choice for this project from a labor and material standpoint.”
The CMU is reinforced load bearing in the gym and in a multi-purpose room. “Load-bearing masonry was used in these spaces because the more people you have in a room together at one time the more concerned you are with stability and life safety,” said Huotari.
The new $6 million school used 42,000 CMU block in six different colors, according to Mike Spilker of Spilker Masonry, mason contractor for Ridgeview. “It was a unique challenge working through the winter, but it turned out really nice. ALSC did a good job with the design,” said Spilker.
With 48,500 square feet (4510 square meters) of usable space on 3.68 acres (1.49 hectares), Ridgeview Elementary can accommodate 443 children in 19 classrooms. It includes a 1200-square foot (111-square meter)‘Community Activity’ room, a library, gymnasium and music room, as well as additional spaces for storage, health-nursing, and parent volunteers. The school meets the goals of the WSSP by using natural light, water-reducing features, local materials and low VOC materials. Materials from the existing building were reused when possible, and high-efficiency lighting, heating, plumbing and cooling systems are used throughout the new building to reduce annual utility and maintenance costs.
The most unique feature of the new school might be the custom-cast bell from the Netherlands that, thanks to $10,000 raised by the Ridgeview community, graces a tower at the main entrance. The working bell is embossed with a new school crest that was designed by students that includes the image of an old stone castle representing a sense of stability in home and school.
Lincoln Heights Elementary School
Architect: Integrus Architecture
Mason Contractor: Great Northern Masonry
Block Producer: Mutual Materials
|Lincoln Heights Elementary on Spokane’s South Hill was selected as one of five state-wide pilot projects using the new WSSP, the only such project in Eastern Washington. A $310,000 Federal grant for the pilot project helped the project incorporate many “green building” elements in design and construction. Lincoln Heights not only succeeded in reaching the WSSP, but was recently award Silver LEED certification, as well.
This LEED certification was achieved in part by reusing and recycling as much as possible from the existing school on the same site, using Certified Wood products, wheatstraw board, and materials with recycled content, using daylighting and many water saving features and landscaping.
“Structural and veneer CMU was selected as the primary material for the school partly in response to the stipulation in the education specifications that the new schools be durable and low-maintenance,” said Art Nordling, AIA, of Integrus Architecture, P.S., Project Manager. “CMU was also selected for its economy and for the wide variety of textures and colors available.”
36,000 smooth-face, split-face and ground-face block in shades of sandstone and rose brown were used in the school’s construction. According to John Knodel of Mutual Materials, “this project was unique in its use of the off-white sandstone block made with white cement and special aggregate— we normally don’t see it used in this part of the state, but it has become very popular with architects in recent years.” Added Knodel, “education projects are a major part of our business since schools require the durability and sense of permanence one gets with masonry.”
The 55,000 square foot (5110 square meter) building can serve up to 550 students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade with 25 classrooms, with current enrollment at 357. Art Nordling is proud that even though steel prices increased greatly throughout the construction period, the team that included General Contractor, Walker Construction, completed the school on time and on budget at $8 million.
In addition to the design goals regarding sustainability and the WSSP, an important objective for the project was to integrate the exterior of the school within the surrounding neighborhood. As with the other new elementary schools, staff and neighbors were involved in planning meetings. These meetings, along with the education specification, resulted in a contemporary yet classic building that includes space for community gatherings. Heavy use of north-south arterial Ray Street just west of the site gives the new school great visual exposure to commuters, but can create hazards for neighborhood children using the playground. The new playground was moved away from traffic to the site of the old school, east of Ray, creating the feel and accessibility of a community park. The new school and its park-like grounds are truly a “gift” to the neighborhood that will be used and enjoyed by residents of all ages. The mason contractor on the project was Great Northern Masonry.
Lidgerwood Elementary School
Architect: Madsen, Mitchell, Evenson and Conrad, PLLC
Mason Contractor: Butters Masonry
Block Producer: Central Pre-Mix/Oldcastle
|Originally constructed in the post-war building and baby boom year of 1953, Lidgerwood Elementary sits on the smallest site of the three new schools -3.5 acres (1.4 hectares). Surrounding the school, medical and office buildings serve nearby Holy Family Hospital in a busy neighborhood on Spokane’s near north side. To fit IN with the commercial and residential buildings in the immediate area, architects at Madsen, Mitchell, Evenson and Conrad, PLLC (MMEC) designed a modern building in masonry and glass with 50s architectural elements.
At MMEC, Craig Conrad, AIA, Principal in Charge, and Walt Huffman, AIA, Project Architect, relied on the prominent use of low-E glass and metal sunshades for a dramatic and contemporary two story front, bringing in the natural light required by the WSSP. Using brick and structural CMU to “hug” and protect each side of the glass feature provided a “powerful contrast,” said Conrad. “CMU is not only sustainable and durable, it is very versatile and contrasts nicely with other materials.”
The second floor of the glass front houses the school’s library and brings it into primary focus as a core element of the school. “The library is a symbol for learning—we wanted to provide the community with an accessible building—the transparent glassfronted library makes the school seem open,” added Conrad.
Grey ground-face CMU block was used for the interior so that the abundant sunlight coming in through the glass could have a simple backdrop on which to play and “come to life.” A prominent twostory clock tower in this same interior CMU provides a working timepiece in bright primary red. The exterior block used for the kindergarten area of the building was also used for interior learning alcoves, so that they stand out as special learning areas for one-on-one instruction.
Lidgerwood staff and neighbors asked designers for a school that would be used for community activities, a place that would be welcoming to parents, staff and other adults who spend lots of time in the building. “Rather than being just a great place for kids, it’s a great place for kids to learn, and learning requires an environment that is welcoming to adults as well as children of all ages,” said Walt Huffman. As with the other new schools, space was planned in the 46,000 square foot (4270 square meter) building for community activity use.
While staff and parents involved in the planning process were more concerned with how the building addressed the practical design issues of usability than with the aesthetics, there was a desire expressed for an “historical school look” for Lidgerwood Elementary. To address this, MMEC relied on the use of 34,000 4 x 4 x 12 (102 x 102 x 305 mm) burgundy brick with dark mortar. Mason contractor, David Butters of Butters Masonry said he “enjoyed working on this project,” and that “the architects did a very nice job with the design.” Once again, masonry provided the classic appearance for a landmark educational facility in Spokane. CMD
Article provided courtesy of the Masonry Industry Promotion Group, Spokane, Washington.