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The School Building Needs Commission met on Monday night.

Criteria Developed To Compare Taconic Project Options

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Carl Franceschi of DRA updated the commission on the options.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — DRA has crafted criteria to judge the three school construction options as the architectural firm works toward a recommendation.
The School Building Needs Commission will need to decide at the end of July on a preferred option for Taconic High School — to renovate, build brand new or a mix of both.
Drumney Rosane & Anderson Architects Inc., which is consulting on the project, has developed a matrix to compare the options. The consultants will also have professional estimators narrow the costs for each option in the coming weeks.
"We started with a template that we used on previous projects and customized it based on the community," said Carl Franceschi of DRA.
The consultants will make a recommendation at the end of July and then the commission will render a decision. Franceschi said a public meeting held last week helped further craft the options.
"We had a sixth-grader there and then we had people who were substantially past sixth grade there," Superintendent Jason McCandless said on Monday, happy with the group of 60 or so who generated a "good conversation."
While the commission was pleased with the number of people who attended the meeting, member Warren Dews said he was "appalled" by the lack of diversity.
"I was appalled. I was very upset. I was the only person of color there," Dews said.
Nonetheless, the small breakout sessions did prove to be beneficial, Franceschi said. One particular item the consultants took a closer look at was how to integrate the vocational and academic students while keeping the noisier departments separate.
"The most valuable part for us is the input we got in the small group sessions," he said. "They did recognize that noise would be an issue if we try to integrate them ... That's a valid point and one we will have to address moving forward."
Other issues taken into account are comfort in the cafeteria, use of the library, the need to invest in maintenance, energy efficiency, non-reimbursable costs. Most of those concepts will be integrated into the ultimate design. But that happens in the future steps after the commission chooses an option.
The consultants crafted seven overarching categories — square footage, cost, time, educational outcome, facility outcome, sustainable design and continuing costs. Each section then is broken down further into subcategories and each will receive a ranking from 1 to 5. The option with the highest score will likely receive the recommendation. 
"We're fine with the criteria," McCandless said after DRA presented the matrix. "From an educational perspective we need to make sure the space is what we want and need ... I think it is pretty balanced."
The commission may ultimately weight some aspects the members feel are more important.
Both McCandless and Franceschi said there is more to consider than just the price tag.
The criteria has a category for "cost predictability" because renovation projects carry many more unknowns. Additionally, temporary costs such as storage for material or temporary trailers for the students during construction are not covered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursement — so a value category on the city's input is weighed.
"We shouldn't just consider the first cost. But we should consider such things as operating costs, energy efficiency," Franceschi said. "We should consider the net cost to Pittsfield and not just the construction cost."
Another consideration will be the overall footprint. The new building will be constructed on three floors to shrink the amount of land the building consumes and add more green space and parking. This is also important because wetlands and a large water pipeline down the center of the property limit the buildable land.
A renovation project would mean an addition to create new science labs and vocational shops, taking up more of the property. The option of keeping the large space — the gym and auditorium — and reconstructing the classroom spaces also calls for three floors to reduce the footprint.
The time for construction will also be considered. A new construction can be done in one phase while the students stay in the current school. The students would open the following school year in the new building and the old would be torn down.
Another option calls for the development of a new plan and that could last years.
"Obviously if it is a phased project that lasts a few years, it will cost more and it will have more impact on the school's functions," Vladimir Lyubetsky, a DRA architect, said.
The criteria also looks at "educational outcomes" such as meeting the space needs for each program, and having flexibility with the gym and auditorium and public access. 
A renovation project would keep the footprint of the vocational shops the same but would renovate the interior. That could mean the shops do not fit the state's recommended size. Additionally, in a new build, the gym and auditorium would have to be reduced in size. The space in a new building could be tailored during design for an educational program
"We're not going to change the automotive shop by a couple feet," Franceschi said.
The "facility outcome" category has the most significant amount of subcategories that inherently gives that section more weight. That section covers security, durability of materials, optimal energy performance, flexibility in usage, potential expansion, use of athletic fields, traffic flow and parking.
As for flexibility in usage, Franceschi said there would be an extra vocational room with a renovation project that would serve as an "incubator" to pilot any new vocational programs, whereas a new build would not include one.
The environmental impact, sustainable "green" design, operating costs and maintenance costs round out the criteria.
Monday's meeting of the commission was in a new venue on the fourth floor of the Clock Tower building on South Church Street. 
Chairwoman Kathleen Amuso said the location was picked because the previous meeting space in the Pittsfield High School library did not have air conditioning. There are few public spaces that could accommodate the entire commission, she said, and the new space in the private building was offered.
"It was really just availability and space. If we were a smaller group, we probably would have met at City Hall," Amuso said. "It does get extremely hot at Pittsfield High School."

Tags: MSBA,   school building committee,   school project,   Taconic High,   

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