Black River Design Highlights NCUHS Facility Needs

NEWPORT – Rick Burroughs and Heidi Davis of Black River Designs (BRD) gave an overview Wednesday evening of the facility needs for North Country Union High School's A and B wings to an advisory committee composed of school administrators, school board members, and members of the community. BRD worked with the high school board for the North Country Career Center renovation known as C Wing.The overview is based on a master planning effort by BRD, which focused on facility needs, code compliance, and educational issues. “We looked very broadly at what the needs would be for the district,” said Burroughs. “Not so much an immediate need, but what will make the building sustainable moving forward.” Burroughs stated that half of the 180,000-square feet of the building comprises the A and B wings of the school, which the school board is considering renovating. The three separate wings of the high school were completed in 1966 with C Wing undergoing a major makeover several years ago.Burroughs said much of the building and its operating systems are almost 50 years old, outdated and inefficient, resulting in higher costs and increasing difficulty to find replacement parts. The B Wing is near the end of its expected service life and needs to be replaced, which will include rebuilding eaves and soffits. The connector roofs have leaks and must be repaired or replaced.The windows are single pane, non-thermally broken aluminum, which don't meet current energy standards. To make matters worse, Burroughs noted to the committee, which was meeting in the library, that the columns around the windows are made of concrete, aren't insulated and draw heat out of the building. “There's almost no insulation behind the exterior bricks,” Burroughs said. “And there's wood framing at the aluminum louvers that don't meet code requirement.”Good news or bad news? The glass connectors between each wing of the building are unheated and uninsulated steel, tile, and glass connectors. While freezing cold in the winter, they also separate the wings in such a way that the fire marshal allowed the renovation of the C Wing without requiring that the rest of the school be brought up to code. That would have meant building fire walls and installing sprinkler systems through the two wings.The antiquated electrical system is at the end of its useful life, according to Burroughs, “We're talking about transformers, sub-panels and local wiring. While the service entrance and main distribution from the service area have been recently replaced, areas of the B Wing area are at or near system capacity.”Ventilation, plumbing and heating facilities are also due for upgrades or replacement. Floor tiles currently require a labor intensive maintenance program and are reaching the end of their useful life.“Code compliance is a serious issue that must be addressed,” said Heidi Davis. “The Fire Marshal and Department of Public Safety are aware the facility does not satisfy Life Safety requirements at this time.”Sprinkler systems and a fire wall will be required if any renovation is undertaken. Access is another major issue with the A Wing lift being non-compliant with accessibility rules. The B Wing elevator had to be upgraded with cab size requirements. Doors, hardware and rest rooms are also out of compliance.The third area BRD addressed is educational needs. Burroughs notes the existing science labs do not meet current educational standards and are out of date. Teachers' work spaces are far removed from their classrooms and do not follow the current national mode.“Gang style” showers in the locker rooms are outdated and do not allow for adequate privacy and separation, according to Burroughs, and the weight room is in a remote location and has limited supervision.“Electrical and mechanical systems are at the end of their useful life,” he stated. “There's no green room for props. There's isn't an adequate place for small group practice and instruction space and there is no dance studio.”Burroughs also said the special education spaces are spread out through the building and are not adequate to provide for the student's needs, the library doesn't meet academic standards for technology and media, and the nursing, administration, and guidance departments lack space and privacy and don't afford students confidential delivery of service.The presentation was concluded after Burroughs recommended the committee consider its next steps.“First, consider your needs, then the best solutions, and finally get a cost estimate,” Burroughs counseled the committee. “Choose which issues are the most important and prioritize your needs, and then decide what the school district can afford.” And he advised that in educating the public, “You need to shape the needs first so they know what the issues are, then address the solution. The last thing is to let the community know what it will cost. Putting cost first will drive the solution; you need people to focus on what the problems are and how to fix them.”The committee is considering hiring a project manager to oversee the process and represent the school board's interests as the project moves forward. For an estimated cost of $9000, the project manager will work with the school starting immediately with an anticipated planning and construction process that will take several years to complete.