New School Concepts Produce Building Prospects

When the Wynn Resort opened on the Las Vegas strip in 2005, it had a tremendous impact on the demand for classrooms in Clark County. Every one of those 2,698 hotel rooms created 3.5 new jobs, from blackjack dealers to clerks at the local supermarket. Jobs are bringing people to Las Vegas in droves, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. With these job seekers come children-lots of them. Currently student enrollment is about 255,000 and is increasing at a rate of 12,000 to 14,000 students a year.

Tremendous population growth in areas such as Las Vegas; loss of population due to suburban migration in cities such as Portland, OR; and the need to replace buildings that are no longer functional are factors that are creating new markets for architects and builders. Photos courtesy Andersen Windows Inc., Bayport, MN.


While Clark County’s enrollment growth is atypical, many school districts across the country are faced with a growing enrollment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Washington, U.S. public school enrollment rose 20% between 1985 and 2001. The fastest growing segment is elementary schools. During that period, elementary enrollment soared from 27 million to 33.6 million students, a 24% increase.


This growth in student enrollment is overcrowding many schools. Another NCES survey found that 22% of the nation’s public schools were overcrowded. Overcrowding is defined as having a student population that exceeds a building’s capacity by at least 5%. Nearly 10% of the nation’s schools are operating at 125% of capacity.


However, not every school is overcrowded. According to NCES, about 52% of the nation’s schools are under-enrolled. In Portland, OR, enrollment has dropped from 52,091 to 47,140 during the past five years due to an ongoing migration to suburbia. Only one in four Portland city households have children. In 2005, one school was converted to a special-education-program facility and another was closed. In 2006, the district is considering closing more schools, selling or leasing its two administration buildings, and moving administrators to school sites.


Even with declining enrollment, districts such as Portland need to replace antiquated facilities. The average Portland school building is 61 years old. The city’s high schools are an amazing 70 years old.


Nationally, the average school building is 42 years old. During the 50s, 60s, and 70s, schools were built as quickly and cheaply as possible to meet the needs of baby boomers. Most of those buildings are no longer serviceable. The NCES reports that most U.S. school districts have at least one inadequate building. New Jersey, for example, is funding new schools in 30 districts with facilities deemed substandard in a 1997 court decision.


All of this comes at a time when districts need to improve test scores, increase accountability, control energy costs, and work with reduced operating and capital budgets. Most districts finance construction through bonds or more creative methods, such as temporarily increasing the local sales tax. No matter what the funding method, new-school construction only happens if the district’s voters approve the new construction. Hence, the aging buildings.


One bright spot is that many of the fast-growing districts are resisting the temptation to slap together large, cookie-cutter schools. Instead, they are building smaller, higher-quality schools. From a timing standpoint it takes no longer to build three small schools than it does one large school. Also, small schools can solve the where-to-build problem, especially in cash-strapped urban areas where it is easier and less expensive to locate smaller amounts of land.


The small-school model also costs less per student and yields better results. Outcomes from a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, show the annual cost per student is 16.8% less than other schools in the same school districts. Additionally, almost every graduate to date has been accepted by a college.


The project began in 1999, when The Big Picture Co., Providence, RI, received a grant from the foundation to help create 12 small urban high schools across the country. In 2003, it provided additional funding for 44 more schools. Currently, 34 schools have been built, including the six schools that make up the Met Center in Providence, RI. Four more are …

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Isolate Cracks, Set Tile, Keep Mall Open

Renovating Genessee Valley Center, Flint, MI, involved replacing the existing floor with a new tile floor. A crack-isolation system made work possible at night so the floor could be used by shoppers during the day.

When the management of Genesee Valley Center, Flint, MI, started planning a complete interior renovation, they wanted to make sure that everything-including the floors-contributed to what its marketing slogan describes as a “GeneSEE Experience.” At 1.3 million sq. ft., Genesee Valley Center is the largest regional shopping center north of Detroit. The enclosed center features 130 stores.


The architect of record, JPRA Architects, Farmington Hills, MI, partnered with Communication Arts of Boulder, CO, to design the renovation project with a fresh look in mind. The renovation involved more than 85,000 sq. ft., including all of the concourses and court areas. The existing flooring was replaced by new carpet and ceramic tile. The total tiled area was 46,359 sq. ft.


To achieve a distinctive look in the flooring, the architects fashioned a complex design pattern using tile sizes of 4 x 18, 9 x 18, and 18 x 18 in. The pattern, consisting of alternating bands of tile from manufacturer Ceramic Technics, Alpharetta, GA, in the colors of titanium sand, quartz, giallo, and earth, circulated around the perimeter and throughout the court areas.


Achieving this functional beauty wasn’t without challenges. Crews had to remove existing tile and terrazzo flooring that was more than 30 years old before the new tile could be installed. Then, the underlying concrete was cleaned, patched, and leveled to provide a sound substrate.


Cracks in the substrate-both visible and potential-also had to be addressed before the new tile installation could begin. Shrinkage cracks, which naturally occur as concrete substrates dry over time, can migrate upward and cause new tile to crack. The tile also had to be protected from control joints that builders placed in the concrete substrate to channel random shrinkage cracks.


Additionally, the floor installation had to move quickly. Genesee Valley Center management required all tile flooring work, including demolition, laying new mortar, setting tile, and grouting, to be conducted while the mall was closed, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The work was scheduled so that only small sections of the mall were closed off at any given time. In a business where profits can vanish with the slightest miscalculation, tile contractors are under the gun to get the most efficiency out of materials and labor. Selecting a crack-isolation format was among the important decisions.


Traditional membrane crack-isolation formats require at least two steps-installing the membrane and troweling the mortar-before setting the tile. Some formats require a third primer layer. Membrane crack-isolation systems require 4 to 16 hr. between application and the setting of tile. Then, another wait of at least 12 hr. is needed for the tile to cure before it can be grouted.


“When you use a sheet membrane to isolate cracks, it requires sheeting material and mortar to get it done. The tile setters are having to put down the membrane and then wait to set the tile,” said Larry Noyce, president of Precision Ceramic Tile, Burton, MI.


Considering the available tile-setting options and the rigid time constraint involved, JPRA Architects specified the TEC brand of 1Flex Fast Set crack-isolation mortar from Specialty Construction Brands, Arlington Heights, IL, to set the tile. 1Flex Fast Set is a single-component modified polymer mortar that acts as a tile-setting mortar and a crack-isolation system that protects against cracking to a depth of 1/8 in. It makes it possible to isolate cracks and set tile in a single step. 1Flex Fast Set works by adding a blend of flexible polymers to high-strength cement-as much as 10 times the polymer concentration of standard latex mortars. It contains a blend of spray-dried polymers and hydraulic cement, which allows grout to be applied within 4 hr. of setting tile, much sooner than normal set time.


Each section of the mall’s tile installation was choreographed over the course of two nights. A demolition crew would remove the existing tile, prepare the substrate, and reopen the floor to light foot traffic the next day. The following evening, the installers would isolate cracks and set the …

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Colorful Flooring Echoes Dolphin Therapy

IDC’s 5,000-sq.-ft.facility offers special-needs children therapy classrooms, a library, a meeting room, seven aquatic environments, and locker/shower rooms.


Island Dolphin Care Inc. (IDC) is a not-for-profit organization that provides dolphin-assisted therapy to critically ill, disabled, and special-needs children. The Key Largo, FL, organization was created by Deena Hoagland, after witnessing the remarkable recovery experienced by her three-year-old son, Joe, who suffered a stroke during his third open-heart surgery.


Deena and her husband Peter took Joe to Dolphins Plus, a dolphin research and education facility, located in Key Largo, where guests are given the opportunity to swim with dolphins in a natural setting. The Hoaglands hoped that the dolphins might motivate Joe to use the left side of his body, which was weakened from the stroke. Joe had not responded well to traditional physical, occupational, or speech therapies.


At Dolphins Plus, Joe began to make progress physically and psychologically in the non-threatening environment. His muscle tone and flexibility improved and his self-esteem increased. Deena reasoned that if dolphins could help Joe, they might also help other children. She began to take children from her son’s special-needs preschool to swim with the dolphins. In 1997 she and Peter created IDC at the Dolphins Plus facility.


Today IDC and its staff of therapists serve approximately 2,000 children annually, offering programs that allow children to swim and play with dolphins and attend motivational recreation classroom sessions. To better provide these services, IDC recently constructed a 5,000-sq.-ft., fully accessible therapy and learning center. The facility features three therapy classrooms, a family resources library, a meeting room, seven aquatic environments with corresponding educational exhibits, and locker/shower rooms.


The facility also features 3,400-sq.-ft. of Noraplan Mega and Norament 825 round pastille floor coverings from Freudenberg Building Systems, Lawrence, MA. These environmentally friendly floor coverings compliment the natural setting of the dolphin therapy program. Made from renewable natural rubber, natural fillers, and environmentally compatible color pigments, all Nora products are also completely free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plasticizers, and halogens. In addition, the floor coverings feature low VOC emissions, the off-gassing from products that occurs under specific conditions. As a result, the flooring helps to ensure good indoor air quality throughout the facility.


Rubber flooring’s slip resistance and resilience provide additional benefits to the facility and its occupants. “We work with special children and I wanted a flooring that was not going to be rough or hard on their falls, and one that would offer slip resistance. I also wanted something that was going to look good and that we didn’t have to wax,” Hoagland said.


Rubber flooring fit the bill. Unlike many resilient floor coverings, rubber floors do not need to be waxed or sealed because of their dense, nonporous surface. All that is required to maintain the rubber floor coverings is simple dust mopping and wet mopping with a mild, pH-neutral, cleaning product. No coating or waxing is required either, which eliminates the need to strip or rewax the floor later in the maintenance cycle. Labor costs decrease, as do the costs of cleaning supplies.


Nora takes these maintenance advantages to a new level with Cleanguard, a manufacturing process that produces a dense, nonporous, dirt-repellent surface. This process provides enhanced resistance to scuffing, increased resistance to soiling and staining, easier maintenance, and eliminates the need to coat or wax the floors.


Designers working on the IDC facility used a total of nine different flooring colors to create colorful designs, patterns, and shapes that brighten the center and tie the building to the surrounding environment. Waves and dolphins, along with circles and abstract patterns in the floors of classrooms, foyers, exhibit areas, and stairwells, remind visitors of the dolphins that are at the heart of the center’s programs. Additionally, wheelchairs pivot easily on the rubber surface, and children delight in the color that surrounds them. “It really is an extraordinary floor and it looks great,” Hoagland said.…

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Changes Could Streamline How Industry Uses BIM


Following an 86-day open ballot submission period, the National Institute of Building Sciences buildingSMART alliance has closed the submission period to develop Version 2 of its building information modeling (BIM) standard, the National BIM Standard-United StatesTM (NBIMS-US). The Alliance received 45 submissions, which cover a range of topics that could have a significant impact on the way architectural, engineering and construction professionals use BIM.


The ballots were separated into categories relating to: reference standards; information exchanges, including model view definitions (MVDs) and information delivery manuals (IDMs); best practices; and overview and guidelines, including updates to the NBIMS Version 1, Part 1. Of the ballot submissions, 36 were complete entries and nine were “blue sky submissions,” or ideas that will need more input before becoming a ballot or going for a vote to be included in the standard.


Several of the ballot submissions, if approved by the voting membership, will significantly expand the current standard. For example:


A number of ballots identified tables from OmniClass to be used as referenced standards, including: Table 13 – Spaces by Function; Table 21 – Elements (Uniformat); Table 22 – Work Results (Masterformat), Table 23 – Products; Table 32 – Services; and Table 36 – Information Content. Much of the open BIM coordination in the industry is based on these tables and their coding structure.

Ballots proposed the addition of several information exchanges into the NBIMS. One of primary interest is the Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie), which, if approved, would become an official standard through this consensus process.

One ballot would add the BIM Project Execution Planning Guide, Version 2.1, updated in May 2011, to the NBIMS. This guide has been used by numerous organizations across the industry to coordinate BIM implementation.


The ballot item comment period begins August 3 and ends September 1. All members of the industry, including architects and engineers using the software; contractors interpreting the data being provided through the BIM; and software vendors developing BIM tools, may submit comments during the comment period upon becoming a member of the Project Committee. Comments will be shared with the Project Committee; eligible members will begin voting on the ballots September 21. View a list of all ballots. Download a Project Committee application form.…

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