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Planning for Successful Phased Construction Projects

When updating, renovating, and/or expanding a building that is in current use, careful planning is critical to minimizing disruptions and ensuring the safety of occupants. The City of Leominster opted to renovate and expand their existing high school rather than replace it with a new building, and entrusted LPA|A with the planning and design. Phased occupied construction proved to be cost effective and resulted in a facility that now meets the needs of the school community.

The comprehensive high school serves the entire city with a student population of more than 1,800. The project was sequenced over seven phases and a period of two and a half years. The school needed a total upgrade of communications, lighting, electrical, and fire protection systems, as well as windows and building façade, which were well beyond their lifespan. The first consideration in a project of this type is keeping occupants safe during a process in which noise, dust, potentially hazardous materials, and the coordination of workers coming through the building all must be managed carefully. Clear documents, ongoing communication, and knowledge gained from previous, similar experience contributed to a very successful outcome for the City of Leominster.

LPA|A is also currently working on a similar project for the Town of Northborough, renovating Lincoln Street School.  In both cases temporary “swing space” needed to be brought on site, so that sections of the school could be relocated during construction in that portion of the building. Finding and preparing an appropriate site for modular classrooms is another element of the total project, with associated planning and costs. The alternatives are moving occupants entirely off site or moving occupants within the building, but these are not always feasible, depending on the scope of the project.

Leominster High School, Before and After

In the case of UMass Medical School Library in Worcester, LPA|A was called upon to come up with a plan for upgrading technology systems, but with the added challenge of being a space that is open to the college community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In this case the decision was made to keep the library up and running throughout the project. The 1960’s, three story structure remained open and upon completion was able to offer its patrons the latest technology and data communications.

More often, when working on college campuses, the summer break offers a brief opportunity to take on a construction project without significant disruption for students and faculty. “Summer slammers” have a compressed construction schedule, which again means that careful planning in advance is an absolute requirement for a successful project.

LPA|A has assisted the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester with a number of such projects in recent years. A major renovation of Kimball Hall’s servery enabled the school to offer more dining options for students, while also giving the space, which had not been renovated since the 1990’s, a more updated look. The space features exposed wiring and duct work and tile floors and walls, giving it a quasi-factory look. It was important for LPA|A to quickly identify and order any long lead items so the project wouldn’t be delayed waiting for a fixture or piece of equipment.

The Student Affairs Office at Holy Cross was another summer project with an expedited schedule. The college wanted a more comfortable and inviting space that would be easier to locate within the Hogan Campus Center. For the carpet and finishes LPA|A was restricted to selections that were available for “quick ship,” requiring additional research and care in finish selection. In both cases, the updated spaces were ready to use when students returned in September.

Ensuring the health and safety of building occupants while transforming a building into one that better meets the needs of the owner and occupants requires a thorough and thoughtful approach and excellent communication throughout. With the right team in place, even the most complicated projects can be completed successfully with minimal disruption.

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