Working as a Team

With completion of design for the Gym Addition Project scheduled for less than 2 months away the whole design team is hard at work. Building projects usually start with just the Architects involved. As I talked about last week, we sketch out ideas for the way a project will look and how all the rooms will fit inside. However, there is much more to any building than just the way all the rooms fit together—a building has to stand up and have heating and lighting and many other different systems. These systems are all designed by different Engineers who are part of the design team.

Right now we have about 5 different offices of Engineers all working away on the Mt. Eccles Gym Addition. All of the work of the Engineers is interrelated and it all has to tie back to the architecture. For example, Roger and Doug are our Mechanical Engineers and they are working find out how big the fans will need to be to heat and ventilate the Gym. Barry and Ryan are the Electrical Engineers and they are working to provide electricity to the new fans. Troy is our Structural Engineer and he is working to see if he can make a roof that is high enough to fit the fans inside.

It is an exciting time when all of the different parts of the building are being worked on at once. Over these next couple of weeks the Gym will go from just a sketchy idea to something that can really be constructed.

Fitting Everything In

Welcome back! I hope that everyone had a good holiday break. Work on the Mt. Eccles Projects has been proceeding at full speed and some exciting things are happening.

I’m talking about Projects in the plural because we have divided the work into two major parts—the Renovation of the existing Mt. Eccles school and the Addition of the new Gym. Our plan is to finish the design of the Gym Addition so construction can start right away this summer. Then, the plans for the Renovation will be finished about 3 months later so that construction starts about the time everyone is back in school next fall.

Over the past couple of weeks we have been working to fit all the needed rooms into the two Projects. During the very first part of any Architectural project—the Pre-Design Phase—we make a list of every room needed in the building. This list gets pretty long and detailed since we have to list everything from big rooms like the Commons right down to every Janitor’s Closet and Rest Room. This list of rooms comes from discussions with the people who use the building and it is important to list everything.

Once this list—called the Program—is complete, then we try to fit all the rooms into a building. If we are designing a new building we sometimes cut out colored paper rectangles in the shapes of all the rooms and try to arrange them into different configurations. In this case, we knew that we had to fit most of the rooms inside the existing walls of Mt. Eccles school, so the overall shape couldn’t change that much. It is sort of like fitting together a puzzle—but one that has many different possible solutions.

Where are we?

As you probably all know, Mt. Eccles is going to get completely renovated starting next year. All of the old parts of the school will get remade just like new and a Gym will be added on the uphill side to the east.

Even though the bond election just passed a month ago, we have already been working on the Mt. Eccles project for about a year. So, in some ways this blog is starting in the middle rather than at the beginning! I will try to keep talking about what we are doing now with some glimpses backwards to show the work that has already taken place.

Most architectural projects can be broken down into 6 major phases. They are:

  • Pre-Design
  • Conceptual Design
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents
  • And then, of course, Construction

Basically, the design phases take a project from just a loose idea and turns it into set of drawings that describe every part of the project exactly. Right now we are just about halfway through the Schematic Design phase, so a lot of work has already occurred. The decisions to create a Gym and how much of the school to renovate were made during these earlier phases.

I was just in Cordova last week to show our work so far and ask for a major decision. We had two different designs and we had to choose just one to move forward.

Option 1 from PlaygroundOne of the designs—Option 1–has the new gym up at the level of the second floor. Right off the top of the stairs there would be a new hallway that leads across the top of the Commons to the Gym. On top of the Commons we would add a new Music Room with a Stage that opens into the Gym. Option 1 would mean that the tall Gym would go across the whole south part of the playground.

Option 2 PlaygroundOption 2 has the Gym down at the level of the Commons. We would make a new hallway off the back corner of the Commons which leads to the new Gym. The Music Room would be between the Commons and this new Gym. Option 2 has one very interesting advantage—because we are lowering the Gym, the playground could go on top of the roof! We would cover the roof of the Gym with gravel or some other surface and you could just walk straight onto it from the playground—you would not even know that you were standing on top of the Gym.

I made the presentation to the Facilities Committee, which is a group of Cordova people who are in charge of making the hard decisions for this project. The Committee is made up of several teachers, your Principal Mr. Wicks, and your Superintendent Mr. Nygaard among others. In the end, they decided to go with Option 2, so we will be proceeding with a design that has the lower gym and the playground up on the roof.

I hope you all have a good holidays and we’ll talk more in the new year!

Introductions

Corey at the Haines Public LibraryBefore we go any farther, I should probably introduce myself! My name is Corey Wall and I work for MRV Architects in Juneau. You can find out more about us at www.mrvarchitects.com if you are interested. Our firm is one of 10 or 15 in Alaska that does a lot of school projects. We just finished the big new high school in Juneau called Thunder Mountain High School and an elementary school remodel that is a lot like Mt. Eccles called Harborview Elementary. Most of my work for the past year-and-a-half was on Harborview, so you’ll probably catch me referring to it a lot.

I am an Intern Architect. That means that I have gone to school to be an architect, but have not finished all my on-the job training yet. An architect has to get a college degree in architecture—either a Bachelors or a Masters—and then finish three years of training, and then pass 9 tests! I kind of took the long route to becoming an architect because I worked for MRV for many years before going back to school to get my degree. I hope to be all finished with my exams and be a full-fledged architect by next summer.

I will probably be the person that is the primary worker on the Mt. Eccles project, but there will be lots of other people involved. Paul Voelckers is the Principle-in-Charge—or the big boss—of the project. He is overseeing many projects at the same time including a new library in Petersburg and the new Cordova Center. We also have a team of engineers on the project. The architects are usually in charge of deciding how the new building will look and how it will be made. The engineers help us make sure that the new building has enough heat and light and will stand up. We’ll talk more about the engineers as we go on, I’m sure.

Welcome

Hi and welcome to the Mt. Eccles Elementary School Renovation website! First of all, congratulations to all of Cordova on passing the Mt. Eccles bond election. This will be an exciting project for the community and we are thrilled to be part of it. I have never had the opportunity to work on a project that enjoys 86% community support before!

This website has been created by the Cordova School District to help provide information about the project to anyone who is interested. We are hoping to make this an interactive tool to primarily educate the students at Mt. Eccles about what is happening with their school during design and construction. However, we are also hoping that middle and high school students—as well as the general public—also finds it helpful.

I will try to provide updates about once a week describing the both the project and the design process. Hopefully it will help people be well-informed about the “new” Mt. Eccles as well as giving a little glimpse into the life of an architect and engineer.

Thanks for logging in! Please make sure you leave a comment if you’d like. We’d love for people to get involved!

Corey Wall

MRV Architects