Recap of 9/14/23 Building Committee Meeting

The Andover High School Building Committee Meeting met on 9/14/23 beginning at 7:50 AM. Topics included: updated rough project costs based on the March 2023 preliminary Feasibility Study (FS) cost information, potential use of heavy timber structure in the building, and presentation of a revised building massing & interior scheme. A replay of the meeting can be found in the Andover TV archive and highlights are summarized below:

Updated Rough Project Cost

As the project continues through the Schematic Design (SD) Phase, Andover Public Schools and the AHS Building Committee have been working with the design team to help define the scope of the project. As part of this, the space summary has been refined to better reflect the school’s educational needs, and the Committee has been making informed decisions related to scope adds and deducts.

Based on costs estimated at the Feasibility Study level of detail (March 2023), the estimated total project cost was roughly $484 million. The most current cost snapshot (September 2023) shows a net $33 million decrease in total project cost, putting it at roughly $451 million.

Detail on the items impacting the cost – including what has been removed and added from the project during the Schematic Design phase – can be found here. As a summary, cost decreases have come from refining the space summary (working with educators to find areas of consolidation) and from use of less expensive materials (brick instead of rain screens, for example); increases have come from expanding the plateau to into a competition-sized field with turf.

Additionally, the Committee has voted to remove roughly $76 million in potential scope adds from the project (parking garage, porous pavement, skate park, sports lighting in front of the school, and solar panel purchase have all been removed from consideration) and the Committee is still reviewing roughly $54 million in potential scope adds (sports lighting at the plateau field, an enclosed walkway between the new school and Field House, the use of structural timber in select locations, sustainable irrigation, and mechanical system upgrades).

PMA explained that the cost figures presented are rough magnitude cost estimates that were provided during the Feasibility Study phase for comparison and decision-making purposes only. Once Schematic Design is complete, the project scope will be refined enough for professional estimators to provide a total project cost estimate, which will be brought to Andover voters for their consideration.

Heavy Timber Structure

A potential project add is is to use heavy timber, rather than structural steel, in some areas of the building. This choice would be made for environmental reasons because it would reduce the carbon footprint of the building. If 40% of the structural steel were to be replaced with heavy timber, the estimated cost would be $7 million.

Due to that overall cost, the Committee requested that the design team investigate reducing the scope of this item, and provide costs for using heavy timber structural elements within only an area of the building, for example just the the gym, cafeteria, main lobby, or media center.

Building Massing

HMFH Architects briefly reviewed previous building massing option 1B and option 2A that had elicited the most discussion at the August 24th building committee meeting. They then presented a new option 3, which reflects feedback received to date:

(click image to enlarge)

Option 3 includes a central spine of shared spaces (cafeteria and media center), with athletics and performing arts on the East side of the building, and academics on the West side. Administration is located next to each the front (main office) and back entrances (guidance & nursing), and the media center is on the third and fourth floors. The design also provides two outdoor learning spaces, including one that adjoins the cafeteria and maker spaces. The Option 3 floor plans can be found beginning on slide 20 of the September 14th presentation.

HMFH also presented various shadow studies for each of the 3 options. A goal for placement, orientation, and design of the building is to allow natural light into the academic wings and exterior courtyards.

Why Design Matters

HMFH concluded the meeting presentation with information from “Schools for Health Home.” Schools For Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 6 Mar. 2020, related to the impacts of a buildings’ environment on faculty and students. Here were the key-takeaways:

  • Thermal Comfort: Several large studies show thermal health can influence academic performance. Students’ academic performance could significantly benefit from adequately maintaining thermal comfort in classrooms
  • Classroom Acoustics: Research has shown that chronic exposures to internal and external sources of noise can lead to deficits in test scores
  • Lighting and Access to Natural Light: Students in classrooms with access to green views through their windows have been observed to experience significantly faster recovery from stress and mental fatigue and performed significantly higher on tests of attentional functioning. Helps keep circadian sleep-wake cycle in proper alignment. Circadian rhythms influence basic cognitive processes such as attention, working memory, and executive function.
  • Air Quality: Improving Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) can positively affect cognitive function outcomes, such as decision-making, attention, concentration, and memory. Studies have found that higher ventilation rates and low CO2 levels can positively affect cognitive function. Multiple studies have shown that when steps to mitigate poor IEQ are taken, students’ academic performance improves.

Upcoming Building Committee Meetings

The next AHS Building Committee meeting will be Thursday, 9/28/23 in the School Committee conference room (30 Whittier Ct, 2nd floor, above the Robb Senior Center).

The Committee will also be hosting community tours of the existing Andover High School on Saturday, 9/30/23 from 9-11am, followed by a forum from 11am-12pm in the Andover TV studio located with the high school.

For more information on the 9/14/23 AHS Building Committee meeting, please see the full meeting presentation. To watch a replay of the meeting, you can find the AndoverTV recording in their meeting archive.