Looking back on 2010 was educational

California schools graphicThousands of children and adults walked into brand new or beautifully renovated schools in 2010 that were structurally designed by ZFA. Enjoying ribbon-cutting ceremonies, squeals of delight, and smiling faces, ZFA celebrated the opening of more than 15 education projects blanketing Northern California.

The cornerstone of ZFA’s 35-year practice, education facilities account for more than $150 million in construction per year. The passion for building great schools pervades all three of the company’s offices, as engineers enthusiastically apply their knowledge and well-honed skills to the design of learning environments that everyone can be proud of. After all, it’s our children who spend their days here – learning, exploring their interests, discovering their fortes. So, safe structures, conducive to students’ growth, are the challenge, the goal, and the accomplishment that ZFA takes great pride in.

On the college front, the Indian Valley Campus of the College of Marin opened this year. This 32,000 s.f. campus, located in Novato, included a new two-story general purpose building. The project was designed to allow as much natural lighting and as many efficient heating and air circulation systems as possible. The building was constructed to house a variety of workforce development programs, including medical and dental assisting, court reporting, and computer technology. The project was designed to achieve LEED Silver Certification. Cost of construction was $15.5 million.

ZFA’s largest school project to date, American Canyon High School in American Canyon, opened in September and is already winning awards and accolades. This brand new school features an elliptical campus green, flanked by four small “learning communities,” which are the centerpiece of this 258,000 s.f. campus. Across the campus green is an elliptical library and administration building, flanked by a theater and gymnasium, which make up the public front to the campus. All of these main buildings are two stories. At a cost of $120 million, the lease-leaseback method of project delivery was employed. ZFA worked with the contractor and steel fabricator prior to DSA approval to incorporate value engineering feedback into the design.

Often more challenging than new school design is the modernization of existing campuses. With limited time to accomplish the construction, predominantly utilizing the summer break, and the need to keep the campus running during remaining construction time, the task can be daunting. But, the rewards are huge. The renovation of the Butte Community College Student Center in Oroville is one such project. Utilizing a design-build delivery method, the $5 million project took only 12 months to go from award to concept, through design and permit approval, to completion of construction, which occurs this month. The project revitalized the student center in a very cost-effective manner. Through a great collaborative effort, the design-build team was able to renovate the cafeteria and bookstore with new finishes, energy-efficient glazing, and installation of a new fire suppression system with minimal impact on the students and staff. The main aesthetic feature, a modern two-story tower, helps blend in this 1970s Student Center with the newer, more modern looking buildings on campus.

Ross Elementary School in the town of Ross is an existing campus that opened this year with more than just new and renovated buildings. In response to severe flooding in 2006, the entire campus, including several existing buildings, was raised four feet over the summer to place it above the floodplain. Collaboration with agencies such as DSA and FEMA was essential to the success of this unprecedented solution to a flooding school campus. This community-loved school was then completely transformed with a combination of renovated and new buildings, including a new two-story classroom building that increased the schools capacity without compromising playground space. A relocated entry rotunda was designed to blend with the existing campus façade. The cost of construction was about $20 million.

Another innovation is the Napa Memorial Stadium, which provides for the needs of two separate high schools. This new stadium replaces a beloved but dilapidated community institution dedicated to high school football. Without the usual track to make the field wider, the stadium is a more intimate venue for watching football and soccer. The facility serves Napa and Vintage high schools, with matched stands, press box, snack bar, ticket booth, and team room for each school. On each side, the upper and lower prefabricated bleachers are linked by the ZFA-designed steel and concrete promenade deck that is nearly 300 feet long.

Some of the other ZFA-engineered new schools, existing schools with new structures, and rehabilitated schools that awaited students in 2010 include Bayside School in Sausalito, Brown’s Valley Elementary School in Brown’s Valley, Dobbins Elementary School in Dobbins, Dow’s Prairie Elementary School in McKinleyville, Fortuna Middle School in Fortuna, Lower Lake High School Gym in Lower Lake, Martin Luther King Elementary School in Richmond, McKenney Elementary School in Marysville, Mendocino K-8 School in Mendocino, Taylor Mountain Elementary School in Santa Rosa, and Yuba Gardens Middle School in Olivehurst.

ZFA is wholeheartedly committed to its work on education facilities. And, with decades of experience, the company was honored to be awarded this summer the only Division of the State Architect (DSA) contract for the seismic evaluation of Northern California’s most vulnerable schools. Under that contract, ZFA has developed state-of-the-art evaluation criteria for use in screening schools in high seismic regions. In an effort to make the best use of limited public funds, ZFA is performing field evaluations of critical facilities to identify those buildings most in need of seismic strengthening.