HMFH Architects Unveils New School

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — Functional design meets community spirit in the new Bresnahan Elementary School. HMFH Architects, Inc., in conjunction with CTA Construction, meshed effective planning with elements of Newburyport’s heritage to design a school that will meet many of the community’s needs. HMFH has demonstrated great architectural success for academic buildings, and the company’s designs feature user-friendly plans and dynamic colors.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Bresnahan School was held on June 7, 2013. The space will span 112,000 square feet and is located next to the current elementary school. The project is more than just a new school, however—it will combine the preexisting schools for PK-K and grades 1-3 with Newburyport’s senior center as well. Not only does this help suit the town’s needs for updated facilities, but it will also help promote greater community integration with the space’s multifunctional design.

When asked about the design, Laura Wernick, AIA, REFP, LEED AP and senior principal at HMFH Architects said that the school “is based upon a model school that has been built twice previously. The model provides a very straightforward and cost-effective classroom wing with its own entrance attached to a core of shared spaces with a separate public entrance.” The natural landscape of the project site was taken into consideration as well. “The model was modified to use the naturally sloping site to great advantage,” Wernick said.

The new school is more than just an effectively designed multipurpose space, however. It will also feature key elements of Newburyport’s history and heritage. “Exterior materials were specifically selected to echo the appearance of Newburyport’s red brick and white trim historic downtown buildings,” Wernick said.

Aspects of the town’s maritime traditions were incorporated into the design as well: “The interior colors and patterns, including a full corridor-length terrazzo floor of sea creatures, schooners and constellations, were specially designed to connect students to the community’s maritime heritage.”

Wernick does anticipate facing some challenges as the project progresses. The construction team has already encountered difficulties attempting to design and construct a building right next to an occupied school. Wernick explained that the biggest challenge is yet to come, however: “The biggest test will occur as the project nears completion in 2014. The new school will open before all the demolition and site work will have been completed. The logistics of assuring safe movement of parents, students and busses onto and through the site where construction is still underway has been minutely thought through and will be particularly challenging.”

The school has been designed in compliance with the guidelines set by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) for status as a Verified Leader in Mass. This entails incorporating structural and design elements that foster environmental sustainability and high student performance. The project is expected to be complete by the start of the new school year in September 2014, and is estimated to cost $37,341,570.