Brookwood School Turns Construction into Education

MANCHESTER, Mass. — A nearly 21,500-square-foot renovation and expansion of the Brookwood School in Manchester, Mass. was completed in late 2014 after just 18 months of construction. The project wrapped up three months ahead of schedule and came in under budget after fears that the concrete in the cold conditions would delay the process.

Brookwood School, a PK-8 coed day school, was initially founded in 1956 and served just 65 students. Today it maintains an enrollment of 400 students supported by 65 faculty members. The school administration identified a need for more classroom space in the lower school, as well as expanded dining facilities, and selected Windover Construction of Beverly, Mass. to lead the design-build project. Windover collaborated with the design firm of Siemasko + Verbridge, also of Beverly, and several other subcontractors.

Alongside improving the physical space, the project’s overall goal was to create a feeling of welcoming and inclusivity within the school community. Construction took place during the school day and was completed in two phases. Phase I included the construction of four new classrooms, as well as a temporary student drop-off/pick-up.

Once students and teachers moved to the new areas, Phase II began with the demolition of the vacated kindergarten and first-grade wing for infill construction. This phase added new second and third grade classrooms (for a total of nine new classrooms), offices and skills rooms, updated locker areas, a large atrium “town square” area for assemblies, renovations to the existing kitchen and construction of a more than 7,400-square-foot, 220-seat dining hall with vaulted ceilings.

Each classroom was also equipped with a projector, screen and sound system while the town square area includes a large, 8-by-13-foot screen recessed into the ceiling and a distributed sound system, transforming the space into a high-tech multimedia area.

“Turning an elementary school into a construction site has its challenges of course, but that means it also offers an opportunity for innovation,” said Stuart Meurer, principal-in-charge of the project and vice president of Windover Construction, in a statement. “With careful planning, temporary access ways and a just-in-time orchestration of deliveries and subcontractors we were able to work around the school’s schedule rather than ask them to work around ours.”

“Safety around an active worksite was of course an issue, but it was never a concern – we’ve worked safely in tight and occupied sites before,” Meurer continued. “The real challenge was how to limit distractions for the students.”

In an effort to turn the process into a learning opportunity, the school administration and Windover representatives elected to incorporate the design/build project into the students’ curriculum. Instead of cordoning off the space through the duration, students assisted in the school’s groundbreaking, then participated in weekly tours of the construction site, created update reports, shot weekly videos of the progress and attended the topping out ceremony, signing the final beam before installation.

“A lot of credit has to go to the school administration and teachers for this project,” Meurer said. “Not every school would be open to allowing students to regularly tour a construction site. But they saw the value of this unique learning opportunity and created interesting programs to engage the students.”

Student videos of the construction process are available on the school’s website.

Learn more about the Brookwood School expansion and renovation project in the March/April issue of School Construction News.