Northern California High School Wraps First Phase of Sweeping Modernization

By SCN Staff

MENDOCINO, Calif.—Mendocino Unified School District (MUSD) recently marked the completion of a near-total reconstruction and modernization of Mendocino High School (MHS). Designed by Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (QKA) and built by Lathrop Construction Associates, with construction management services provided by Donald Alameida, the project incorporated not only a thorough updating of educational and student spaces, but also energy conservation and all-electric features that will be paired with renewable energy sources added to campus in future phases.

“We are delighted that beyond meeting essential educational and environmental criteria, the redesign of the building gave us a campus that blends beautifully into the townscape of our historic community,” said MHS Principal Tobin Hahn. “The ideals that have exemplified Mendocino High School through the decades – collaboration, relationships, diverse academic offerings and surrounding natural beauty – were all incorporated into the redesign. We are grateful to our thoughtful, creative project team for delivering a school that will embody these ideals into the future.”

The “down-to-the-studs” modernization project has completely transformed MHS’s 1940s main campus building, along with major clean energy upgrades. All fossil fuel-powered equipment was removed from the building. Electric heat pumps replaced the diesel boiler and propane water heaters. Electric cooktops and ovens replaced the kitchen’s gas-powered equipment. The clean energy upgrades make these main campus components function as carbon neutral. MUSD has plans for an on-site array of solar panels and battery backup system, which will be developed in a future phase, and at that point, the entire campus will achieve carbon neutrality.

Robust wall and roof insulation, new double-glazed windows and modern roofing materials minimize power requirements for indoor temperature control. Mechanical and plumbing infrastructure was also replaced with low-water-use fixtures and landscape irrigation, in addition to integrating smart lighting that adjusts to ambient light levels.

Mark Quattrocchi, FAIA, Founding Principal of education architecture firm QKA and an MHS alumni has been involved in the district’s master planning and served as the design lead for over 35 years. He said, “This is the most significant MHS campus improvement project since 1940, and it holds particular meaning for me as a former student and district architect since 1989. I applaud the district – and the community’s tax-payers – for prioritizing climate-saving technologies and design features. This, coupled with inspired learning spaces that will benefit students’ educational experiences for decades to come, makes MHS a true passion project for all involved.”

The revitalization of the original 21,000-square-foot main MHS building is the first phase of an overall project that will ultimately provide facility improvements to all buildings on the campus. Inside the building, inefficient chopped-up spaces gave way to improved and properly sized learning environments including breakout spaces, new data systems and technology needs, and connections to outdoor learning environments. Two new science labs were created with modern casework and shared preparation space. Equipped with folding glass walls, a new Student Union will now be the site of events and gatherings. Adjacent to the Student Union, a new kitchen replaces an outdated cafeteria, which will be significantly improved and repurposed for a new culinary arts space in an upcoming phase of the modernization project. Centrally located, it is directly connected to an outdoor quad with magnificent ocean views.

The $15 million Phase 1 project was funded thanks to voters’ passage of Measure H in 2020. Phase 2, which began construction last fall, includes renovating MHS’s gym and a Tech Center building, which will house career technical education programs, including media, art and engineering studies.