Blach and QKA Expand East Bay Middle School in Multiphase Project

By Eric Althoff

FREMONT, Calif.—Project partners Blach Construction and Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (QKA) have successfully delivered the redesign of Thornton Middle School for the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD). The expanded campus now entails classrooms for 6th grade students, increasing the student population by 50 percent. The amount of project space entailed 57,000 square feet in total and 45,000 square feet of new construction all told.

Among the new space is a two-story administration building that effectively serves as the campus’s main entrance. This building also houses a library and student support services. An earlier phase of the project also added five two-story buildings as well.

The renovations to older parts of the school entailed refurbishing all of the existing classroom buildings. Blach and QKA also modernized an older multipurpose building and, on the exterior, worked on fashioning a covered dining space.

Personnel from QKA and Blach had to work together to ensure that disruptions to the school were kept to a minimum. Accordingly, Blach experts pre-built wall panels offsite at its prefabrication shop so they could be quickly assembled at the construction site, thus speeding up the project timeline. The builder also used a panelized wall system to quicken delivery of the five new classroom buildings.

In a bid for sustainability, QKA’s plans included solar-ready lighting, energy-efficient windows, LED lighting, water-efficient plumbing fixtures and “cool” metal roofing panels. The design also features bio-swales to collect stormwater as well as drought-resistant plants as part of the natural landscaping plan.

FUSD Superintendent CJ Cammack thanked the construction partners for their receptiveness to the concerns of the district as the project edged toward completion.

“The new construction and renovated facilities at Thornton Middle School create the type of teaching and learning environment our students and staff deserve,” Cammack said.

“The modern and flexible educational and support spaces that now make up Thornton Middle School provide each grade level with inspiring facilities to learn and grow,” QKA Principal John Dybczak said of the designer’s work at the school. “This has been a complex and fulfilling project to see through to the finish line, and the outcome is a testament to the teamwork of all parties involved.”

“With every aspect of the campus affected by the multiple phases of construction, advance planning and coordination were invaluable to project success,” added Brad Fannin, project executive at Blach. “From the prefabrication of wall panels to the sequencing of work, we employed solutions from the outset that would maintain functionality and safety for Thornton’s students and staff.”

Blach Construction has been a major player in the Northern California school construction market since the company was founded in 1970. In addition to its home base in San Jose, the company has offices in Monterey and Southern California as well. The firm consistently ranks on Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) “Top Contractor in California” list.

QKA has designed educational projects in Northern California for several decades. ENR has called the architectural group one of the top design firms in the nation.