Build Better Podcast

Tech School uses Integrated Prefab to Reno Old Industrial Bldg

March 22, 2019 Season 1 Episode 7
Build Better Podcast
Tech School uses Integrated Prefab to Reno Old Industrial Bldg
Chapters
Build Better Podcast
Tech School uses Integrated Prefab to Reno Old Industrial Bldg
Mar 22, 2019 Season 1 Episode 7
DIRTT
Students, teachers and local businesses are thrilled with new way to build a school.
Show Notes Transcript

The CAST Tech high school in San Antonio Texas is a special school. Supported by the local businesses, the curriculum is designed to produce graduates armed with the tech skills that will almost assuredly get them a job and/or set them up for success in their secondary education. 
The building chosen wasn't an obvious one. While it is downtown, and close to the companies looking to support and later hire the students, the building is an old vocational school built in the 30s. 
On top of that, the entire schedule for demo and reno was a matter of months. It had to be ready when the school year started. So they really needed to think about building the interiors in a very different way. A way that would continue to support them as teaching methods and technologies changed over the years. 
Everyone, but the designer, was skeptical that integrated prefab would do the trick. 

Speaker 1:
0:06
Hi there. Welcome to build better. I'm Julie Pithers You'll hear the term integrated prefab construction in this episode, so that's a generic term to describe what we produce here at DIRTT manufactured mass customized construction every minute of every day. So the construction components, their walls, doors, cabinets, plug and play, electrical infrastructure, and they all integrate precisely into the conventionally built building they're going into. And that's important because traditionally manufactured building products are produced in standard sizes. Like if you've ever tried putting cabinets into an old kitchen, you'll know the pain of trying to make a standardized product fit in hand-built construction, it takes a surprising amount of time and effort along with the extra materials. Today we're visiting a high school, a downtown San Antonio. The building they were moving into was built during the depression and it hadn't been used in years yet. The school moving into the old building is all about today's technology and it needs to be ready for tomorrow's. Their curriculum is designed to ensure the students develop skills that allow them to stay in the area where they could build satisfying careers while living in their hometown. The educators knew that the physical school had to be more than a roof over the students' heads and a place for them to sit and listen to the teacher. The school had to be an active participant in their education. Integrated Prefab was their solution.
Speaker 2:
1:38
Hello, I'm Melissa. I'll the principal at C.A.S.T. Tech high school CAST stands for Centers for Applied Science and Technology so we can create a pipeline of citizens to fulfill the job needs here in the San Antonio area to give real world relevance in the business technology sector and so the design of the school was big in order to make that happen.
:
1:59
My name is Heather Plank. I own T. Donovan Creative, which is a commercial interior design firm and I was the lead designer and the owner's rep for this project. CAST Is an amazing adventure and education. They're truly are blazing a trail. There are a lot of programs like CAST's that are project based learning and really involve the students in real business problems and creating solutions for them. The difference with CAST is it has tremendous support from local industry. They not only contributed to the capital campaign for building the building, but they formed an advisory board that influences the curriculum that the students learn so that the students graduate knowing programs and software and skills that these businesses specifically want to hire.
Speaker 2:
2:44
The students have a one to one mentor all four years of school and they have an opportunity to do internships with our local businesses and their junior and senior year, so by the time they graduate, they're incredibly marketable to the companies who can't wait to hire them. Creating a new talent in our city. We are an in-district charter, so we're part of a public school district. 50% of the students come from with in San Antonio, independent school district and the other half must come outside of the school district and they can be from anywhere. We're an open lottery system. It's great bringing together all these students from all over this city.
:
3:18
This was a very adventurous project. We didn't have a lot of direction. We knew that the students wanted to have a different experience and that a lot of their work was going to be collaborative.
Speaker 2:
3:27
We also knew that they are driven by an online learning management system, so every student is working at their own pace. That translated into the environment with a lot of adaptability and options for the students. We are a technical high school with students who want to pursue careers in business or technology and we know that technology is rapidly advancing, so the building had to be able to adapt to that. This building was constructed in 1932 and it was basically gutted, but the exterior is all the original and the same and we've just become a modern day building on the interior. With respect to the history and historical significance of the exterior. It was a school but it was more of a vocational school and the second floor of the building were all classrooms, but it did needed to be fully gutted, so we stripped away down to the structure. We added a new roof and we fixed a lot of problems that an 85 year old building would have. We did have the original steel frame windows and glass panes. We had a lot of catching up to do in terms of energy efficiency. We said it had great bones and it obviously does had also been vacant for 10 years before we started working on it. There were lots of surprises during construction.
Speaker 3:
4:47
Oh, name is Lucas Hernandez. I worked for the technology department here at San Antonio Dependent School district. Even before we even talk about renovations, we have to involve multiple people, multiple trades. Some of these could be historical sites. We can't even touch them or you know, there's some cinder block walls where the signals can go through and we can't put anything up there. So this the obstacles and problems that these have even before we, you know, we are breaking ground. It's a challenge.
Speaker 4:
5:12
They had to appraise, gut and bring the old base building up to 21st century code. Then they had to make the interior match the needs of a high school entirely dedicated to being both high tech and produce graduates ready to be proactive. Self directing employees. Oh, and the schedule, let's just say it was demanding.
Speaker 2:
5:34
It was incredible. Just with a timeframe, a nine month timeframe, what was going on. People were laying floor, while others were putting up ceiling and I'm not a construction background girl, but just to see how well it was orchestrated and how quickly it could come in. And it was interesting to me when the walls came and they were being put up, like how quickly they went up and then you could see the difference in. The other thing is the walls can be to bring color to your school. Cause I first saw the shell and the background of our school is gray and that I was telling the designer, wow, it looks a little depressing. She goes, oh, don't worry. The color is coming. Wait until the walls arrive and the furniture. And of course she was not kidding and how it all got tied together. The other thing I liked that she was sharing with me, those, the flexibility, she goes, now, Melissa, later, if you want to change out the colors with the panels, you can do that.
Speaker 5:
6:22
My name is Nora Wilkinson. I'm a project manager at Joeris General Contractors. The building was a shell. We demoed it, we removed everything and then we pretty much put everything back into the building after we retrofitted to make it fit per the new design.
Speaker 2:
6:37
The visionary behind the CAST network of schools had a audacious goal to have the school open within a year from the day that we walk the property. The first time to the day the students sat in the seats was 13 months and we were committed to realizing his dream for him.
Speaker 5:
6:54
We procured a lot of the items for the shell package up front so we could have them during the interior process, which the interior package came out in late April, which only gave us about three and a half months to complete the total interior of the 30,000 square foot.
Speaker 6:
7:12
My name's Will Cooley general contractors. I'm a superintendent for the company. Yeah. I was very concerned about it from, from day one just because it was such a challenge to meet the timelines, to work with the product you knew nothing about, and to coordinate the amount of people that had to go into this.
Speaker 2:
7:30
We had a wild moment about June knowing that students were going to occupy in August where there was not a wall yet standing in the building, the construction team arrived one morning and warned us that this was time to call it. We weren't gonna make it. We needed to inform the district and start making other plans for where the students were going to meet for the first few weeks until we could catch up and get construction finished and all the while I stood and just said, please trust us. Just give us one more, one more week before you make this call. Knowing that the integrated prefab walls, we're going to start installation in the next few days. By the end of that week, the same leadership from the construction company came back and apologized for doubting us because in the span of five days we were able to put up walls over almost 15,000 square feet of building and it was absolutely transformative. It was a high point for us in construction because it created a lot of momentum. Our contractors were working seven days a week. They were exhausted. They were giving everything they had to the project and when the walls went up it was, it was a celebratory day.
Speaker 5:
8:45
At first we were really apprehensive about the product because the construction isn't the correct flow. I had a schedule put together and then when they came in and introduced it to us, I had to go back and redo the whole schedule. You know, the coordination of the flooring had to be first and then the ceiling had to be there and then the walls, which is totally unconventional for what we're used to seeing.
Speaker 6:
9:10
This is like my 10th educational project and this is nothing like a traditional educational project. I mean it's totally different in every aspect that made it very enjoyable for a change.
Speaker 5:
9:22
This is the first time - I've been at Joeris 13 years and this is the first time that I've ever done a wall system in anywhere
Speaker 6:
9:31
from the time it went in, people were able to jump in, in their different elements and take care of or add what needed to be added and the product wasn't it essentially done. whereas construction. You have layers upon layers upon layers of trades have to get in there and work at a single time.
Speaker 5:
9:50
You know, everybody wanted to go down and see them getting installed or before the panels were put on what actually was in the wall and what actually was behind there that we were going to plug into. I think the Aha moment was like, oh, that's how it's going to look
Speaker 6:
10:05
like. Nora said, I had to rethink my way of putting it together. You don't put your walls, you don't put your ceilings and you don't put your floors in.
Speaker 5:
10:13
The trades responded great after they knew what they were getting into at first, you know we were, how do we get this pipe in there? How do we get the, you know, the controls on the wall. How is this going to look and how's that going to look and how do we make sure that the owner gets the color, the white that they want and how's this all going to work? I think there was apprehension at first afterwards. Everything pretty much ran smooth, but it takes a lot of coordination with the field. When your superintendent and our superintendent got together. That's really what made the project even more seamless than what we were anticipating.
Speaker 6:
10:51
Uh, very clean lines, very good looking product to very clean product from the time from the time it arrives to the time it goes in actually conventional construction you have dust and dirt and trash and debris. The debris they had only trash they had was what it was shipped in. I'm afraid if we would have, I'm afraid if I hadn't kept an open mind about it, we would have had a lot more headaches, a lot more roadblocks, but like I said, since I like new innovation, it was very easy for me.
Speaker 5:
11:22
You still have those old school superintendents that don't want to do anything new. They don't want to do anything innovative. They just want to do what they do. The next generation will want to use this product. The superintendents in the field having less skilled labor. I think that they will have this product out there and maybe clients will use it more.
Speaker 6:
11:45
I think anything like that is great. Construction industry is constantly changing. I think anybody that's not willing to do accepted time for him to go.
Speaker 4:
11:55
technology is one of the things that freaks out old school site supers and it happens to be the backbone for integrated prefab. Clients and consultants get a clear and graphical depiction of what's being designed and how much it'll cost to build. Because unlike other envisioning tools, this is more than a pretty picture. It contains all the engineering, pricing and manufacturing instructions for realtime decisions to be made and for the factory to build it
Speaker 2:
12:24
because we were sensitive to being good stewards of the money that we were given. We wanted to make sure that we were being very effective with the design but still keeping the cost low, so the 3D software really helped us be able to visualize what the space would look like to make really smart decisions about material choices where we could use glass versus a higher end finish tile. That really helped us inform decisions about making the best choice for the budget.
Speaker 3:
12:51
The campus was really involved on the finishes they were really involved on it. Hey, we want it this way. This is how does, how it would help our teachers out. Some teachers actually got involved and were like, Hey, this is, this would be beneficial for our students and we use that input to make it work versus conventional construction. You cannot do that and you can't put a whiteboard and a tack board in the same area. Everybody was involved. Everybody has a stake in it. Then were it turned out great. We worked, it worked out.
Speaker 2:
13:17
Having the capability of 3-d helped design actually more than it helped the client at the end. It certainly the being able to see what the space would look like. Got People very excited about it. Local industry supported the capital campaign for this building, so having visuals like that were important to people who needed to understand the vision of what we were trying to do. But the biggest resource of that 3D software was for design that we were able to push through design really quickly. Again, just saving time and a very tight, aggressive construction schedule.
Speaker 4:
13:51
A big chunk of the design was integrating all the tech. A school like this would demand and accommodate all the new tech coming along over the decades to come.
Speaker 2:
14:00
It's, just an essential piece like paper back when you know, some of us like me were in school and well, technology's part of our just everyday tool that we use. Computer science is a required course and coding is integrated in what we do because that's just the way of the future.
Speaker 3:
14:15
The school really wants to introduce students from all areas of San Antonio to technologies as far as you know, infrastructure to arts, to editing. They want to expose students as much as possible as far as jobs here in the area and throughout the United States.
Speaker 2:
14:29
The building was going to have to change as technology changed and as the faculty really learned how to approach this type of curriculum, we made a lot of really smart, informed decisions about how to lay out the building, but 10 years from now we could be very wrong. Knowing that school districts have limited resources in terms of remodeling they're just brilliant at making do with what they have. We wanted to give them a toolbox that they could use really effectively down the road. So if they needed to reset the building or a different number of classrooms or if they decide to change their enrollment levels, they truly could do a major renovation to the building without the cost of a general contractor and a typical construction renovation.
Speaker 3:
15:17
What I like about it, it's really adaptable to any future technologies that do come about. And if we end up getting new, uh, new boards, you know, just the easiness of popping it off, put him back on. And that's what I like about it cause you don't have to tear anything down to put something new back up.
Speaker 2:
15:32
Our school is intended to be a school of innovation and entrepreneurship. One of the things we knew we needed was flexible space that went from the furniture all the way to the design with the walls. But then how could we reconfigure the space 10 15 years from now as technology changes in the forecast and the way that the, the direction things are going in the country with employment and what the needs are. The construction team, the architect team, the educator team working in the design of the school had to be very thoughtful when the blueprints were being made about how can we keep this sustainable over time. So that 50 years from now when I'm probably not going to be around, that the school is living on his legacy and intended mission envision,
Speaker 3:
16:14
I was skeptical at first. I was like, how is a wall? I'm going to help us out. So I was a little skeptical at first, but it surprised me. I was very surprised and very satisfied.
Speaker 2:
16:25
Yeah. The facility can adapt to the needs of the student body and the city. as we proceed on and continue to grow our program. It just seemed the logical way to go and it seemed to make sense to pioneer something new even in our school district to to be the learning lab, so to speak,
Speaker 4:
16:44
to be a learning lab and a pioneer. Teachers, parents and students wanted student collaboration nearly all the time and to prepare the students for the corporate world. The classroom designs are similar to what you'd see in a corporate setting. Glass walls run down the halls with colorful graphics for a little bit of visual privacy, so all of that means a fair amount of noise is produced
Speaker 2:
17:08
acoustics. We're a challenge having the, you know, the main teaching screen in every classroom live. Plus there's a screen at a collaborative table that's live all the time and then the one to one devices. There can be 15 devices active with sound at one time plus students talking. So our first line of defense was to put carpet in the classrooms, which just not popular in a lot of high schools. It's a different maintenance regimen, so it requires a little bit more of the district. Our second line of defense was to use a more dense acoustic ceiling tile that absorbs some of the reflections of sound. Third Line of defense was, was an unusual tactic and it got a lot of interesting feedback during construction. People would walk through and think we were making very big mistakes, but when we chose to lay out the integrated prefab walls, we really did not create a straight wall anywhere in the building.
Speaker 2:
17:59
The walls are all on very harsh, interesting angles. Part of that spoke to the vision we had for every classroom just looking and feeling different, but the main reason we did that was to create a lot of surfaces for deflection of sound. Our corridors have concrete flooring. It has a lot of noise activity. When you step into a classroom, the sound immediately deadens. It's pretty remarkable actually. No classroom looks the same. They all have a different shape to them and that is intentional because we are a technology school. There are more electrical sockets and there were more charging stations because that is part of our work where kids are just using a device. Like many of us used a pen or pencil in school. I think we were selected to be the designers for this project because our background is mostly in retail. We were used to very fast paced construction schedules and the desire to have such a unique environment at the end really was, let's have some people who have never done a school do a workplace looking school for us.
Speaker 2:
18:58
We brought a lot of our strategies for office spaces and what makes really powerful meeting spaces and just highly functional adaptable spaces within an office environment and brought that to life in the school and the kids are, the students are just really embracing it. You can see any time I'm in this building, all of our little conference rooms and huddle rooms and nooks and crannies that we created for them to have collaborative spaces to work in are constantly occupied. The first time the teachers walked in the building, they were blown away and that's the best way I can use the phrase. They had no idea. It just affirmed their decision to come to the school. They quickly embraced it. They said, look at all the space we have for collaboration and where these kids can work together as teams, but I still have a whole group space. I love as a teacher that I can see outside, but I outside like the window but also outside in the hallway to see what's going on. They were just very excited to not feel so isolated like they do in a traditional classroom setting.
Speaker 5:
20:00
I think that because you have different places to work, if there are ways that you like to learn, when you do individualize learning that it really helps you a lot because, well, I mean let's look at a lot of other schools. All you can do is sit at your desk. This inspires you to be able to sit and think in different places and I don't know, but like the patterns on the wall and stuff, there's something weird about them. To me. They always get me thinking and I think part of it is that because a lot of people, you know, you have your serious side and you have your really creative side. When you kind of see this kind of stuff, these kinds of attentions to detail, you feel like you're working in a more complete environment. The students have
Speaker 2:
20:48
changed significantly from day one. They were all very nervous and hesitant when they first got into the building and it seemed almost uncomfortable because it just was such an unfamiliar environment to them and today, nine months later, that's a completely different story. The students have embraced the building. They treat it as their own. They're excited to be here. They can articulate what a gift it is to learn in such a different environment. They have a passion and a confidence that they did not have at the beginning of the school year. That has a lot less to do with the building and a lot more to do with the faculty teaching them, but it's, it's energizing to be here. Their spirit is contagious.
Speaker 2:
21:33
It's not like an ordinary school where you can just sit in the classroom the whole time and just watch a teacher talk and you get more freedom. I, that's like the number one thing on a teenager is that you need freedom. You can't just be held in a one classroom and then expect to do it by yourself. This is what, it's good. It's good because they help you, they help you on everything. that's why it means a lot to me. My name is Kimberly and this is our physical education class. We have all this equipment, footballs and skateboards and Hula hoops and weights and yeah, it's pretty interesting. We have our smart board over there, where we'll be working out and we'll use music to like keep us going. It's just really, it's amazing school like I really love it.
Speaker 2:
22:22
As soon as students see the building, they're sold and they say they want to come here just because they see the building and the design of it because they see it's something that they want. We have to be very clear about what the intent of our program is. We're so glad you love our building. Let's talk about what we're about though to make sure this is a fit for you. But I think something that was a very wise that this district did is that they had panels with students on it, parents on it and educators about what would they want for this school to make it look and feel like a school of innovation but also business and technology. And they said they wanted some huddle spaces just to hang out and they didn't use the fancy word collaborate. They needed to work with their, their peers or friends to complete assignments or with a team and they wanted that kind of space.
Speaker 2:
23:06
Part of what I like about CAST tech is they, they will allow you to work outside of the classroom so you don't get as bored just sitting in a seaT all day. So you kind of get to discover new places to study. A lot of people like sitting in those red chairs out in the halls, but the huddle rooms are always the room everyone like sprints do to try and get in first. There has literally been no tagging, no graffiti, no tearing up. If they say nothing about so and so was here or someone loves so-and-so, or anything like that and the students have been respectful of the space. Students really feel an ownership of the building. We, we were told a lot through construction and by kind of typical school partners that students were just going to destroy this building and all these nice, this nice furniture and finishes.
Speaker 2:
23:50
We're just going to be annihilated within five years. We knew that if we call the students to a higher standard, they would step up to it and that has happened immediately upon occupancy. The students really appreciate the different type of learning environments they have. They appreciate the glass walls allowing us to filter sunlight throughout every nook and cranny of this building. There is not a dark corner here. They appreciate the effort that we put in to make the space feel so invigorating for them. The community is proud of it. The people who donated to make it happen love to visit and tour people through. I think there's probably a tour going on every day in this building. So it's gotten a lot of attention regionally and it's just because of that, because we weren't afraid to build things differently and try things differently.
Speaker 2:
24:38
And that created a really remarkable building. One day our designer was here and she was moving some furniture around a set up for a showcase we were having. And so she had slid one of our chairs down and a student stopper her and said, hey, stop that. Oh Heather, sorry. I was just going to tell you to be careful with our chairs. And I was like high five and he was correcting her cause he didn't know who she was. I mean maybe don't yell lady at people, but you tell 'em! You tell people, to be careful with your stuff. They totally got it. Lady!!
:
25:11
that's what she want for your school culture is where students take pride in their school and they make the school space, their living space during the week to help promote diverse school family. We take care of what we have.
Speaker 2:
25:25
The outcome of the project was excellent. The owners happy. That's our biggest thing is making sure the owner's happy. The reward at the end. Seeing the kids in their, seeing their smiling faces saying, Oh wow, this is a beautiful school. I think that's the most, Rewarding part of what we do. We had an impossible construction schedule. We just knew that it was going to be a hail Mary pass at the end and we were all working our tails off to make sure that we got there, but this type of construction method saved us weeks in our construction schedule. It, it alone allowed us to get it. The students in the seats for the first day of class, which was our big goal.
Speaker 2:
26:07
We have students coming from all socioeconomic levels and they tell me they feel special. They're like, wow, people must really care about us to do this because they've never seen anything like it. And I think with students that helps them take more pride in themselves, have greater self esteem, but it's also resulted in them taking care of our school home. We haven't had issues with fingerprints on glass. I mean any of it. They've just been very respectful of the space. Yeah. I just enjoy like this whole sort of, environment feels tailored towards the students and it's not just here because it's here and you're here, learn. It feels like it's inspiring you to be more creative. It's inspiring you to think.
:
26:49
Thanks for listening to build better. If you'd like to see this pioneering high school, go to DIRTT.net and go into the project section in education. You'll find the CAST story there. I'm Julie Pithers. I hope you'll join us for more episodes of build better.