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Bloomfield Hills

December 10, 2012

Final drawings detail state-of-the-art Bloomfield Hills High

By Robin Ruehlen
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Architects from SHW Group and Fielding Nair International, along with construction engineers from Barton Malow, introduced the final schematic of the new Bloomfield Hills High School on Dec. 6. Shown here is the building’s front entryway.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — When the final schematics of the new Bloomfield Hills High School were displayed at the district’s Doyle Center on Dec. 6, one thing was clear — the days of blocked-in classrooms and offices, enormous cafeterias and dark, cavernous hallways are over.

Instead, say hello to a collegiate-style, state-of-the-art building that is awash in natural light, with an emphasis on the multipurpose use of every room and every gathering space, creating an environment of warmth, accessibility and comfort for staff and students.

Architects  from SHW Group, Fielding Nair International and construction engineers from Barton Malow were on hand at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting to present the drawings and discuss the next steps of the process, which will combine Andover and Lahser high schools into the footprint of the current Andover site.

Lee Andrea, architect and vice president at SHW Group, told the board that more than 400 pages of drawings were delivered to Barton Malow just before Thanksgiving.

“We are at a very important milestone in the design development phase,” he said. “We have a team of 30 people who will be working about 12,000 hours in the next 20 weeks.”

SHW Group architect Kevin Aalderink said the key features of the building are new and refreshing, with the goal to make it modern and efficient without being ostentatious.

“We wanted to see how we could efficiently create multiple uses for as many spaces as possible,” he said.

A dark gray/purple shade of brick will line the school’s exterior, with instances of copper highlights around the library and small group rooms, and key entry points will have faux-wood soffits.

There will be no long, dark hallways lined on either side with tall lockers, and no enormous cafeteria to get lost in during the lunch hour.  The seven learning communities (four on the second level, three on the first) consist of open, flexible spaces where students can study, relax and eat lunch without traveling to a separate area of the school.  Rather than teacher-owned classrooms, faculty will share collaboration suites within each community.

In the administrative suites that overlook the main commons, Aalderink said, the space has been opened up as much as possible in order to create a sense of transparency, but with a mind to security and privacy.

“We wanted to create open, inviting spaces within the suite so that everyone is encouraged to come in,” he said. “Outside of all the offices are meeting places equipped with technology so that you can pull up presentations. It’s all easy to get to — there is no separation with walls and doors.”

Board of Education President Ingrid Day noted that the administrative suite is a “very good example” of what has come out of countless meetings with faculty and staff on the school’s new layout.

“Everything here has a purpose. It’s dedicated to the staff and the needs of the students as we go forward, and every space has been accounted for and reviewed,” she said. “This is the best example, but you’ll see it repeated again and again in the learning communities and special education, right down to individuals and part-time people.”

Day said while the initial occupancy of BHHS will be around 1,650 students, “it can go up to 1,850 without complications.”

“Our numbers are still dead-on for when the building opens,” she said.

Although there is “distributed dining” throughout the building, a main serving area will be housed in a commons area off of the first level’s “Main Street”, complete with a kitchen that supports all district functions, catering and food prep.

“This is a high-volume space, with the auditorium to the right and the learning communities to the south. A tiered amphitheatre backs up in the second floor of the library.  It’s all durable surfaces, with good acoustic control and the inviting feel of the wood ceilings and the four very large skylights,” Aalderink said. 

The two-story library will be the “heart of the heart” of the building, and anchors one side of the front entrance with floor-to-ceiling windows, direct access to the second-floor learning communities and cozy seating to echo that in the Bloomfield Township Public Library.  The classrooms and the gathering areas of the school will have direct views to landscaped courtyards that provide shade and seat walls, providing a place for teachers to take the classroom outdoors.

“Not only are we creating interior spaces, but a more collegiate type of environment on the outside,” Aalderink said.

Fielding Nair International senior designer James Seaman said the school’s radio station, WBFH.FM “The Biff” will also be an anchor point of the main commons, rather than being housed in the lower level with the broadcasting department.

“Radio felt really strongly about being at the heart of the school. The students made a very compelling case for that,” Seaman said.

“They are remotely located now, but they feel that the new space will allow them more opportunities to interview students. They were really excited about being at the hub.”

The performing arts area includes a sophisticated auditorium with seating for 800, a full stage and orchestra pit, and all the “pre-function” spaces that are needed to support it. There will be three music rooms for choir, band and orchestra, small practice rooms, group rooms, a scene shop and a centralized dressing room at the center.

The athletic wing consists of a new gym with 1,700 bleachers, a main performance floor and three cross-courts, as well as direct access to the playing fields from the locker room space and a shared collaboration suite for the athletic director.

Steve Lorenzo of Barton Malow said the project remains at a 2-3 percent budget overage, which he told the board is “great news.”

“You might think that sounds crazy, but we tend to see an uptick in costs once the details start going into the documents,” he said. “We’re not done with the detailed estimate – we’re about 85-90 percent done, and once that is complete next week, we’ll reconvene and go through and validate that estimate.”

Lorenzo added he is “incredibly confident” that there will be no effect on programming, building performance or energy efficiency.

“The key to all of this is bid day, and what the market will bear when we go out to bid,” he said. “The plan is to bid on the first package, which is site work and the area abatement, in February. Once that is awarded, we have a time frame of May to go out and bid the rest of the building.”

The combined $58.65 million facility is set to open in fall of 2015.

To view the complete presentation of the final schematic and the drawings, visit the district’s website at www.bloomfield.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.