Going for the Gold

Story by Bruce Higgins | September 28, 2010

Bradbury Stamm, an 85-year-old Albuquerque-based construction company, and the architecture firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini have been awarded the $36-million contract and have begun work on the first LEED school in the Albuquerque Public School system.

The contract for the as-yet-unnamed middle school is a milestone for APS in at least two criteria. This is the first design/build contract APS has awarded. And not only is this the first LEED-certified school in APS, but also the school will be one of the first LEED Silver for Schools buildings certified in New Mexico.

LEED is the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which was implemented by the U.S. Green Building Council for a “Green Building” rating system. The LEED rating addresses six major areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design processes.

LEED Silver for Schools defines standards for increased acoustical performance, increased natural light requirements, and increased environmental air quality requirements. These standards are higher than ordinary LEED Silver certification.

LEED Issues

The APS contract requires Bradbury Stamm, as the contractor, to meet the LEED Silver for Schools certification; however, the Bradbury Stamm staff is working to achieve the higher LEED Gold standard.

The design/build team has some special strengths coming together for this project. The APS owner representative on the design/build team is Janet Lacy, who had design/build experience in Los Alamos, NM. The architecture firm of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini brings the most experience in LEED projects in New Mexico to the team. Finally, Bradbury Stamm has extensive experience with design/build school projects including Baca D'lo Ay Azhi School (the first LEED-certified school in New Mexico).

The Albuquerque Public Schools LEED Silver for Schools project has brought forth some issues that may become relevant in the evolution of such certification. The sizes of windows for LEED Silver for Schools are specified universally for any location in America, without considering climate, elevation or atmospheric differences with locations.

In Albuquerque and many other high-elevation cities, the reduced atmospheric filter combined with the reduced humidity levels result in higher light and UV levels to be experienced. It is expected that these classrooms will be significantly brighter that similar classrooms in a certified school in Boston, New York or Atlanta. Facing such circumstances has caused the evolution in LEED certification.

On a Fast Track

As the project is design/build with a deadline of being ready for the 2009-10 school year, construction must progress aggressively. This is truly a Fast Track project. One of the typical frustrations contractors face is the permitting process.

The city of Albuquerque has enacted a “Green Path Program” to encourage LEED projects. The program expedites the permitting process to reduce the delays ordinarily experienced in construction. The program is new in Albuquerque and has averaged about eight days with the initial startup; however, recent permits have been issued in two or three days, said Lawrence Peterson, project manager for Bradbury Stamm.

Ordinarily, one building permit is obtained for a construction project within the city of Albuquerque, but design/build under a fast track creates a different situation. In order to expedite the construction while design is under way, the permitting for this project has been segmented into eight separate permits. For example, the foundation is permitted separately for the first half of the building, followed by the second half. Likewise, the building shell is permitted in two segments. The interior permitting is permitted in two segments as well.

The construction site involves geology almost unique to the Albuquerque west mesa – basalt rock and very fine sand. This required approximately 3,000 cubic yards of rock blasting and removal for the building pads and utilities. After that work was performed, the foundation areas were over-excavated. Suitable materials were then placed and compacted.

The overall building measures 172,487 square feet, and construction is well under way. The construction includes significant metal framing with drywall and stucco, as is typical for such buildings. Part of the LEED Silver for Schools certification is the placement of air gaps within the exterior walls. Construction design includes more than 100,000 CMU blocks to be placed.

Dennis Towne and Lawrence Peterson are jointly managing the project for Bradbury Stamm. Daniel Martinez is the superintendent.

Janet Lacy represents the Albuquerque Public Schools Facilities Design and Construction office. Dale Dekker, principal with Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, is in charge of the design team. Benjamin Gardner and Adrienne Horton are the project managers for DPS.

Subcontractors on the project include:

  • DKD Electric – Electrical design and installation
  • Beaty Construction – Masonry
  • Salls Brothers – Earthwork and utilities
  • W & W Steel – Structural steel supplier
  • Les File Drywall – Light gauge metal framing, drywall and stucco
  • The Noel Company – Concrete

This is a very challenging, trend-setting project for the project team, the city of Albuquerque and indeed for all of New Mexico. It is being followed with great interest by many in the construction industry and in the community at large.