Cornerstone General Contractors Inc. – North Creek High School


Cornerstone General Contractors is building a collaborative learning environment for high school students using the latest educational and construction technology.

By Russ Gager

How the computer technology developed by companies in the Seattle area is being utilized by the construction industry is being demonstrated to high school students raised in the shadow of those technology giants.

Cornerstone General Contractors Inc. is showing students who will be in the first class of North Creek High School in Bothell, Wash., the digital plans for their high school that Cornerstone is building. With the Revit and Navisworks 3-D software used, every detail is updated and immediately available from the cloud on smart phones, tablet and laptop computers.

“We brought in a separate trailer as a viewing platform, in which the school district would bring a group of students to see firsthand what went into building their new school,” Project Manager Sam Comer says. “We gave them access to our 3-D BIM model to view and utilize as a teaching tool for the future students of a school built for an emphasis on STEM.”

That is the kind of education that the new high school is designed to promote with its innovative, collaborative learning environment. “The innovative idea with this school is that the entire campus is the classroom, not just the classroom itself,” Comer says.

“The classrooms have folding glass partitions that open up into the hallway to open the classroom into more than just the room itself,” Comer says. Clerestory windows in the high school’s three buildings will provide an abundance of natural light. “Scattered throughout the classroom wings are glass cube that are group learning spaces called collaboration cubes,” Comer says. The cubes are designed to offer smaller student groups a place to work together on projects while still being observed. cornerstone box

The $130 million, 258,000-square-foot North Creek High School is designed to teach a maximum of 1,800 students on a 61-acre campus. Construction began in September 2014, and the new school is scheduled to be substantially complete Aug. 1. Of the three structural steel buildings with concrete composite decks, two of them will be dedicated to classrooms and the third will house athletic and artistic facilities.

The structures are being built on concrete spread footings with brace frames over glacial till. “We moved 200,000 cubic yards of dirt in four weeks to get the building pads ready for the foundation,” Comer says.

Rather than building one single structure, the mass of the three buildings is broken up into different sections. A variety of exterior treatments will include curtain wall and storefront glazing, metal siding in silver, dark bronze and dark gray, and brick veneer in light gray and dark charcoal.

Environmental Education

The high school is being built on former farmland that had more than 20 feet of controlled fill added in places to create a level grade. Football, track, baseball and softball fields will be built with artificial turf, along with a soccer field planted with natural grass. Wetlands near the high school will have a boardwalk built through it so it can be used as a learning tool.

For a geothermal heating and cooling system, 112 wells were dug from 325 to 350 feet deep under what will become the school’s parking lot. Rain gardens – depressed areas at least 18 inches deep – are designed to collect rainwater and filter it back into the soil. They have a special bioretention soil mix with certain plants in them to aid in water filtration.

The school uses LED lighting throughout along with low-flow plumbing fixtures and a building management system that regulates lighting, heating and cooling based on occupancy. Spray foam insulation is being installed throughout along with a high-performance air weather barrier. The entire high school will undergo pressurization to test for air leaks.

A 99-kilowatt photovoltaic array will be installed on one of the building’s roofs to demonstrate solar electricity generation to students. It will display its output on a computer graphics dashboard in the school. The high school building is following the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol at an extremely high level ensuring the facility will be highly sustainable.

Vibration Monitoring

Cornerstone General Contractors is self-performing the concrete foundation, rough carpentry and miscellaneous building specialties. The rest is being built by approximately 50 subcontractors. One of the challenges of the project was building while surrounded by a residential neighborhood – some of which also was under construction – and coordinating activities with the different contractors.

“With our close proximity to the neighbors, we had to make sure we tended to their concerns and utilized vibration monitors to ensure our activities were not adversely affecting their homes,” Comer points out.

As general contractor/construction manager, Cornerstone General Contractors was brought onto the North Creek High School project in 2013. “We were involved with the schematic design and heavily involved in providing support services for cost estimating and cost certainty early on, and for construction value engineering and constructability reviews,” Comer says.

“We aided in guiding certain design aspects including strategically placed and sized mechanical penthouses on the third level,” he continues “We were able to advise the team on some configuration that really made the mechanical spaces efficient and saved the project some significant dollars.”

The mechanical and electrical subcontractors also functioned as construction managers. “We procured them via a state-allowed alternative subcontracting method known as EMCCM, a competitive selection process that included interviews early on in the process,” Comer relates. “So we brought those two major contractors onboard to assist during the design process, bringing their expertise in the mechanical and electrical trades to optimize design.” 

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