Triangle Associates

When it came to selecting vendors and subcontractors for the construction of a new high school in Newaygo County, Mich., construction managers Triangle Associates looked beyond the lowest bids. “The school district very much wanted us to incorporate local participation into the project,” says Marc Alexa, senior project manager for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company.

“In many cases, we did not award contracts to the low bidder. We awarded to the most qualified bidder that really embraced the local participation mentality. Fremont Public Schools understood that maximum value is not always derived from the lowest price point, but from reputable, quality contractors.”

“The board of education and the building/steering committee placed the onus on Triangle to utilize local participation to the greatest extent possible in building a monument to the community, understanding that local didn’t mean entitlement, but merely an opportunity to return an investment to the community,” he adds. “They fully expect future school districts to look to Fremont as an example of how this type of forward thinking can provide an economic stimulus to any community while delivering a superior learning environment.”

After more than 50 interviews with vendors and subcontractors for the roughly 25 available subcontracts for the project, Alexa feels that through the direction of the Fremont School Board, Triangle truly selected an “A Team” to build the $40 million, 192,000-square-foot Fremont High School for Fremont Public Schools. Construction started in September 2010 and will conclude in August 2012.

Several of the major trades on the project are either based in Newaygo County or are using local tradespeople on the project. More than $6 million will be returned to the local economy as a result.

“We may have paid a small premium for some of the trades, but the dollars they will return to the community will far outweigh that,” Alexa adds. “It’s important, especially in this economy, to use local forces when you can.”

The project is approximately 30 percent complete, with one of the school’s two wings erected and covered with a roof. Foundation work, structural steel and masonry are underway on the remaining portions of the building.

A Better Environment

The two-story structure will replace a high school initially built in 1926. The school was renovated in 1960, has had at least five additions, and is out of date. “It’s not a great environment to teach kids in,” Alexa says. “It may do for the time being, but isn’t an ideal situation by a long shot.”

The new building will include an academic wing with approximately 38 classrooms as well as an athletic wing with competition and auxiliary gymnasiums. One of the gymnasiums features an elevated running track. Joining the two wings together is a core area with a multipurpose cafeteria, media center, and administrative offices.

The school, located in a farming community, will also feature a large agricultural science area offering classes in animal husbandry, wildlife studies and agriculture.

Major building materials include brick, masonry, precast plank floors, curtain wall, aluminum and glass. Kalwall – a translucent building system – will be used throughout the school’s central corridor, creating a clear story that will provide natural light to the building, Alexa says. 

Architect Kingscott Associates Inc. of Kalamazoo, Mich., designed the building with a number of environmentally friendly efficient features and a sensitivity to surrounding wetland areas, although formal LEED certification will not be pursued. Green building features include a white roof, in-floor radiant heating, geothermal heating and cooling systems, low-emissivity glass, bamboo ceilings, sloped ceilings and flooring made with recycled materials.

Fired Up

Triangle Associates has maintained close ties with subcontractors, vendors and the client throughout the project. The Fremont Public Schools district in particular has had regular input into the project, its first major building effort since the construction of the original Fremont High School.

“The school district is fired up and excited about the building, and have been very involved in every aspect of the process,” Alexa says. “We appreciate the support of the local community and the school district. They’ve been great to work with. We couldn’t ask for a better owner.”

’Bread and Butter’

This is Triangle’s first time working with Fremont Public Schools, but far from its first school construction project. The company, founded in 1918, has extensive construction management, design/build, and general contracting experience. Past projects include municipal facilities, wastewater treatment plants, and commercial projects, with a main focus placed on educational projects.

“We’re the largest K-12 contractor in western Michigan,” Alexa says.

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