Webcor Builders – Havens Elementary School

Originally built in 1908, Havens Elementary School was the first school in Piedmont, Calif. Al­though it had undergone sev­eral upgrades throughout its history, the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) decided in 2006 that it was time to create a safer school, with facilities that met current building standards. Soon after hiring Webcor Builders of San Mateo, Calif., to perform the needed upgrades, Webcor suggested an alternative approach to upgrading the school.  Instead of performing renovations to the existing facilities, Webcor proposed the demolition the entire school and starting over from scratch.

“Originally, their plan was to refurbish the existing building, but then we showed them that it would be more cost effective to do a whole new building,” Senior Project Man­ager Kurt Forsgren explains. “We came in with our understanding of construction cost and presented it to the school board, and they agreed that it was the right way to go.” 

The Havens Elementary School project consists of three new buildings in a tight res­idential area. Totaling 42,000 square feet, the three buildings will be connected by walkways. Webcor is building one- and two-story classroom facilities, as well as a one-story administration building. 

“Webcor prides itself on doing neat and intelligent projects,” Forsgren says. “We have a presence in the Piedmont area, and stepped up to ask [PUSD] to consider us.”

In addition to its role as general contractor, Webcor is self-performing the structural concrete and some site concrete work at Havens Elementary. It also is delivering much of the interior work, such as the installation of cabinets and interior walls, with its own skilled carpenters.

Providing Partnership

Construction began on Havens Elementary in July 2009, and is to be completed in time for the 2010 school year. Forsgren says construction never interfered with the school’s schedule or force the administration to adjust classrooms to the work. 

As with any construction project, Forsgren notes that Webcor made sure it developed partnerships with the other companies working on the construction. On the design side, Danville, Calif.-based ATI Architects and Engineers led the way – a firm that Forsgren says Webcor was not familiar with. But, Forsgren says Webcor was able to collaborate with ATI during design development and identify areas where construction could ease budget constraints.

“We were able to provide a lot of pre-construction work to make the project more cost-effective,” Forsgren states. He also mentions that Webcor was able to partner with the school board to get the project done in a timely fashion and brought on its most reliable subcontractors.

“On the sub side, we worked with subs who understand how Webcor works,” Forsgren says. “Our subs know the importance of delivering a timely project that is done right.”

Solving Site Conditions

The most difficult part of the construction of Havens Elementary has been dealing with the site conditions. “We had some unforeseen conditions, some site water and underground wells,” Forsgren notes.

Low levels of soil and ground water contamination were detected during construction, and PUSD worked with county and state authorities to come up with the proper remediation process. A 1,500-gallon underground oil storage tank was removed from the site, and all contaminated material from inside the tank was sent to a disposal facility. 

Low levels of petroleum hydrocarbons were found in the ground-water at multiple locations within the Havens Elementary site. While it was determined that the source of contamination was off site, a plan was developed and implemented to filter the groundwater on site. A 6,000-gallon tank was installed to collect and filter the contaminated groundwater, with filtration removing the hydrocarbons, allowing the water to be reused for dust control on the project. Permanent filtration boxes, which remove contaminants and then release the filtered water into the storm water system, have been installed on site.

Measures also were taken to mitigate chances of contaminants entering the school, including:

  • Foundation slabs constructed with concrete additives to prevent vapor transmission;
  • Foundation slabs constructed with a vapor barrier beneath the slab to prevent vapor intrusion in the buildings; and
  • Buildings include a shallow groundwater collection system to divert potentially contaminated water around the buildings.
Public Projects

Although Forsgren says the construction of Havens Elementary is not any­thing out of the ordinary for Webcor, he notes that there is a perception that Webcor only does huge, privately funded projects. “The truth is, Web­cor’s Designated Projects Group is dedicated to smaller projects such as Havens and we have a growing portfolio of public projects,” Forsgren said.

Havens Elementary will be a welcomed addition to the Webcor portfolio. “It’s a project type that we would like to do more of in the future,” Forsgren says about school building. “It’s good to have a school project like this under Webcor’s name to illustrate the wide variety of projects we are capable of building.”  

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