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GHS building committee makes design changes

GREENFIELD — The latest design estimate of the Greenfield High School building project came in $1 million over budget, forcing the building committee to vote on several cost-saving design adjustments Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s vote was a normal part of the design process, said owner’s project manager Jim Byrne.

As the building’s design continues to be developed and more detail is added, construction cost estimates will fluctuate. Adjustments to the design need to be made accordingly, he said.

But to ensure that a project never strays too far from plan, the Massachusetts School Building Authority asks for regular updates during the design phase and checks for a balanced budget. Byrne told the committee he was submitting one to MSBA this week, since the project’s design is now 30 percent complete.

Many of the changes approved Tuesday by the committee have aesthetic implications rather than functional.

For example, the committee saved $256,000 by electing to use a slightly larger size brick. It saved $55,000 by voting to use a comparable, but slightly less expensive, material on the roof membrane. And it saved another $55,000 by eliminating aluminum window trim.

But the committee debated at length about whether to use a vinyl composition tile flooring, instead of linoleum. School officials said they thought linoleum was worth its estimated $352,000 cost because they said floor maintenance is continually the single most expensive and time-consuming item for the maintenance crew each summer.

And they expressed concern over proposed 10 percent reductions to the auditorium’s theatrical rigging, sound and lighting systems. Some members argued that there is not enough information in the design of the auditorium to make informed decisions about cuts.

But both Byrne and lead architect Lee Dore repeatedly told committee members throughout the 2½-hour meeting that there will be plenty of opportunities between now and design completion in March to add some of those items back into the project.

And there still may be a chance to purchase additional energy-efficiency measures, such as increasing the roof’s thermal resistance or adding automatic lighting sensors.

Design revisions can be made until March, and as more detail is added to designs, more information on the precise costs of items will also be made available, they said.

“This is pretty standard,” said Dore, who told the committee that he has worked on an MSBA project that was $9 million over budget at this phase.

“Each step of the way, it’s a check and balance to make sure we don’t open up on bid day (for subcontractor jobs), and say we’re $1 million over,” he said.

Committee member Kenneth Black tried to ease the concerns of his peers.

“Design is an iterative process, it involves stepping forward and backward,” he said. “We’re not leaving this topic tonight, we’re reserving the right to change our mind in the future. ... These other items that are floating around are going to (eventually) be nailed down.”

Dore said that the committee will go through a similar exercise in a month after new construction manager Shawmut analyzes the design. Then the committee will repeat the process when design is 60 percent completed, and then again as design nears completion in March.

Shawmut on board,
signing contract soon

Also on Tuesday, the building committee gave Greenfield the go-ahead to finalize a contract with construction manager Shawmut, worth just over $4.8 million.

The price includes about $95,000 for pre-construction consulting services over the next six months.

There is also a $1,060,000 construction fee and an estimated construction cost of just under $3,650,000. The latter amount will be determined by both the town and Shawmut when designs are finalized at the end of pre-construction.

Shawmut is expected to sign the contract within two weeks, said Byrne. Representatives from the company have already started working without a contract — attending the last two building committee meetings, looking over the project’s design and taking site visits of the high school.

“(We) finally have that third team member on board, that third set of eyes, to help with things ... to bring more expertise,” said Byrne.

Chris Shores can be reached at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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