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New Fairfield Board of Selectmen Discusses Proposed Noise Ordinance, COVID-19 Update at Sept. 10 Mtg.
September 17, 2020

The Permanent Building Committee (PBC) heard updates on the designs for New Fairfield’s ongoing new high school and elementary school addition projects at their Aug. 25 meeting. With both building projects in the Design Development (DD) phase, the drawings are becoming much more refined and reflect a more practical, budget-friendly list of items to include than earlier phases.
Representatives from JCJ Architecture walked the PBC through overviews of the drawings, explaining that the Consolidated Early Learning Academy (CELA) is much further along in the DD phase with drawings at approximately 50% complete. The high school entered the DD phase a few weeks later and is further behind but is also seeing progress in designs. Ms. Christine O’Hare explained that their full design team is working steadily on the projects and said, “we’re starting to detail many of the items.” She said that they would be ready to do a more thorough “page-flip” in the near future. Regarding both plans, PBC member Mr. Mike Del Monaco was happy to hear that airflow drawings are being included. “I need to see that right away, because I have some concerns about air exchange rates,” he said.
Drawings show architectural techniques being employed to reduce cost, while attempting to deliver a new addition to Meeting House Hill School. Efforts to less expensively establish a new main entrance to the building at the addition’s juncture include raised crosswalks for students who are dropped off, plantings that naturally break up the space, and the use of small canopies that will help people to perceive that the openings they are over are larger, even if they are not.
The playground has been scaled back for cost, but will still include many interesting features, such as three tiers of play areas–one for painted games and two for various equipment, all of which will be universally accessible. On the graded slopes surrounding the play areas there will be space for outdoor classrooms to be conducted.
There has been adjustment to the original addition’s spaces based on the agreed upon Value Engineering (VE) list, as was previously reported on. Some changes include a rework of the maker space, moving the psychologist’s office to the kindergarten wing, reworking of plans for areas by the existing gym, and more. In addition, the design team is looking for myriad ways to save on the whole structure. They’ve spent a good amount of time on the reduction of glass, especially pricey storefront windows, and cut down on some structural gymnastics that were driving costs up. Overall, they are using the existing building more to help inform the design.
The HS designs are less defined, but planning is underway to incorporate items from the VE list that was created at the end of the Schematic Design phase. The overview covered the interior planning, as there are not any site updates completed yet. The current plans reflect the reduction in overall square footage from 156K to 143K square feet. They also show that particular attention is being spent on the circulation flow from the south parking lot to the centrally located auditorium, gymnasium, and dining commons. Keeping in mind the bottlenecks that high schools experience — at lunch waves and at arrival and dismissal–the architects are planning for a large central stair, in addition to supportive stairs, where needed. One unique feature that was described in detail is the addition of a “gathering stair,” in the dining commons, according to JCJ Architecture’s Mr. Jeff Elliott. The stepped gathering stair falls between standard sets of stairs and provides a space for students to sit and eat lunch or an alternate space to gather a large number of students. Though there has been pushback on the height and amount of glass that is needed for the dining commons, the architects make a good point that the commons is “a is a real connective space,” Elliott again, reminding the PBC that this is one of the most important spaces in the building.
There was discussion regarding when the PBC should have access to documents and time to weigh in before the next phase of VEs are created. With evident frustration that some of their initial changes were not heeded, some PBC members expressed interest in giving earlier input. “It would only be one day,” Del Monaco said. PBC member Mr. Paul Boniello agreed with Del Monaco, saying of the earlier phase, “there are a lot of VEs that were not incorporated” that PBC members had suggested. Mr. Chuck Warrington of Collier’s International cautioned that allowing for even a brief period for PBC members to review the plans before the VE step could delay the process.
Another point of discussion was the Request for Proposal (RFP) for environmental consultants, with some PBC members thinking that the approval on the RFP should have been voted on by them, and others disagreeing. To help organize the flow of documents, Warrington will be creating a Dropbox link, with a logical folder structure, for the PBC members to access. This will alleviate the need for the board’s chairman to act as a middleman for the documents.
Mr. Scott Pellman of Collier’s International walked the PBC through an updated macro schedule of milestones. The schedule marks mid-September as the time for completion of CELA drawings, which will begin their next phase of reconciliation to match designs with the budget. They plan a switch in phase from Design Development to Construction Documents by 11/3. The high school project is running approximately six weeks behind that timeframe.