St. Michael Catholic

 / Occupied Construction


Terry White, Tom Wilson / + VG Architects

St. Michael Catholic

Purchasing and placing a modular structure on the site was the best solution and this structure is also planned for reuse in 2 other school communities. Even the community felt it was the best solution and there was even great interest in having students watch the renovation and construction of their new school facility.

– Doug Campbell, Controller of Plant and Planning, ALCDSB

Terry White, Partner and Tom Wilson, Associate Partner

Building while the school was occupied provided both challenges and benefits. Ensuring the safety, security and comfort of 400 students from JK to Grade 8 and 30 odd staff over a two year period was our paramount concern. However, any challenges were offset by the numerous benefits: primarily, the Board saved a great deal of money; secondly, it reduced the temporary accommodation and emotional costs that relocating the students would entail; and, lastly, it diminished the threat of attrition and diminished enrolment. Beyond that, the students loved being next to the construction site and could witness the transformation of the school from ‘old’ to restored/new.

A temporary school was created in the 1950s portion and in 8 temporary portables while we were renovating the heritage structure. There was good physical separation to maintain safety. However, all the systems (boiler, fire alarm, etc.) were integrated so we also needed to be able to maintain those for the occupied building while the boiler plant was in the construction site. There were many technical issues that the contractor needed to ensure were covered off that are not a concern with a new building site. We facilitated clear communications between the contractor and the school’s principal to make sure lines of communication were open and that we were always planning forward. Multiple times we had to switch the way the systems were feeding but there wasn’t a day that the kids arrived and the heat was off.

It is always better for the community if the kids are not dislocated, however, costs must always be kept in mind and the restoration cost was comparable to a new build. The temporary portables were redistributed to other School Board schools after construction, further reducing the client’s costs.

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