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Firms vying for Nashua school renovation project

Union Leader Correspondent

July 30. 2013 10:08PM

NASHUA — Broad Street Elementary School is in line for a major makeover, and this week, the Joint School Construction Committee interviewed four design firms vying to lead the project.

Representatives from Turner Building Science, Lavallee/Brensinger Architects, Harriman Architects and Banwell Architects came armed with easels, enormous graphics and mini PowerPoint presentations to make their pitch for the job.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to bring in new technologies into the existing building,” said Clifton Greim, president of Harriman Architects. Each of the firms offered different broad-brush ideas to make Broad Street, which was built in 1963, more eco-friendly and energy efficient.

After hearing from the four groups, committee members from both the Board of Education and Board of Aldermen decided to mull over the presentations before making a decision.

Last year, Nashua hired Lavallee/Brensinger to assess the condition of Broad Street, Birch Hill, Sunset Heights and Main Dunstable elementary schools. The firm, which designed Nashua High School North and oversaw the renovations for Nashua High School South, proposed a $7.2 million upgrade for Broad Street that included new heating and ventilation systems, redesigned entrances and parking lots, drainage improvements and courtyard repairs.

Committee members had their own list of priorities, starting with a displacement ventilation system that continually draws in outside air at the floor level and expels stale air near the ceiling. Committee members also envision one central entrance to the school to increase security, but they upped the ante for that request by also suggesting that bus traffic and cars dropping off students should have different pathways into the building.

The committee also wanted the controls for any new systems off the roof and inside the building to make maintenance and repairs easier.

Ingrid Nichols of Banwell Architects, based in Lebanon, suggested radiant floors that are heated with hot water pumped through a system of tubes.

School Board member William Mosher was interested in pursuing the idea of warm floors for the elementary school.

“A lot of these small people in these classrooms spend a lot of time on the floor,” said Mosher. “That would be a boon for them.”

Nichols also suggested other innovations to conserve water, such as landscaping with native and drought-resistant plants and collecting rain to flush toilets.

“If you have a limited budget for conservation issues, the best bang for the buck is to improve the building envelope,” she added.

McCarthy said the joint committee would probably hold a nonpublic meeting to discuss the firms and their presentations before making a final decision.

That suggestion didn’t sit well with School Board member and budget hawk Dennis Ryder.

“I am not happy with nonpublic meetings. We are spending the taxpayers’ money,” said Ryder, who added there should be more transparency in a major renovation project.

Ryder also felt that Harriman’s estimated fee of $432,000, which was significantly less than Turner Building Science ($505,889) and Banwell and Lavallee-Brensinger (both at $546,000), put that firm in the lead for the job.

But other members of the committee said it was important to look beyond fees and consider experience and past projects.

McCarthy said Nashua has a history with several of the firms, and under the state’s right-to-know law it is appropriate to review past performance in a closed-door session.

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