Transforming a Construction Site into a Classroom
Balfour Beatty provides Charlotte Country Day students with hands-on building experiences
On an early October morning, a crane hoists the first steel I-beam into place, marking the start of construction of the metallic wings flanking the top floor of Charlotte Country Day School’s latest campus addition, the Belk Upper School Learning Center.
Fifty yards away, Honors Engineering students crowd around the windows of Charles Tuttle’s classroom. Observing construction activities from the Purdy Math and Science Building, students have a bird’s eye view of their changing campus. They are particularly intrigued by the function of steel beams. As Tuttle turns students’ attention away from the windows, directing them to the interactive QOMO® display on the wall, he discusses the impressive load-bearing capabilities of the beams, using the 14,000-square-foot construction project as an example extending far beyond the textbook.
As cranes have risen and been dismantled, concrete cured and buildings completed, the footprint of the Charlotte Country Day School’s campus has changed dramatically over the course of nearly five years and 112,000 square feet of renovation and expansion. Ranked as the #1 Education Contractor in the Southeast (ENR 2020), Balfour Beatty, in a joint venture partnership with Edison Foard, has consistently achieved high marks on work performed at Charlotte Country Day.
A key goal of Charlotte Country Day School’s campus redesign was to function like a university campus but in a smaller, more personalized environment that prepares students for the next phase of their education. With the creation of five new spaces, the Balfour Beatty/Edison Foard team has achieved that and more—providing students with some incredible opportunities along the way.
The on-campus construction offers students a real-world lens into a possible career path in the STEM field, particularly for aspiring architects, engineers and construction managers. Head Upper School Librarian Tedd Roseberry reflects on his experience with the campus construction’s influence on students, “I invited kids who were interested in the new Upper School library building to meet with me, to look at the floorplans and renderings from the architect and to talk about how we might use the new spaces. Over a dozen kids showed up during lunch for that initial meeting, including two aspiring architects. They’re very interested in the process, the design, the construction—all of it.”
Members of the Charlotte Country Day School Science Department have fielded questions from curious future engineers and architects about topics ranging from concrete pouring strategies to HVAC unit installation and even the building’s climate control systems. “The students are enjoying the ‘building’ on campus. They’ve been interested in everything from material selection to technological capabilities,” explains Tuttle. “The construction of the Purdy Math and Science Building allowed us to conduct experiments and experiences that would have been impossible without the new construction.”
As a hoist dangles from the ceiling, Tuttle explains that his students are studying the recent Purdy Building construction as part of their lesson plans, showcasing the 3D printer that is going to be at the forefront of next week’s shape of steel experiment, using real examples from the construction of their very own classroom.
Blending experiment with experience, Balfour Beatty and Charlotte Country Day have created opportunities to take teaching beyond the classroom. Some STEM students have even donned hard hats and safety vests, walking the Belk Upper School Learning Center jobsite with Balfour Beatty Project Manager Michael Parks and Senior Superintendent Sean Prendergast. Trading in their hardhats for headsets, the students then toured a virtual mockup using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software with Balfour Beatty’s Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) team. Through the power of virtual reality software, the students were given a comparative look at the construction outside their window side-by-side with the virtual finished product.
The campus renovations also energize and influence the way the youngest Buccaneers research and problem solve. The Hance Lower School Learning Center, a one-story, 16,000-square-foot library addition to the Lower School Fine Arts and Gorelick Theater building, is complete with a makerspace with room for books, laptops and even a Cozy Corner for reading.
Lower School Librarian Jody Specker shares how the new space has influenced her lessons and learning. “The best thing about the new space is that it allows us to continue our existing quality services, programs and curriculum in a fresh and welcoming environment that was both intentionally and artfully designed to be a children’s library. Every aspect of its design reflects how a child would use the space.”
Charlotte Country Day School challenges students to “Rise to the Forefront” in all that they do. That same mantra was shared by the Balfour Beatty/Edison Foard team as they built structures and spaces that will influence current and future Buccaneers to achieve their best, both in and out of the classroom.
Balfour Beatty is proud to rise to the forefront as a Relentless Ally for Charlotte Country Day School, its students and faculty, crafting a campus that will serve some of Charlotte’s most promising young minds for decades to come.