From Old to New: Transforming Pickens High School
Pickens High School, a state-of-the-art facility in Pickens County, South Carolina is a generational project that has not only transformed the lives of students and faculty but has also delighted the school district and the community at large. This $35 million project consisted of the construction of a new 253,000-square-foot prototype high school on a 240-acre site. The school’s three wings include academic, athletic, and arts facilities and the school boasts an impressive 43 general classrooms, 6 science lecture labs, band and chorus rehearsal rooms, administrative space, a cafeteria for 800 students, a football stadium, baseball and softball fields, a soccer field with artificial turf, two football practice fields, an 800-seat football stadium, locker rooms, and multiple storage buildings.
Balfour Beatty partnered with Trehel Corporation on this project, and the planning and quality control were streamlined to be as efficient as possible—the team held plan review meetings with each subcontractor before the contract was awarded, pre-work meetings were held prior to the commencement of block work, and drawings were inspected for quality and safety measures.
Balfour Beatty conducted “first-work” meetings with each subcontractor several weeks after the project began. Work was inspected, and Balfour Beatty assessed the subcontractor’s quality of workmanship right from the start to ensure problems were not manifested in more serious ways before corrections could be made. Finally, Balfour Beatty created incomplete lists, which documented issues that needed to be addressed prior to the punch-list phase in order to minimize items to be addressed. At all points throughout the project, Balfour Beatty adopted a policy of anticipating potential issues and preventing problems.
The excellent teamwork, planning, and prioritizing the prevention of possible complications played a big role in allowing the team to finish 6 weeks ahead of their contractual completion date; which in turn allowed Pickens High School faculty to move into the building with plenty of time to start the school year and get student registration underway in August. Had the Balfour Beatty team not been able to accomplish this, the school year would have been interrupted with a mid-year move, temporarily displacing students and faculty.
Of course, complications can never be completely avoided, and this project was no different: The project team faced a challenge during the process of constructing the school’s enclosed courtyard, which is inside the two-story classroom section of the building. The team had to carefully coordinate laying the brick and the placement of windows, because the materials had to pass through the hallways in order for the team to gain access. Because the courtyard is located behind the building’s monumental stairway, the team did not build the stairway until the end of the project so that they could feed the brick, glass, and landscaping materials through the hallway. The team was able to put a Bobcat in the hallway to transport trash from the construction site, and they drove a forklift through the hallways. Ultimately, the team was able to successfully finish the windows and curtainwall before installing the monumental stairway.
Due to the school district’s changing budget, the team was integral in providing value engineering for Pickens High School while working with the architect on the evolving design. The team came up with creative solutions for many budget problems, such as reducing the square footage of the facilities, providing crushed concrete instead of stone, and changing parking lot lighting poles to steel poles. These solutions (among others) resulted in a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars for Pickens High School.
The new building replaces an antiquated, 60-year old structure that did not contain necessary amenities for students to keep pace with current technological trends. Offices, for example, were only equipped with one electrical outlet, causing significant challenges for administrators and teachers. Included in the technological advancements of the new school is the auditorium, which has full audio-visual capabilities. The school also has a secure entrance controlled by electric stripes, and visitors must pass through the front office to gain access to the grounds.
Pickens’ athletic facilities also received a tremendous upgrade. Prior to construction, Pickens students had never benefited from a track, and did not have a baseball or softball field on campus. Instead, students were forced to drive to the local YMCA for practice. In the former facilities, the football program practiced on a football field that was 40 yards short of the standard 100 yard field. The logistics of running the Pickens athletic program have improved tremendously with their new facilities.
In the former building, not all teachers had classrooms, resulting in some working from push-carts. Now every teacher has a classroom. Similarly, all guidance counselors were previously working in a single office, and consultations with students and parents lacked privacy. Now, each guidance counselor has an office, which allows for much more comfortable and effective meetings. The previous cafeteria was only large enough to accommodate one-third of the school’s students, resulting in some children eating lunch very late in the afternoon. Now Pickens can have two lunch periods, and the new cafeteria allows children to get their lunch faster, with twice the number of serving lines. With the added space, Pickens can now hold prom inside their facilities, which used to require them to rent space in a hotel.
By replacing the antiquated building that did not meet Pickens’ expanding technological, academic, and athletic needs, Balfour Beatty has made a significant investment in the future of Pickens, South Carolina; and because of the success of the project, Pickens High School can continue to invest in the education and nurturing of the next generation.
“The quality of our new school is without parallel. The attention to detail from the ground up is clearly evident in the final product—our new campus,” said Marion Lawson, Pickens High School Principal. “I am amazed each day as I discover new facets of the building—such as the detail in the brick columns or the readily available guidance on operating one of the new mechanical systems in the school. I regard the shared experience of building the new Pickens High School as one of the most rewarding of my professional career.”
Balfour Beatty was honored to have the opportunity to play a role in furthering the education of young people by updating this most important educational structure, and like Marion Lawson, we found it to be incredibly rewarding as well. As always, Balfour Beatty prides itself on being a relentless ally for the success of each and every dream we are entrusted to build.