Persevering to Make a Splash

Balfour Beatty navigates operational challenges to successfully deliver Edison High School’s pool rebuild, providing an accessible facility for students and the local community to enjoy 

The original Edison High School swimming pool in Huntington Beach, California was built in 1969. To put it in perspective, Edison High students cannonballed from the concrete deck into the school pool for the first time the same year Apollo 11 put Neil Armstrong on the moon. 

By 2020, that same concrete deck was cracked and in dire need of repair. The pool pump that the school had recently replaced was already broken. Students were driving nearly 20 minutes to Ocean View High School for water polo practices and games. The lift used to transfer wheelchair-bound students in and out of the water was cumbersome and limiting. It was time for a change. 

It was time for Balfour Beatty to step in. Together with PBK Architects and Petra Geosciences, Inc., Balfour Beatty developed a plan to construct a new pool that would serve the unique needs of Edison High School students. Despite facing challenging soil conditions and navigating the requirements of working on an active campus, our team successfully constructed a beautiful, new space accessible to all.

Since Edison High is located approximately one mile from the ocean, Project Manager Kelly Bruyneel knew the team would encounter water table issues. Though the team performed thorough regulatory geological testing, they quickly discovered that the issues were much deeper—or shallower, in this case—than they initially anticipated. 

“Although the geology report indicated the presence of groundwater at 12 feet, we actually discovered it at nine feet during construction, which required a significant adjustment to our project plan,” Kelly says. “We had to dig down 7 feet for the new pool, but then we had to go below that to stabilize the ground. It was just completely saturated with water.”

To lower groundwater levels and prevent seepage, the team leveraged existing dewatering wells and installed additional ones that helped keep the excavation bottom dry. When the soil conditions were stable, the team installed a six-inch waste slab which kept the water at bay to enable installation of piping.  

Like many education projects, the Edison High School Pool Replacement required work to be executed on an active campus, which presents unique safety and site logistics issues. With the project schedule spanning nearly a year, our team worked hand-in-hand with the owner to ensure construction activities presented minimal impact to campus operations. The team also developed a comprehensive site logistics plan with a preeminent focus on the safety of Edison High students and faculty and members of the public.

“Each week we held an owner’s meeting with the school principal and the head of the maintenance department on-site,” Kelly says. “We exchanged schedules and ensured that we knew when the school was holding events or having testing so that we could minimize disruption as much as possible.”

Our team overcame these challenges through careful planning, diligent communication and swift problem solving, constructing a pool that serves the needs of Edison High students as well as the larger Huntington Beach community. 

The new pool is 40 meters by 25 yards and accommodates up to 10 competitive swimming lanes—large enough for regulation water polo matches and long enough to hold California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) swim meets. Students no longer need to travel for practices and meets and have the pride of setting records in their home pool. 

To effectively meet the needs of the Special Abilities Cluster (SAC), the pool also includes a three-and-a-half foot wading area with a wheelchair accessible ramp. The SAC is an integrated program for students with developmental disabilities. Students in the program use the pool nearly every day for the water exploration component of the program’s curriculum. Installation of the wheelchair ramp allows these students to thrive in an inclusive environment.

Edison High School couldn’t be happier with the rebuild. “We absolutely love our new pool,” says Jennifer Graves, Edison High School principal. “The pool is used by all of our students including over 200 students with moderate to severe special needs. In addition, our pool has opened up possibilities for our community to have neighborhood pool for lessons and youth programs.”

The Edison High project was the first of three pool rebuilds our team is leading in the Huntington Beach Union High School District (HBUHSD). We have begun construction on the Marina High School pool, and construction on the Fountain Valley High School pool is slated to begin by the end of 2022. Leveraging the knowledge and experience gained during the Edison High rebuild, our team is excited to safely and efficiently deliver more pools for students and the community in Huntington Beach.