First Floor Energy CEO Robert Ferris on Thursday took school board members and school officials on a tour for the first glimpse inside the new Carolina Forest-area middle school.
Board members Ray Winters, Holly Heniford and David Cox were in attendance as well as Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey and Executive Director of Facilities Mark Wolfe.
School board Chairman Joe DeFeo was not in attendance.
The new school has a large gymnasium, cafeteria, collaborative spaces, a media center, 48 classrooms with another 10 special education/shared spaces, large wooden beams below the ceiling, lots of natural light permeating the interior and no student lockers.
The board made a decision to not have lockers in the school. First Floor Energy CEO Robert Ferris
“The board made a decision to not have lockers in the school,” said Ferris. “I don’t know all their reasons but I know that’s very common. Most of the school we’re designing today do not have lockers, particularly at the high school, and more and more middle schools are starting to take lockers out also.”
District 1 board member Holly Heniford said with the influx of technology in the schools, lockers aren’t as in demand as they used to be.
“We’re using technology,” said Heniford. “They have their own electronic devices. They don’t have to have their notebook and books like they used to. A lot of the stuff will be all electronic. I hope we never get rid of paper books, but the world’s changing with that.”
A lot of the stuff will be all electronic. I hope we never get rid of paper books, but the world’s changing with that. District 1 representative Holly Heniford
The new school’s balconies are also different from the balconies in First Floor’s initial proposal to the district.
According to First Floor’s contract, “The Design-Builder shall perform the Work in accordance with the Design-Build Documents.” An amendment clarified this.
According to amendment, A.3.1.6, “Pursuant to the proposal accepted by the Horry County Board of Education on Nov. 2, 2015. The Design-Builder’s Proposal clarifies the Design-Builder’s assumptions and clarifications. The Horry County Board of Education accepts the proposal as an acceptable interpretation of the Design Requirements.”
Once the interior designers were brought on board, they were able to really get their head into the design and they made that change. First Floor Energy CEO Robert Ferris
The proposal that First Floor submitted, and was accepted by the board on November 2, 2015, shows the interior of the school with curved-edge balconies. In the new school, the shape of the edge of the balconies are angled, instead of curved.
Ferris said he didn’t think the district would have a problem with the change.
“That was actually requested by the interior designer,” said Ferris. “Once the interior designers were brought on board, they were able to really get their head into the design and they made that change.”
First Floor has claimed that its school are energy-positive although consultant Louis Batson III noted that the company’s designs were not energy-positive when tested with the Sefaira software.
“Every effort was made to accommodate First Floor’s concerns in a timely fashion and it remains my professional opinion that Sefaira is a perfectly appropriate energy analysis tool to utilize at this phase of design,” Batson wrote. “Having stated this, it is important to note that additional analysis utilizing Trane TRACE software indicates that the First Floor proposal is energy positive based upon the use of inputs that were not provided. In conclusion, the First Floor proposal should rank highest in this category.”
Ferris said that the company only used Sefaira because it was a district requirement, and he doesn’t remember the differences between the two software programs.
“I don’t remember, I’m not an engineer, but there were substantial differences,” he said.
On September 11, 2014, the district issued a Request for Qualifications for a new middle/intermediate school in the St. James area, a new middle school for the Carolina Forest area, a new middle school for the Socastee attendance area and a replacement Myrtle Beach intermediate School. The request came after paying consulting firm Cardno TEC $875,000 for an assessment.
On November 10, the board voted to scrap the first Request for Qualifications, and a new request was issued on February 26, 2015. The new request required a new intermediate school for the St. James area, a new middle school for the Carolina Forest area, a replacement middle school for the Myrtle Beach attendance area, a new middle school for the Socastee attendance area and a replacement elementary school for the Socastee area.
I think once these new schools are built, they’ll be some of the best schools in the country, design-wise. District 1 representative Holly Heniford
The new request specified that the schools be “energy positive,” meaning the schools produce more energy than they use, and that the schools are “high performance,” meaning “a building that integrates and optimizes on a life cycle basis all major high performance attributes, including energy conservation, environment, safety, security, durability, accessibility, cost-benefit, productivity, sustainability, functionality and operational considerations.”
The school district narrowed down the responses to several firms, including First Floor Energy, LLC, and sent a Request for Proposals to the firms. The district awarded the contract to First Floor, going over the initial $167 million budget. The current budget for the five schools is $240 million.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Heniford. “Once you get into it, how could you not pick someone like that? I think it’s incredible. I think it’s a new wave of education. I think once these new schools are built, they’ll be some of the best schools in the country, design-wise. If they think that area’s crowded now, wait until these schools are finished and everybody realizes how great they are. The influx of growth in that area will be phenomenal because of what we’re doing.”
The school is scheduled to open by the fall 2017 semester.
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian