The newly constructed Wahconah Regional High School is nestled in the heart of the Berkshires, Massachusetts and serves over 500 students in grades 9 through 12.
Originally built in 1961, the old school had inadequate facilities and outdated systems for today’s students. The Central Berkshire Regional School District allocated a budget of $70 Million dollars with contributions of more than $30M from The Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The regional school offers a full curriculum that includes liberal arts and physical activities, their college and career readiness internship programs help students on a successful path of their choice.
The exterior is clad with Architectural Precast Concrete and curtainwall offering both a durable façade as well as dramatic aesthetics. Custom formwork and fabrication were a collaborative process between precast manufacturer Coreslab Structures (CONN) Inc. and Designer DRA Architects. The result is a modern design utilizing building materials that are both functional and economical.
Structural Precast Concrete panels framed the 4-sided Auditorium manufactured full height supporting both floor and roof levels; receiving an architectural exterior finish as it became a high roof parapet
200 precast panels started to arrive on site in June 2020 and took just five weeks to install. Load-bearing pre-insulated precast concrete was chosen for its suitability, speed of construction and off-site production. The panels feature earth tone colors and a variety of finishes that complement the school’s surroundings.
The walls span horizontally and feature a custom formliner built by Coreslab Structures imprinted random recesses and projections across the panels. The formliner projected 1 ½ inches outward and recessed ¾ inches.
Finishes ranged from light to medium sandblast for the ribbed panels and column covers. There was also a chemical treatments used to expose the aggregate to a heavy depth on the other precast panels. Some panels received both textures and treatments within the same piece. The ends of most of the panels were skewed to accentuate the curtainwall angles.
The insulated panels had a thickness of 11 inches total (4-3-4) with the polyisocyanurate insulation providing a material R-value =26 and a performance value of the envelope =R-30.
Being budget savvy was a critical part of project approval and precast concrete was selected not only for the quality of the factory-made pieces for the exterior envelope, but for the exposed interior surfaces as well. The precast panels presented a hard interior wall in most areas of the school. They were exposed and painted in the auditorium, classrooms, cafeteria and gymnasium where they would be easy to maintain and would withstand the jostling and day to day movements of the student body.
The central area inside the new High School is nicknamed “Main Street” and ties together sections of the facility such as administrative offices, fitness center and the Student Commons. Wahconah High features flexible learning spaces where classrooms are clustered around collaborative breakout spaces or pods similar to a college campus.
During construction the new building was visible from the existing school allowing students and faculty to watch the progress. The new location is just east of the original building which was taken down and its footprint converted to other uses such as playing fields.
Temporary access was created to assist in the supply and staging areas while construction took place alongside the active school.
The new facility is 122,760SF and is seeking LEED Silver Certification. The second-floor Learning Commons features enormous windows looking out across athletics fields to the gentle slope of Day Mountain. The large gym is 11,000 SF and has plenty of natural light.
Due to pandemic restrictions and delays, the first day of school in the new building was not until October 12, 2021.