Shawmut Design and Construction and Perkins School for the Blind are building more than facilities for students. As the school enters the fourth month of their $30M construction and renovation project, they are building new ways to educate children. It turns out, the construction management team has a lot to teach students who are blind.
Mike Mallett, Shawmut Construction Manager and Superintendent for the project is as enthusiastic about educating Perkins students as he is about creating the new facilities. "I am excited about getting involved with the kids and teaching them about the various processes around constructing their new building,” he says. “Some of the ways we will get the kids involved will be field trips to the site, a tactile construction progress board, guest appearances from the workers and some other fun activities that will help the kids be part of the project."
The project entails both building a new schoolhouse and renovating the existing Lower School in Watertown, MA. Perkins Lower School is part of a campus-based program that serves students from across the U.S. from pre-kindergarten through age 22. Most of the 50 residential and day students at the Lower School are visually impaired with additional disabilities. Many require significant accommodations. The new schoolhouse will provide advantages for students that include a logical layout to encourage independence, more fully accessible bathrooms, improved safety systems, and larger, more adaptable classrooms. In addition to the 54,000 square foot schoolhouse building, 98,000 square feet of existing space in the Lower School will be renovated during the 2 ½ year project.
The construction itself includes numerous environmentally sensitive building elements, including the reuse, recycling, or salvage of 90% of non-hazardous waste, use of recycled materials, reduced water usage, use of Green Label materials, maximized day lighting, sun shading, special glass, and energy efficient heating, cooling, and lighting systems. Shawmut will also install – or rather, plant – a literal green roof on the schoolhouse.
Shawmut Design and Construction has worked closely with Perkins to use the construction process as an opportunity for students to learn, interact, and be involved in an exciting new chapter for their school. “What an inspiration to the students and teachers,” says Perkins Lower School Education Director, Rob Hair. “This project will give them a hands-on experience that few children ever have, no matter where they go to school. They will learn not only about their new schoolhouse, but about how all buildings are made. Mike Mallett and the Shawmut crew are wonderful partners.”
Kids love bulldozers. At the November 2009 groundbreaking ceremony, Shawmut supervised Perkins students, allowing them to climb aboard an excavator and feel the same controls the operator would use to dig the foundation for their new building. Since then Shawmut has collaborated with Perkins in a number of unique and positive ways, including:
“Ask Mike.” Students submit questions to Shawmut’s Superintendent Mike Mallett via a drop box. Every week Mike replies, explaining different noises and vibrations, who made them, and how they help the project move forward.
On February 12, 2010, Mallett introduced students to a “tactile construction board” Shawmut created to help the students better understand every stage of the project. The experiential teaching tool consists of a 6’ x 10’ wall covered in samples of materials related to the phase of construction currently underway. The samples are arranged chronologically and spatially from foundation materials to roofing. Braille labels allow students to experience and learn about the construction project through touch while using their reading skills.
On May 13, students will perform a concert featuring “construction sounds.” Being the construction sound expert, Mike Mallett will be participating.
Throughout the course of construction and renovation, Shawmut operations team members and subcontractors will visit classrooms to talk with students about what they do. Students will learn about the project and the people who make it happen. Contractors will learn how they impact the lives and learning of the students.
Project subcontractor G & C Concrete Construction has adorned one of their trucks with the Perkins logo, which will remain for the life of the vehicle.
Shawmut was also proud to purchase their holiday cards from the school, featuring artwork by Perkins students.
Through these innovative collaborations, Perkins School for the Blind and Shawmut Design and Construction are demonstrating how a construction project can be leveraged to provide more than just new or updated facilities. These activities not only minimize disruption caused by construction, but also bring a new level of participation and education to enrich the students’ learning experiences.
Shawmut Design and Construction (shawmut.com) is a leading national construction management firm that builds exciting projects for distinguished clients. As an ESOP (employee-owned) company, Shawmut’s main objective is delivering exceptional, personalized service to clients in the following markets: academic, commercial, corporate interiors, cultural and historic, gaming, healthcare and science, hotels, restaurants, retail, and spas and health clubs.
Perkins School for the Blind (perkins.org), the nation’s first school for the visually impaired, provides education and services to help build productive, meaningful lives for nearly 114,000 children and adults who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired with or without other disabilities in the U.S. and 63 countries worldwide. Founded in 1829, Perkins pursues this mission on campus, in the community and around the world.