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Brookwood High School Construction Continues

A boom in population stresses the need for a new high school.

Mon June 24, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

Construction is under way at the new Brookwood High School near Tuscaloosa, Ala. Planning for the $34 million school began years ago, and is slated to open in January 2014.

“The new Brookwood High School will consist of four buildings that will contain classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria, a career tech center and administrative offices,” said Sharon May project manager and estimator of construction manager Hall-Taylor Construction Co. Inc. “The buildings are one and two story slab-on-grade structures with CMU walls and brick facades.”

The project is being constructed on a roughly 75-acre site just east of the existing Brookwood Elementary School on Alabama Highway 216. The land, of varying topography, contained heavy vegetation consisting of small pine trees and undergrowth. Most of the larger tress had been removed during logging activities several years ago.

Cuts of up to 30 ft. (9.1 m) and fills to 20 ft. (6.1 m) were required to prepare the site for construction. A new four- lane access road and a two-lane perimeter road have been constructed to provide access to and around the new school.

Site work construction began in February 2012. Construction on the buildings began in late July 2012. RaCON performed the site clearing and demolition, grading, paving and site utilities.

“For the site clearing and demo, we used Caterpillar 330 and 345 excavators and Euclid and Volvo off-road trucks,” said Chris Poling, project manager of RaCON Inc. “The grading was accomplished with Cat 631E and 631G scrapers pushed by Cat D9L and D9N dozers. The site utilities were installed with Cat 328 LCR and 314 LCR excavators with Cat IT38 loader and tool carriers and D3/D4 dozers in support and backfilling. With the negligible profit margins available in today’s economy, the correct fleet of equipment for the job at hand means everything. An unbalanced fleet can break a job in short order.”

One of the main challenges on the project involved constructing the roadway.

“We had to place large fills in areas that were previously wetland and bottom land. This involved careful timing to enter these areas during the driest part of the year, as well as the use of under drain, geotextile fabrics and using the proper soil types for the fill.”

The weather also has played a factor.

“It seemed that, starting in December, the rain pattern was relentless,” said Poling. “It hampered production greatly.”

According to May, building construction began with Building C, which is a one- story career tech center and will contain the ROTC, welding lab, agri-business classrooms, kitchen lab and health sciences. The exterior shell is near completion, with windows currently being installed. An HVAC duct is being run along with plumbing lines and sprinkler system. Sheetrock is being installed, with first block fill and finish coat being applied to block walls.

The metal roof system is currently being installed on Building B, exterior brick is being laid and interior rough-in of the mechanical and electrical systems is in progress. Decking on the metal trusses and laying out interior walls has started on Building A, future home of the administrative offices.

Building D will contain the cafeteria, two gymnasiums, and choral and band rooms. The band room will double as a safe room with cast–in-place concrete walls. Underground electrical and mechanical rough in, footing and piers are in progress. The metal building for the gymnasium is on site and erection was scheduled to begin the first week of June.

There are approximately 125 workers on site daily Monday through Friday. Weather delays result in occasional weekend work.

General contractors on the project include WAR Construction, Guthrie Landscaping, Sobcon Concrete Contractors, Xcel Masonry, F.L. Crane, Rice Floor & Tile, Price-McGiffert Paint Contractors, Ala-Temp Corporation, Jimmy Hall Plumbing, Marathon Electrical and Channell Communications.

“Sobcon Concrete is responsible for the cast-in-place concrete construction for the project,” said Sobcon Concrete Project Engineer Josh Hollingshead. “This includes concrete foundations, slabs on grade, cast-in-place concrete walls and elevated slabs on metal deck.”

Sobcon Concrete began work on the project in mid-September 2012. Equipment used includes a Kubota U35 mini excavator for light excavation; a John Deere 310K backhoe for moderate excavation; a John Deere 120 trackhoe for deep excavation; a Cat 257B skid steer for moving fill and base material; a CopperHead XD 3.0 laser screed for concrete screeding; an Allen Engineering MSP 460 ride on trowel machine for finishing concrete slab; and Multiquip walk behind trowels to complete the concrete slab.

“The biggest challenge with a project like this is the coordinating between contractors to keep everything flowing smoothly,” said Hollingshead. “With so many trade contractors involved with the project and each one’s work depending on another, coordination of the construction process is very important. We have also had a significant amount of rainfall at the site this winter and the majority of the spring. Rain is particularly troublesome when working to get the building out of the ground.”

WAR Construction of Tuscaloosa is responsible for the structural steel, metal roof trusses, metal building, millwork, aluminum windows, metal roof panels, specialty items, gym equipment, kitchen equipment and elevator work.

“We are furnishing and erecting roughly 400 tons of structural steel and 115 tons of bar joist,” said Robert Jamison, project manager of WAR. “The structural steel for this project will serve as the main structure for three of the four buildings on site. It will also support the metal roof trusses and metal roof system for each building. Our subcontractor is using a crane to erect the steel. Our metal truss sub is using a boom truck and lull to set the metal trusses. Coordination between other trade contractors is a big concern. You have to stay in daily communication with the other trade contractors on site.”

David Sellers, director of operations and construction of the Tuscaloosa County School System, said the new structure is long overdue.

“The new Brookwood High School is needed for several reasons. The current school is at capacity and expected to grow over the next several years. It is more than 50 years old and much of the infrastructure is outdated in terms of technology and current teaching methodologies.”

There are currently approximately 980 students enrolled at Brookwood High. The new school can accommodate 1,400 students with the potential to add classrooms that would allow the number to increase to 1,600.

The old Brookwood High School building will be used as another middle school. The new facility, designed by Ellis Architects, will be paid for by a countywide one-cent sales tax.

According to Sellers the new high school is 210,000 sq. ft. (19,509.6 sq m), 65,000 sq. ft. (6,038.7 sq m) larger than the existing school. Its architectural style reflects the industrial and mining businesses in the community.

Walter Energy donated the land to build the new school, and is located behind the current high school. The new Brookwood High will serve northeast Tuscaloosa County, and will include instructional areas for vocational trades and core curriculum components and feature a technology-heavy library. The new road connecting the school and Brookwood Middle School will be named George Richmond Parkway, in honor of the former President and COO of Jim Walter Resources.

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