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Featured Building - September 2021

Churchville-Chili Central School District Aquatics Facility

Photo Credit: Gene Avallone

The project’s inception point was to replace an original aging aquatics facility with a new construct that advanced the functional paradigm of program beyond academic use. This shift would propel the facility’s service into the realm of community-based aquatic activities and premier level competitive swimming in support of athletic excellence.

To accomplish these goals the design navigated several challenges associated with the cohabitation of new and existing construction including rigorous code compliance criteria, complex foundation systems, and owner-imposed restrictions related to ongoing school operations. The configuration of the building proved challenging given the coincident placement of the new facility over a selectively demolished portion of the aged building. The boundary between new and old simultaneously required code-imposed separation and seamless programmatic integration. Soils were not adequate to accommodate long span, concentrated loading and required incorporation of helical piles and deep stepped foundations. These challenges consumed financial and intellectual resources; invisible in the building’s final form; but necessary in support of establishing the integrity of an essential environment for the final construct.

At times, the expenditure of public funds harbors a preconceived notion characterized by sensible, conservative building solutions in service of responsibly administering public dollars. This project, while acknowledging this social obligation, sought to serve its community by exponentially giving back what was taken. Simply stated, the project sought to embody pride through responsible use of tax dollars as it invested in the long-term viability and integrity of a public school facility. This project delivered a facility the community can enjoy, take pride in, and established the priority of giving back pleasure in exchange for an investment of public funds. In doing so, this facility embodies the notion that school facilities are for the community, because of the community, and are far more than “houses for learning”.

Design for Wellness:

The School District has a long-standing priority to serve its population as a community activities center and sought to particularly enhance its ability to do so by providing a facility that promotes the health and wellness of competitive and recreational aquatic activities. The project is the manifestation of that goal as it now serves as an epicenter hosting high school and club competitive swimming, adult aquatic physical therapy, general public swimming activities along with open swim sessions. The project delivers on its’ intention to nurture the social well-being of the community it serves by directly investing in physical and emotional community health. In every sense, this is a project for its’ public, because of its’ public, and will endeavor to give back to its’ public for many years.

Design for Resources:

This project, being no exception to other public financial resource projects, was subject to strict and limiting criteria associated with the expenditure of funds. As such, the design of the facility was extensively scrutinized to maximize its functional and aesthetic impact. The project’s fundamental budget demands, coupled with the unprecedented volatility of the economy, took this scrutinizing process to uncharacteristic extremes. This process was deeply involved as it took extended analysis and reanalysis to configure a construct that prioritized durability, economy of component configuration, and careful consideration of design impact in service of the intended programmatic criteria. The blending of new and old assemblies and the absolute demands imposed by existing conditions consumed extensive capital, committing much of the available finances to otherwise invisible elements. With the remaining limited project budget, the visible components of the final construct carried a concentrated responsibility as they shouldered the burden of creating an appropriate environment for the program activities they housed. Sometimes reality can be seen as entirely consequential in its’ depletion of resources. It is the challenge of projects like this one to extract all that is possible from circumstance and deliver lasting architectural impact.

Design for Change:

This project targeted the adaptive reuse of an existing public school facility. These structures are part of an extensive crop of public schools mandated to continue their effective service in a system that is not intended to consider new facilities as alternatives unless extraordinary circumstances are presented. As part of this mandate, the State regularly accesses their condition and takes measure of capital expenses required for maintenance and improvements. While a portion of this project resulted in the construction of a new facility, a parallel and equally essential portion adapted components of the existing building; changing them in a manner that projected long-term use for the associated program. Reinvigorating buildings or portions of them extends their viable essence while affording the opportunity to infuse them with infrastructure, systems, and assemblies that employ responsible current design. This blended reuse approach affords benefits across the spectrum of building rehabilitation as it capitalizes on the integrity of the old and the efficiency and environmental responsibility of the new.

Site/Civil/Landscape Architecture: Appel Osborne Landscape Architecture

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineering: EC4B Engineering, PC

Structural Engineer: Herrick-Sayloe Engineers, PE

Photography: Gene Avallone Park Avenue Photo and Jim Cotter

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