Alcoa High School has been named the state’s best designed new school.
During Monday’s awards luncheon at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Alcoa High collected two awards from the Tennessee School Boards Association. It received 2015 School of the Year for Excellence in Architectural Design for the high school division, in addition to the People’s Choice Award.
The awards program honors new school construction in three categories — elementary, middle and high — and remodeling/renovation. Architectural entries are judged on several criteria, including cost efficiency, aesthetics, space relationships, flexibility, community use, safety, site development and adaptation to site and size. TSBA doesn’t make on-site visits, and awards are based solely on material provided to the judge.
TSBA members choose the People’s Choice Award, which is similar to the program’s best in show. It is the only design award selected by members.
“Both awards validate the dedication and hard work of our project team,” said Alcoa Director of Schools Brian Bell. “We set out to build the best school in Tennessee. We also wanted it to be functional, because it is our belief that this building will be there for a long time. They accomplished what we set out to do.”
“We’re excited and honored to receive this recognition,” said Doug Shover, Lewis Group Architects’ vice president of primary and secondary education. “However, we’re always pleased when a facility meets the needs of our clients.”
Alcoa High is the third Blount County school and fourth local school to be recognized in the program’s 13-year history. In 2014, Greenback School collected first place in the high school division. In 2012, Coulter Grove Intermediate obtained third place in the elementary division. In 2011, Prospect Elementary received second place in the same division.
“The new Alcoa High was a great project to work on due to the direction of our school board and the collaboration between all stakeholders,” Bell said. “We got the three best firms in East Tennessee — the Lewis Group Architects, Merit Construction and Lawler-Wood — to assemble our ideas and fully implement them. Everybody put forth a considerable amount of effort and it shows in the finished product.”
The new Alcoa High’s design was inspired by the architecture of former ALCOA Inc. buildings and Alcoa schools. The project team reviewed the former West Plant headquarters and Bassel, Charles M. Hall and Springbrook schools.
Alcoa High’s exterior carriage lights are inspired by area architecture and finishes. The clam-shape poles are inspired by Maryville College’s light poles, and the carriage lanterns are close matches to the original Alcoa High School’s lights.
The 180,000-square-foot facility’s cross-hatching is also reminiscent of the original building. It pays tribute to the district’s namesake with a 40-foot tall, 20-ton aluminum dome on the structure’s rotunda.
In addition to the dome, a dozen ALCOA Tennessee Operations employees helped manufacture an 1,100-pound aluminum medallion that is located in Myrtle Coker Wilkinson Student Commons. Crews also installed a diagram of the aluminum atom in the commons area’s floor.
More than 800 people worked directly on the 25-month construction project. Lawler-Wood served as Alcoa City Schools’ project representative.
The Lewis Group Architects and Merit Construction served as architect and general contractor, respectively. Subcontractors included Al Blankenship Enterprises, Blount Excavating, Cherokee Millwright, C2RL, DFA Solutions, Dixie Roofing, Gallagher & Associates, GEOServices, Glenn E. Mitchell & Co., Massey Electric Co., Quality Machine and Welding Co., Shoffner Kalthoff Mechanical Electrical Service, Southern Glass and WASCO Inc.
In the past six months, Alcoa High has received three state-level awards. It even started collecting awards before it opened in July.
In May, Alcoa High won the Land Use category in the 2015 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards (GESAs) program. It was recognized with 10 other winners at an awards ceremony held June 23 in Nashville.
The energy-efficient building is located on the former ALCOA West Plant site, a 375-acre property bounded by Hall Road, Alcoa Highway, Hunt Road, Mills Street, and Faraday Street.
Alcoa City Schools obtained a a brownfield voluntary agreement for the site, which provides liability protection to potential purchasers of contaminated property and ensures that the future use of the property will not pose a risk to the public.
“In 2008, ALCOA began to look for firms to redevelop the site,” according to a media release issued for the GESAs program. “Data was compiled from environmental studies and reports to form a mixed-use development plan. (The) West Plant, (which) occupied the site for 69 years, had byproducts from their manufacturing processes that were disposed of in several on-site landfills.”
Crews had to address a landfill area that included various contaminants, the release said. They also had to remediate a 2.5-acre storm water management area, which had once contained settling ponds, to make green space for the school campus.
“We took a dead, unused piece of land and transformed it into a vibrant property,” Bell said.