From the ground up: The Derryfield School

Athletic and Wellness Center and Science and Innovation Center

When undertaking a major building and renovation project, it’s helpful if the construction firm leading the effort has some knowledge of the client’s culture.

In that sense, The Derryfield School could not have picked a more appropriate design/build team than Bedford-based Eckman Construction, Cowan Goudreau Architects, and TFMoran.

The project included construction of a 42,000-square-foot Athletic and Wellness Center, and the renovation of the school’s old gym into a state-of-the-art Science and Innovation Center.

“I know the school from the inside-out — it was a very special project for me,” says Eckman Construction Vice President Preston Hunter, a 1998 graduate of the school. “It was great to be able to work with the staff and board members. We really understood the culture of the school. We knew the people and had those relationships.”

The Athletic and Wellness Center, the larger of the two projects, includes three regulation-sized basketball courts as well as a movement studio, cardio room, weight training area and locker room, and training room spaces. Construction began in early July 2018.

The Science and Innovation Center, designed to serve as an incubator for innovation, creativity and exploration, includes three wet labs, two dry labs, a makerspace, robotics lab, inspiration lounge and an audio/video production studio. Construction on the Science and Innovation Center began in mid-March 2019.

The school completed a campus facilities master plan in January of 2015, which identified a number of high-priority projects. The first phase included the Athletics and Wellness Center and the Science and Innovation Center, and in the future, a dining commons.

“The Derryfield School is a grade six to 12 private day school, which means there’s no boarding,” Hunter says. “That’s a major part of the culture of the school. The idea is that the students receive the benefit of a boarding school-level education experience but are home for dinner.”

The Athletics and Wellness Center came into play when the school saw difficulty in maintaining that approach.

New chemistry and biology labs were created in what was a portion of the former Derryfield gymnasium.

“There were six different basketball teams using the one gym that was built in the 1970s,” Hunter says. “They had the boys and girls varsity teams, the JV, and boys and girls middle school basketball teams using that gym. Practices could run until 9 p.m., which could potentially impact the academic program and make things difficult for families.

“The school really felt that being able to provide a facility that would allow those teams to practice on a normal schedule and play games and still get home in time for dinner was a real priority. Improving scheduling and enhancing wellness opportunities for students and staff was the main impetus of the Athletic and Wellness Center.”

The Science and Innovation Center became part of the plan when administrators recognized that 21st century learning had begun evolving and accelerating.

“The Science and Innovation Center really expands the capabilities of the school from an instructional standpoint,” Hunter says. “The new center has spaces that the school never had before. It includes flexible spaces for teamwork and the pursuit of project-based learning initiatives. I can’t wait to see the inventions and projects students are able to create there.”

As school administrators studied the plan, it became evident that repurposing the existing gym would serve that purpose. Additionally, it would allow Eckman to implement additional green initiatives by repurposing the existing structure.

“All of that design was done at the schematic level and developed early on when Eckman was brought on board,” Hunter says. “Our first involvement was to create the concept, size, space and budgets for the projects that work together to achieve the goals of the master plan.”

The next step: undertaking one of the largest capital fundraising efforts the school has seen, according to Eckman Project Manager Matt Walsh. Once the school reached their initial fundraising goal, Eckman’s design-build team was authorized to finish the plans and put the project out to bid.

“It was important that we wait to start construction on the Athletic and Wellness Center until school was done for the year,” Hunter says. “There was a lot of heavy site work, and we needed to work hard to get the site in condition so that when the students returned, it was safe and our construction activities could be separated from a very active campus.”

Eckman then had to oversee the removal of 30,000 cubic yards of sand from the site — the equivalent of 2,000 dump trucks full of earth.

“It’s a very sandy site,” Hunter says. “Which is not something we mind in New Hampshire. We’re very accustomed to finding ledge and having to blast. It was very easy digging, but there was a lot of it.”

Luckily, there was a need for such material.

“We helped the client by moving it to the upper soccer fields,” Walsh says. “The campus is 87 acres, and they needed to extend the soccer field, which they plan to do in 2020.”

Lobby and reception space at the Athletic & Wellness Center greets visitors and celebrates Derryfield student-athletes.

Eckman worked to include a number of green initiatives in the process, including an extensive solar array on the roof of the Athletic and Wellness Center. Every square foot of roof not used for mechanical equipment is now home to a solar panel. Designers also incorporated high-efficiency HVAC equipment and lighting control technology. The project also employed a variety of high-efficiency equipment, including fans, air handling units, pumps, energy recovery systems, LED lighting (complete with room occupancy sensors) and low-water-use plumbing fixtures.

“The greenest thing about the project is reusing the old gym as the Science and Innovation Center,” Hunter says. “We diverted thousands of tons of material from the waste stream by reusing that building. It would’ve been easier to tear it down and start over, but with the time constraints and budget constraints we were glad to be able to keep the building.”

Other sustainability features include adding additional wall insulation on the exterior walls of the former gymnasium to reduce the need for heating and cooling; creating a white roof on the Athletic and Wellness Center to lower the heat gain/cooling load; using roof insulation for the new gym to exceed the energy code minimum by 25%; the use of on-site stormwater treatment systems — bioretention basins — to reduce sedimentation of surrounding wetlands and streams; and extensive use of low VOC construction materials.

Both buildings, delivered on time and under budget, were handed over to the school in early November.

“There’s nothing better than leaving a lasting mark on a place like Derryfield, so it was a special project,” Hunter says. “Derryfield has always been known for its outstanding education and a great sense of community, but now it has the facilities that put it on par with that instruction. There’s a real sense of pride and excitement and a feeling that the sky’s the limit as far as what can be created there.”

Categories: From the Ground Up