The $16.2 million project has begun.
The asbestos abatement process at Beaty-Warren Middle School, the first step of many in a massive renovation project, has begun.
"We're just beginning the project," Director of Buildings and Grounds Services Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht said Wednesday.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Ready to roll
Excavating equipment sits in front of Beaty Warren Middle School. A road to access the west side of the building has been constructed and interior renovations will begin soon.
Until the asbestos is removed and the air clear of fibers, other work cannot begin.
"In order to remove it, you have to have a certified asbestos design person," Kennerknecht said. "They design the containment, the decontamination booths for workers. Nothing can come out. There's no harm to students, workers, teachers, or anyone."
About 90 percent of the asbestos at Beaty is in nine-inch by nine-inch vinyl-asbestos tiles on the floor in some areas. "We'll be asbestos-free" at the end of the project," Kennerknecht said.
Amark Environmental of Erie is in charge of the abatement. "We make sure all the asbestos is wet," Operation Manager Mark Mittelmeier said. "That keeps the fiber count down."
The work area is kept at a lower pressure than the surround areas of the building to make sure no particles move out. All of the work area air moves through a three-stage air filtration unit and is discharged outside. "It's 99.97 percent clean air," Mittelmeier said.
Keeping any asbestos away from the students is not the only security associated with the project. Everyone who is working in the building must wear an ID badge and has to go through the state police and child abuse clearance procedure like any teacher or district staff member, Kennerknecht said.
When the company finishes with the first 10,000 square-foot area of the building and the fiber count is no more than .001 fibers per cubic centimeter, the containment can be taken down. Amark will move to a new area and other contractors will be able to work on the finished space.
Mittelmeier estimated each area will take about two weeks and said the whole project entails about 79,000 square feet.
While Amark is working on the asbestos, the other contractors - lead contractor Perry Construction of Erie, and subcontractors for sprinklers, HVAC, plumbing, food service construction, and electrical - are working on scheduling.
"The contractors are responsible for building the schedule," Kennerknecht said. "The project managers for these companies are all working with Perry on a computerized schedule."
Certain portions of the job must be done in a certain order. A very simplified example is the drywall can't be put up before the wiring is done. Also, the district will be able to track who is on schedule, ahead of schedule, or behind schedule.
The three one-inch-thick specification books in the classroom that is serving as the meeting room for the contractors and district officials will keep the contractors busy.
About half the building will be off limits to students during each of the two phases of the work. With sixth graders assigned to Warren Area Elementary Center this year, there is enough classroom space for the remaining students.
"It's exciting," Kennerknecht said. "It's going to be a wonderful facility when it's done."
The combination of the historic exterior and the modern interior, including the use of renewable energy sources, is "really going to make this a world-class building," he said.
Students will be able to track the process, efficiency, and dollar savings of the geothermal heating and cooling system for part of the building, the rainwater cisterns that will provide water to flush some of the toilets, and the solar tubes that will provide the power for some of the automatic sinks.
Kennerknecht expects the daily exposure to renewable energy and emerging technologies to inspire students.
"A lot of unique opportunities are coming from the project," Kennerknecht said. "This is going to generate thought for the next generation. It may lead to some completely different technology."