A completely gutted and rebuilt school, reimagined to be a technical center on the cutting edge.
The newest addition to Chesterfield County Public Schools’ technical instruction program still resembles in some exterior aspects the original Clover Hill High School building. But one step inside and it’s an entirely different world.
One of the objectives of the Chesterfield Career Technical Center at Hull Street, besides giving students instruction and training in an impressive number of technical and vocational trades, is encouraging them to be inspired by each other’s work. The students from different programs often work together on a project, and the floor-to-ceiling windows flanking the classrooms is a feature that you'd be unlikely to see at a traditional school. As you walk down the hallways, with their open ceilings and brightly colored trim, you find yourself drawn into the activity in every classroom, which is fully on display.
The construction process brought the visions of the design group to life, producing a collaborative environment that was the result of tireless Gulf Seaboard foresight and coordination with many different subcontractors. To break up the spaces and create the intended atmosphere, we needed to incorporate an abundant amount of different finishes and minute details.
An area within the school known as the “soft commons” serves as a small group area or a study place for students and staff to enjoy the view from huge windows. Adding more collaborative spaces was also a motivation behind the redesign of the main commons.
We constructed the school to be cutting edge, meeting today’s technological standards and being ready for tomorrow’s. The old school’s cafeteria was altered to have more of a lounge or cafe feel, with some group meeting spaces and tech bars for sitting and working on laptops.
“CCTC at Hull was a new challenge, with a 14-month timeline and a different set of needs for each program’s classroom.”
Directly next door, the previous school’s gym was transformed into a banquet hall that serves as a meeting place for school board members or a training facility for teachers throughout the county, among other things. The architects juxtaposed the formal space with a more casual commons for breakouts sessions and meals served from the adjacent kitchens.
Across the commons, the auditorium got a complete facelift, with acoustic paneling and different textures on wall coverings and wood detailing. These areas are the most aesthetically detailed, with glass brick tiling, vaulted ceilings, and accents throughout. Elsewhere in the building, the accents reappear with hollow metal, tiling, and light fixtures.
Gulf Seaboard has had decades of experience with schools, but the CCTC at Hull was a new challenge, with a 14-month timeline and a different set of needs for each program’s classroom. The nursing program’s hospital beds had to function like a real hospital, for a practice experience that needed to be lifelike. The veterinary program required drains in a specialized flooring system and special examination lighting and counters. Down the hall, the beauty school looks and functions a lot like a professional one, with attractive wooden stations, each with their own power access. Environmental studies and digital fields like robotics required labs completely different from each other with supporting mechanical and plumbing systems contained within science laboratory cabinetry. With so many different technical and vocational programs, a number of small projects had to fit within one larger overall task of renovating the entire existing school. In the end, it added up to that many more suppliers and specialty subcontractors working together and collectively providing the groundwork for success.
Perhaps most popular among the staff and other students are the culinary kitchens, one dedicated entirely to the baking program. The students work with professional-grade equipment and require the gas hook-ups, plumbing, and electrical to support the equivalent of a restaurant-quality kitchen that caters to hundreds at time.
Along with trying to provide for the architectural and functional everyday use of the building, the building’s existing systems had to be upgraded to handle 300 students with specific infrastructure needs, depending on their program, as well as facilitate a rotational use of the building for meeting and event space. And, since the CCTC also houses IT, database systems, and communications for Chesterfield County’s entire school system, work had to be done very judiciously in order not to disrupt the in-place electrical or communication systems, lest the other county schools would have found themselves suddenly without communications. Attempting to push forward with construction while not compromising the functioning of the school system was quite a challenge, one that added complexity to an overall tight schedule and massive amount of work.
In addition to breaking the building down into multiple individual areas or projects, one of the major complexities from a construction standpoint was taking a fully functional high school, removing everything—including all of the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems—and reducing it to a mere shell. Later, we’d fill that shell with new systems.
Renovation projects bring on a whole different set of issues with the unknowns that come along with the job’s existing conditions. As a renovation project progresses, those unknowns become knowns. Through a concerted effort between all involved parties for the project, we were able to incorporate the necessary changes and adapt so that the overall completion duration of the project would not be compromised. The anticipation, reaction, and adaptability that Gulf Seaboard illustrated with this project highlighted our most valuable strengths.
The Chesterfield Career Technical Center at Hull Street wasn’t our first school project, but we’re happy to call it one that’s been both memorable and distinct.