When last-minute
complications threaten
opening celebrations.

How did we manage to build a school within a severely restricted schedule and still overcome a number of challenges that arose from its very unique and sophisticated structure and design?

UNO Galewood Charter School

Our ability to pull everyone together and our sheer determination allows us to find extremely creative solutions to unforeseen challenges and still get jobs done before the deadline.

“This project was about achieving something that was unique in design but that also met all specifications within an extremely restricted time frame.”

– Joe Scarpelli, Executive Vice President

The UNO Galewood Charter School is an award winning architectural structure made unique by a 68 foot tall paneled sloped roof that is the main feature of its Southern end. The $17.6 million dollar school—designed to accommodate approximately 600 elementary school children—has 18 classrooms, a number of administrative offices, a library, a gym, and common spaces that span three stories.

The construction of the school–executed as a design/build project–was begun in November 2011 and concluded in time for the commencement of the 2012-2013 school year. It is universally considered a marvel given the severely constricted time limit; the large number of architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and school and city administrators involved in the process; and the sophistication of its design.

With just ten months to effectively execute and complete the project, there was an overriding sense of urgency for all parties involved. To address this, we helped facilitate meetings and coordinate communication efforts so that every single person was following the same design documents, and had the same expectations for the entirety of the project: “Right up front we brought everyone together for a design charrette, an intensive planning session where everybody, even the school janitorial staff, had a chance to tell us what they wanted and needed.” But because the layout of the building was still being considered even after construction had begun, there were a number of significant design changes particularly early on in the project, the most significant of which was an additional 10,000 square feet at the classroom end of the school.

Ultimately, the biggest challenge was having to maintain a fixed budget on a very tight timeline while dealing with the kind of design and engineering issues that inevitably arise in such a unique structure. The sloped roof, for example, which gives the school its distinctive character, proved to be a much bigger challenge than anyone could have anticipated. With just three weeks to go before the official school opening, we discovered that the waterproof membrane we’d installed was leaking. We immediately called everyone together, including the designers, engineers, and some new consultants, and made an improved design plan.

With the clock ticking and without being able to use scaffolding because of the roof’s unique shape and structure, we reengineered the waterproofing layer, set up custom framed extrusions for the skylights that were also watertight, and laid overlapping exterior wood panels. “We brought raincoats for workers and lights for their helmets and just kept going, at some points well into the night. Everyone, even management, got involved, passing panels up to the guys on the roof or doing whatever was needed to get the job finished on time.”

When asked how they finally completed and accomplished the work with just hours to spare, our team said they kept thinking about the children. “It was not an ideal situation given the timeline. There was a lot of pressure on everyone. Everything was happening all at once and we knew it would only take one person to say ‘That’s not my problem,” and we’d be in big trouble…but we couldn’t let that happen because we knew that this was going to be really important for a lot kids.” To keep everything running smoothly we did what we do best: we focused on communication, coordination, and cooperation with a lot of initiative and creative thinking thrown in.