Case Studies

Norton High School: Perfecting Public Spaces

  • Written by: Norton High School: Perfecting Public Spaces
  • Produced by: Norton High School: Perfecting Public Spaces
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Founded in 1968, W.T. Rich Company Inc. (W.T. Rich) has over four decades of experience as a general contractor and construction manager in the public sector. Specializing in educational institutions and historic renovations, W.T. Rich operates out of an office in Newton, Mass.

A little over 30 miles away from the W.T. Rich home office is Norton High School in Norton, Mass., where the company is currently working on a $27 million renovation project. “We broke ground in March 2012 and expect to be completed by December 2013,” says Steve Roman, project manager for W.T. Rich.

Roman has been with W.T. Rich for almost a year, but has years of construction management experience under his belt. After working in the private sector on restaurants, law firms and office buildings, Roman decided it was time for a career shift. He joined W.T. Rich to work in the area the company is best known for, public work.

W.T. Rich is no stranger to the public-service arena. Walter T. Rich, president of W.T. Rich, founded the company in 1968 to provide general construction services to various public and private organizations throughout Massachusetts. Rich sought to provide services by operating with excellence, reliability and integrity in all aspects of the business. Over the years, the company has grown from a small entity to a multimillion-dollar firm that employs over 50 people. After 40 years of hard work, Rich still serves an active role in managing the business.

Sustainable Schools

The Norton High School project consists of a two-story addition to the existing school, along with renovations to the main building. Once complete, the brand-new addition will provide a main entryway, up-to-date cafeteria and kitchen, as well as five state-of-the-art science classrooms. The renovations to the current school include a revamped auditorium, gymnasium, main offices, art and music rooms, a media center and classrooms. Overall the renovations to the existing school total about 135,000 square feet, while the addition adds around 27,000 square feet to the building. According to the Norton School District’s website, the project will “bring the building up to code, meet state space and educational requirements, replace systems, heat, roof, windows, ceilings, flooring as well as making many other enhancements to the school.”

W.T. Rich implements sustainable practices in every aspect of work possible, with years of practice working on LEED-certified projects; 75 percent of the team at W.T. Rich is certified LEED Accredited Professionals. According to the company’s website, W.T. Rich strives to be environmentally conscientious, stating, “We understand green design and construction and can provide valuable sustainable guidance on any project.”

The Norton High School project embodies a number of sustainable practices. The design is energy efficient in many ways, including the utilization of solar curtains to keep the building warmer and cooler. The boilers, air handlers and other heating equipment are some of the most energy efficient in the industry.

A job of this scale doesn’t progress without some challenges along the way. “Well, for starters the school is occupied,” sites Roman. “We’ve been able to do most of the work during summer vacation but not everything.”

This aspect of the project has required coordination between W.T. Rich and the school faculty, students, parents and staff. Fitting new structural beams and new mechanical systems into older, smaller corridors of the existing school during renovations proved to be difficult along. In addition, creating new corridors and maintaining the integrity of the existing operating systems was also a challenge.

Building Relationships

As a construction management company, W.T. Rich knows it is critical to build working relationships with subcontractors. These teams of individuals are what can make or break a project. To assemble a high-performing construction team, W.T. Rich will only select subcontractors that meet certain prequalification criteria.

“It’s like a grade,” explains Roman. “If they’re below a certain number or don’t seem to have enough experience for the job, we’ll reject them.” Though its selection process sounds cutthroat, W.T. Rich simply wants the best firm for the job on every one of its projects.

Once the team is assembled, consistent communication and weekly meetings are required. “Face-to-face meetings and communication is important,” says Roman. “We have weekly meetings with subcontractors and fire and police departments since we’re dealing with schools and students’ safety.”

W.T. Rich sticks to what it knows and does best. W.T. Rich Company Inc. focuses its capabilities and resources on projects that best suit its expertise, and doing so has proved to be successful after nearly four decades specializing in public-construction services.

Published on: April 1, 2013

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