Pressed by potential delays to the start of construction, the general contractor for a $17-million prototype elementary school project in St. Petersburg, Fla., nevertheless found a way to build the replacement facility in record time.

Photo by The Greg Wilson Group
The Lynch Replacement Elementary School project earned the "Best K-12 Project" in this year's 'Best Projects' contest.
Photo by The Greg Wilson Group
Ajax Building Corp. was able to complete this prototype school facility in St. Petersburg, Fla., in record time.

Built on an existing campus, the project included the construction of six new buildings totaling approximately 82,000 sq ft, including a two-story administration structure and a pair of two-story classroom buildings. Additionally, the school was built around a central courtyard that incorporates a gathering tree as the focal point of the space.

The contract also called for renovations to existing buildings as well as installation of a new mechanical unit, additional storage space, new acoustical ceiling/lights/diffusers and replacement of the floor base.

Looking at the schedule after the contract's award, general contractor Ajax Building Corp. determined that the prototype school design, which had been used on 18 previous Pinellas County Schools projects, had never been built faster than 18 months.

On this project, however, the architect's deadline for completing construction documents would leave just 14 months to complete the contract.

To expedite the project, Ajax bid out the demolition of the existing school, site prep for the building pads and underground utilities as well as the concrete and masonry for the foundations early enough that this work could start prior to completion of final documents.

Another hurdle was working on an occupied campus. During construction, classes were held in portable classrooms located in the school's existing parking lot—on the opposite side of the campus where the teachers' new parking lot was located—which challenged the team to accommodate educators making their way through campus.

Also, the contractor had to go to great lengths to keep the school's kitchen functioning despite the need to demolish the space.

In the end, builders were able to complete the prototype school in 16 months, two months faster than the design had ever been built previously.


Key Players

Owner: Pinellas County Schools, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Contractor: Ajax Building Corp., Oldsmar, Fla.

Designer: Hoffman Architects, Tarpon Springs, Fla.

Civil Engineer: Bayside Engineering, Tampa

Structural Engineer: McCarthy & Associates, Clearwater, Fla.

MEP Engineer: Al Sanchez Engineering, Tampa

Submitted by Ajax Building Corp.