miscellaneous architecture diagram

Schematic Design Overview


This blog post reviews the Schematic Design Phase of the High School Building Project.

On August 29, 2018 the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board of Directors voted to approve the Town of Arlington to proceed into schematic design to replace the existing Arlington High School. Arlington submitted the Preferred Schematic Report (PSR) to MSBA in July, which presented the rationale for Arlington’s preferred option of a new high school on the existing site. The all new high school continues to have the performing arts auditorium face Massachusetts Avenue and retains a portion of the front green.

This approval marks the start of the Schematic Design Phase which is anticipated to last until April 2019. During the Schematic Design Phase, HMFH Architects will take the preliminary massing diagrams and create a schematic design that will establish the look and feel of the building. The end result will be a building and site design with enough detail to establish the scope, budget and schedule for the new Arlington High School. Previously, the budget for the project has been estimated on gross square footage only.

The Schematic Design Phase will end with the MSBA Board of Director’s authorization to enter into a Project Scope and Budget Agreement with Arlington. The amount of the MSBA’s project funding grant (how much the MSBA will contribute to the project) will be determined and affirmed at this point. Once this agreement is executed (expected in April 2019), Arlington then has 120 days to obtain local authorization and funding for the project (a Spring 2019 debt exclusion vote is anticipated).

HMFH Architects will complete the Schematic Design in close collaboration with the AHS Building Committee (AHSBC), school administration and staff, Skanska (the Owner’s Project Manager), and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). Community input during this phase will also be a critical element.

Community Input during Schematic Design

In addition to being able to attend and provide commentary at the regular AHS Building Committee meetings, several public forums will also give the community a number of opportunities to give input and see the progress being made during Schematic Design. The AHSBC is planning multiple community forums between September and February. In particular, members of the AHSBC feel it is important to give community members numerous opportunities to weigh in on multiple aspects of the building, including the exterior facades.

What Will Happen During Schematic Design?

During Schematic Design, the AHSBC will focus on developing an exceptional new school that fully delivers the desired Educational Program in a fiscally responsible manner. All decisions will be evaluated, aiming to maintain educational quality and community priorities while minimizing cost. These decision points will span the selection of building materials, the use of sustainability approaches, and further evaluation of all included spaces and features.

The Schematic Design will fully articulate the project scope, budget and schedule. Key aspects to be developed include:

  • The general and specific architectural features will be described for the building’s exterior and interior. The actual look and feel of the building will emerge in a much more detailed way than has been presented so far. HMFH will provide schematic drawings and elevations as well as exterior and interior perspectives that will describe the character of the design as it is developed.
  • The quantity of building materials will be established (e.g. glass, brick, flooring material, ceiling material). During Schematic Design, the focus is more on quantity and extent than exact type (ex. size of bricks, type of flooring).
  • The Educational Program will be finalized. This work will include any refinements to the Educational Program needed to balance costs without compromising educational delivery. As required by MSBA, a written narrative that describes how the proposed project supports each component of the Educational Program will be developed.
  • All program locations and adjacencies will be finalized. The exact locations and configurations of classrooms and shared spaces (e.g. gym, library, cafeteria, etc.) will be set. The space summary that describes the size and function of every space in the school will also be refined and completed.
  • The plan for instructional technology will be proposed and approved. There will be a submission to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to secure certification that the proposed high school design effectively meets the needs of all Special Education students.
  • The site plan will be further developed. This includes establishing the exact location of the school on the site, the extent of open space in front and all around the building. The exact number and location of parking spaces will be established as well as the configuration of driveways and drop-off and pick-up areas. Courtyards, gardens, the preschool playground, and the broader landscaping approaches will also be developed.
  • The sustainability plan will be further developed. AHSBC will determine which sustainability features will be incorporated into the project and what the budget will be for these features.
  • The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems will be selected.
  • The construction schedule and a construction phasing plan will continue to be fleshed out, suggesting to what extent modular classrooms may be required.
  • There will be further study and analysis of existing building and site conditions. This includes: completion of the traffic study, accessibility analysis, utility analysis, hazardous materials analysis including soil studies to better define the scope of site contamination, and geotechnical and geo-environmental analysis.
  • Finally, the AHSBC will carefully consider the costs of all spaces within the new facility – educational program spaces, community spaces, district and town offices, etc. – and determine exactly which programs and spaces will be included in the project.

Cost Estimating and Total Project Budget

After considerable efforts are made through the fall and early winter to further define and refine the project, a preliminary Schematic Design package will be submitted to Skanska and HMFH’s estimators. Once the estimates are completed, the two estimators will meet to reconcile any differences until they are within 1% of one another, an MSBA requirement. The cost estimate will then be reviewed by the AHSBC in late-January/early February. This estimate will be far more accurate and in greater detail than what the AHSBC received during the Feasibility Study. As may be required, the AHSBC will consider any cost cutting measures developed by HMFH Architects and Skanska to ensure the project stays within budget.

Schematic Design Submission

After the cost estimate and any cost cutting is complete, the total project budget can be determined. AHSBC anticipates that the Schematic Design will be submitted to MSBA in late February 2019. At that point, the MSBA will review the submission and calculate eligible and ineligible costs to determine the reimbursement grant from the MSBA and Arlington’s financial share of the project.

Local Approvals, Funding the Project, and Beyond

Once the Schematic Design is approved by the MSBA, Arlington and the MSBA will enter into a Project Scope and Budget Agreement, which confirms the scope, budget and schedule for the proposed school. Upon execution, Arlington will then have 120 days to secure funding and local approvals. Town Meeting must approve the appropriation of the approved funds by a 2/3 vote. Town Meeting can approve the appropriation contingent upon a successful debt exclusion vote. A special election debt exclusion vote is anticipated for June 2019.

Only after local approval and funding is secured, can the design efforts continue into the Design Development and Construction Documents phases with Bidding and Construction phases to follow in 2020. If the debt exclusion vote for the new school does not pass, Arlington loses the opportunity for the MSBA to contribute funds to the project at this time and Arlington can either move forward without MSBA funding, or resubmit a statement of interest and begin the lengthy process over again.


Share this Post