What factored into the preferred design concept decision?


The AHS Building Committee considered numerous factors when deliberating which design concept to select for the future High School. This was a very difficult decision and the committee carefully weighed the pros and cons of each option as well as a variety of factors including cost, educational fit, layout, sustainability, construction timeline, disruption to students and community feedback.

Ultimately, the discussion centered around whether to spend more money and make concessions in order to retain original buildings or whether to build a new, lower cost, lower risk facility that would provide increased flexibility and sustainability features for many years to come.

The Preferred Design Concept

The committee chose Option 3a, a completely new building that will have wings built on some of the front green. This design concept is a modification of Option 3 based on feedback from the building committee and the community to move the auditorium to the front of the building to improve community access.  In Option 3, the auditorium was located in the rear of the building. 

Preferred design concept diagrams.

The AHS Building Committee is saddened by the loss of a High School that has educated Arlington’s students for 100 years.  However, the Committee looks forward to working with the community to build a new, iconic High School that focuses on achieving the educational program, improves a community resource, maintains green space in the front of the school, and ensures a safe and productive school environment during construction.

Evaluation Criteria

Following are the criteria the building committee carefully evaluated prior to selecting the preferred design concept.

Educational Vision

The primary objective for the project is to construct a 21st century facility that will best serve Arlington’s students and the High School’s current and future educational program. District leaders felt that Option 3a met the educational vision nearly equally to Option 1 (renovation/addition), but at a lower cost ($25M less).  

The preferred design:

  • Strongly supports the Educational Program
  • Provides a strong alignment with guiding principles for the project
  • Builds core educational wings on both the front and back of the building, providing a strong visual connection through the buildings
  • Has a centrally located Library Learning Commons between academic wings
  • Promotes interdisciplinary and departmental collaboration and learning with strong departmental adjacencies
  • Supports specialized and distributed spaces and technology for hands-on and applied learning (makerspaces, arts, etc.)
  • Fosters safe and welcoming spaces and provides varied exterior green spaces to support the social-emotional well-being of students


Access to community programmed spaces, exterior aesthetics and historic considerations were also considered.  Community spaces (Gymnasium, Auditorium) in Option 3a are better situated for community access from Mass. Ave. than in the other concepts.  Though Options 1 and 2 (both renovation/addition options that retained Fusco House and Collomb House) provided a slightly larger overall facility and retained original buildings, the committee felt that a brand new facility would offer lower cost and escalation risks and better suit the needs of Arlington long term.

The preferred design:

  • Provides optimal and direct community access to the Performing Arts wing, located in the front of the building on Mass. Ave.
  • Provides an open design for good community use of the building (Gymnasium, Auditorium, Arlington Community Education, etc.)
  • Retains some of the front green as community green space and increases green space elsewhere on the site
  • Provides flexibility for potential reuse of original elements

Facility, Site & Sustainability

The overall facility needs, site flow and layout, and potential for optimized sustainability were considered.  The Sustainability subcommittee concluded that Option 3/3a has the strongest potential to meet the project’s sustainability goal of net-zero.  The available roof area for solar panels, the ability to drill wells for a geothermal heating and cooling system (a very efficient way to heat and cool buildings), and the total amount of exterior wall area (an indicator of which building will have a greater ability to retain heat in winter and stay cool in summer) were evaluated.

The preferred design:

  • Offers optimal sustainability and the highest potential to achieve the project’s net-zero goal  
  • Provides front and rear primary entrances for students and community
  • Discreetly locates separate entrances for specialized programming (Menotomy Preschool, Special Education specialized programs)
  • Increases external and internal security:  layout allows closure of spaces to community after hours and improves internal visibility
  • Improves access to the Minuteman Bike Path with direct access
  • Has ideal Gymnasium location, directly accessible to the fields
  • Offers the best layout for parking and increases the number of parking spaces
  • Supports expansion potential (future-proof)
  • Site location creates fewer soil contamination issues

Cost & Schedule

Cost and construction timeline factors were also considered. Though Option 4 was the lowest cost option, the committee felt that it had weaker alignment with the educational vision and other criteria. While Options 1 and 2 retained original structures and more of the front green, building on the existing footprint would result in a longer, more complex and costly construction project that would cause more disruption to students and require modular classrooms.

The preferred design:

  • Is the second least expensive option to construct and likely the least expensive to operate
  • Shortens construction time by constructing on part of the front green
  • Provides construction swing space, minimizing disruption during construction and potentially reducing the need for any modular classrooms (which would be needed in Options 1 and 2)
  • Enables initial occupation ~January 2022, with new classroom wings and Auditorium completed in first construction phase
  • Eliminates unexpected costs that can occur in the renovation of older buildings (environmental concerns, unanticipated structural complications, etc.)

What’s Next

Nearly a year of discussion, analysis and information gathering among Town and school officials, teachers, students, community members and numerous professionals (environmental consultants, civil engineers, etc.) have occurred up to this point. Here’s a recap of the timeline to-date.

Once the MSBA approves Arlington’s recommended design concept and the Preferred Schematic Report (PSR) in August, HMFH Architects will begin to develop more detailed architectural plans.  The current drawings provided are called ‘massing diagrams’ that show the school’s footprint so that preliminary costs can be determined based on square footage, renovation/new construction, construction phasing/swing space, etc.  

The next phase of the process will finalize the design and HMFH Architects and the building committee will seek further community feedback beginning in the Fall.

It is the building committee’s goal to build a new school that will provide iconic identity for not only AHS and its students, but also for the Arlington community as a whole.

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