At the August 27th School Board Meeting, SVSD Assistant Superintendent Ryan Stokes said the Mount Si High School Re-build project ran into an “interesting dilemma” over the summer as NAC Architects began structural engineering work for the high school’s new design.
The issue is with the gym’s foundation, as the design calls for its renovation, not a complete rebuild as with the rest of the school. The dilemma stems from International Building Codes (IBC), which set seismic building codes to mitigate large earthquakes – like a “big one.”
The Mount Si High School gymnasium foundation needs to be brought up to IBC renovation code, which comes at a cost of $2 million – $2.58 million over the original gym renovation estimate.
Stokes called the foundation work a “fairly significant change, fairly early in the process,” but said, “Doing nothing is not an option.”
Build/Renovate to Code or Don’t Build
IBC codes are updated regularly, as earthquakes happen and scientists get new data. They are designed to help ensure in the event of a large earthquake that firstly, building occupants can get out, and secondly, the building is preserved.
So the gym’s foundation (portion from the 1970’s) would need to be improved by injecting grouting 30 feet underground to stabilize the soil that according to a soil condition report is sandy, silty and wet.
While the renovation code requires the first 30 feet of soil to be improved, building codes for new structures require soil conditions 80 feet deep be considered. So the rest of the Mount Si High School rebuild would adhere to these stricter codes.
According to architects, addressing the gym’s foundation issues to the same 80 foot depth as the new building isn’t possible because 1) they cannot get pin piles with large enough diameters for the load that deep and 2) they would have to remove the gym roof to get a crane tall enough to use driven or auger cast piles to reach those depths.
NAC Architect Matt Rambaugh stated that while improving the gym’s foundation to meet renovation building code with grouting injections would allow occupants to get out if a large earthquake hit, the gym would probably require significant repair afterward – whereas the rest of the building would be in better shape because of the “new” building code is was constructed to meet.
Taking these safety and building preservation issues into consideration, NAC Architects also explored replacing the gymnasium, something Rambaugh said had many benefits in addition to safety, including:
- Less Risk by simplifying the design, making it more desirable for contractors for possible better bids; eliminating unknowns that come with renovation.
- Less Disruption to PE and athletic programs during renovation when the gym would be closed for about 6 months.
- Space Planning which would improve the gym/court layout and have seating for 2400, improve the sports medicine area, create a better lobby and public entrance for both the gym and adjacent Performing Arts Center with a separated breezeway.
The cost to build a new gymnasium is estimated at $6 million – $6.36 million. The required gym renovation foundation work is estimated at $2 million – $2.58 million. That brings the additional funds for a new gym to approximately $3.78 million -$4.36 million.
Slight Design Change
NAC Architects said it can alter the [approved] high school design concept and flop the spots of the gymnasium and the Performing Arts Center (PAC) to accommodate a gym rebuild – that way the current gym would stay in place until the new gym was ready. The same is possible for the PAC – the current PAC would be in place until the new facility was online.
Asst. Superintendent Stokes said as the altered design (with a new gymnasium) has benefits beyond improved safety, both the High School Design Committee and the Administration support the board investing in a replacement gymnasium.
How to Pay for It?
Stokes said in addition to the $2.2 million savings in architects fees (actual versus bond estimates), the district will use state matching funds for a gymnasium rebuild – so it would not have to go back to the community for more funds.
Next summer the district will be receiving $7 million in state matching for elementary school #6. Initially, SVSD only expected to receive about $4 million.
When the permitting begins for the high school rebuild project (estimated next year), SVSD can submit needed paperwork for the those matching funds – estimated to be $16 million. Stokes said the district will also continue to explore other cost savings for the high school rebuild.
According to district officials, the remainder of the matching funds (not needed for unforeseen project issues) will be returned to taxpayers by paying down the bond debt.
At the September 10th SVSD School Board Meeting, the board will vote on whether to approve funds for a gymnasium replacement. The meeting happens at Snoqualmie City Hall at 6:30PM. Public comments is heard at the beginning of each meeting.
For more information about the Mount Si High School Rebuild, or other voter approved bond projects, visit SVSD’s Facility and Planning Page.