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July 24, 2008 8:10 AM CDT

High Performance School On Budget With Masonry


Glacier High School. Photo by Shawn Toner Explosive Illusions ©.
Glacier High School. Photo by Shawn Toner Explosive Illusions ©.
When high fuel prices made transport of planned precast concrete walls for the gymnasium and theater areas cost prohibitive, the Glacier High School (GHS) design team at CTA Architects in Kalispell, Montana switched to concrete masonry units (cmu) to save approximately $125,000.

According to CTA's project manager, Corey Johnson, value engineering led the team to choose "Hi-R" insulating masonry block for structural cmu walls around these sections of the new school. Anderson Masonry of Bigfork Montana was the masonry contractor for the project - they laid the 12-inch split and smooth face block primarily over winter months to keep the project on schedule. Said Johnson, "Anderson really stepped up to the challenge of completing the masonry in a building this size in 24 months."

General Contractor, Swank Enterprises broke ground in June of 2005, and the school was completed on time in June of 2007. With a 60 acre site, the second high school in Kalispell is 242,665 square feet - construction costs alone were over $30 million.

Structural Engineer for the project, Ben Wardell of CTA Billings, said the masonry walls for the gymnasium are 40 feet tall and were designed for a 28-day compressive strength of 2000 psi; the fine arts section's cmu walls are 22 feet tall and support steel framing at the roof level, and 30-foot interior fire separation walls are also structural cmu.

Over the structural steel used on most of the building, the first 10 feet in height have a 4-inch colored split face block veneer, with a smooth face block as banding. The main entrance features columns laid with a local, natural stone veneer. This same Kalispell-quarried stone is also used throughout the main commons area, providing natural contrast with the heavy timber glulam beams above.

Glacier High School. Photo by Shawn Toner Explosive Illusions ©.
Glacier High School. Photo by Shawn Toner Explosive Illusions ©.
The design and construction of GHS aimed for sustainable, or "green" architecture. Architects used the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating SystemTM as guidelines for design and selection of materials. "When you are using local rock that is quarried here, or using masonry products that are manufactured within 500 miles of a site, you have lower shipping costs and less of an impact on the environment," said Johnson.

Johnson also said masonry was selected as a structural and interior material not only for its cost and availability, but also for its durability and variety of colors and finishes. A combination of painted and burnished block is in the primary corridors of the school. The walls in these corridors are "beautiful...warm and inviting," said Johnson. "And the block just doesn't show any wear after a year, even in high impact areas - I wish we could have used that product in a lot more places."

Zack Anderson of Anderson Masonry said the building includes 8-inch gray block in a serpentine wall, and 6-inch cmu in other interior applications. Kanta Block Products in Three Forks Montana supplied most of the cmu used in the school.

A unique masonry feature was added by architects as part of their goal to design the school with a 360 degree view in mind - without a clear "back entrance." At the North entrance to the school, a "mountain silhouette wall" in colored split face block serves as a visual buffer from the utility services areas, and also reflects the stunning mountain range of Glacier Park in the distance.

Innovative design and progressive solutions in masonry contributed to the success of this project, the result an environment for students that is conducive to achievement and learning. Callie Langhor, Principal of Glacier High School, said "the building design has met and many cases, exceeded our expectations. The teachers, administrators, staff and students had a great first year at GHS - the workmanship is outstanding and we are reaping the benefits of that."

About the Author

Angela Dierdorff is an independent writing and editing professional.


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