Project Profile: Mother Mary Lange Catholic School
Scope of work: Construction of new $25 million, 65,000-square-foot Catholic school
BC&E Member companies involved: Bala Consulting Engineers, Excell Concrete Construction, Live Green Landscape Associates, Price Modern, Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, Windsor Electric
Logically, a construction project that is destined to be the first of its kind in 60 years and designed to foster positive change in a troubled community probably will entail a litany of challenges. Construction of the Mother Mary Lange Catholic School on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, however, happened remarkably smoothly due to what project team members describe as extraordinary collaboration and spirit.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore embarked on the project (the first Catholic school built in Baltimore City in more than six decades) in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray. Church leaders saw the ensuing unrest as a reaction to both that death and ongoing marginalization of the community. They planned the new 65,000-square-foot, three-story, 520-student pre-K through eighth-grade school to address those inequalities by providing state-of-the-art education space within the community. In addition to two classrooms per grade, the new school would include a digital media center, art studio and STEM suite with a science lab, maker space and robotics center. There would be a regulation-sized gymnasium including a performance stage, a cafeteria and full kitchen, a playground and an athletic field to host soccer and lacrosse games. The school would also be designed to support after-hours community activities.
“Fitting all those different spaces within the building footprint was a challenge for the architects and for us,” said Cory Colassard, Senior Vice President at Bala Consulting Engineers. Bala provided MEP engineering services for the school.
Early in the design process, architects began collaborating with Bala to precisely determine MEP requirements, equipment placement and “check that the system requirements didn’t conflict with the building design and decrease the usable square footage in any classroom below acceptable limits,” Colassard said.
Similarly, project team members engaged in early and ongoing collaboration to complete the landmark project on time and within budget in the midst of a pandemic.
“Having Whiting-Turner involved from the outset of the project was invaluable,” said Richard Williams, Electrical Project Manager at Bala. “If they saw something going wrong with an aspect of the design or if they saw a potential constructability issue, they raised a flag… Every time something was proposed for the project, they ran down the cost and said whether it was affordable or a little beyond budget.”
That collaboration even enabled the team to exceed the project’s goal of achieving LEED Silver certification and receive LEED Gold instead.
“Everybody was extremely proud to be part of this project,” Colassard said. “It delivered a shining new building in an area that needs it.”