Building committee chooses Shawmut as construction manager

The School Building Committee has selected Shawmut Design and Construction of Boston as the construction manager for Harvard’s proposed new elementary school. The current contract allows Shawmut to review the design as it develops for constructability, schedule, and costs. A proposal for actual construction will come before voters at Annual Town Meeting for an up or down vote next May.

With the building committee’s unanimous approval, Shawmut becomes the third key firm in planning the school project. The other two are the project management firm NV5, which monitors the project from beginning to end, and the architectural firm Arrowstreet, which is now working on the design. Shawmut previously worked with NV5 on Lunenburg’s middle school and is currently working with the firm on the Gibbs Middle School in Arlington.

Shawmut was one of eight applicants for the construction manager position. Four finalists were selected and interviewed in late November by a six-member subcommittee made up of Superintendent Linda Dwight, School Committee member SusanMary Redinger, Ron Ostberg, Rick Maiore, project manager Tom Murphy of NV5, and architect Emily Grandstaff-Rice of Arrowstreet. The full School Building Committee officially approved Shawmut at its Nov. 30 meeting.

Shawmut project executive Ryan Lynch noted that this is a one-time opportunity for Harvard to get the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s reimbursements. “We need to maximize value for the town,” he said. The firm has experience on prior MSBA projects, including the Edward Devotion School in Brookline.

Looking ahead to the construction phase, Lynch added, “The most important thing that we do is maintain a safe site. … We think outside the fence.” He also said Shawmut does criminal record (CORI) checks on all construction workers, and everyone on site wears an identification badge.

A similar project in Lexington

Among other projects, Shawmut was the construction manager for Lexington’s new Estabrook Elementary School, which was one of the recently built schools that the Harvard School Building Committee visited last summer.

With 500 students, the Estabrook School is roughly the same size as Hildreth. The Lexington project is also similar to the one proposed here in some other ways. As Harvard’s building project began because of mold problems in the 1958 kindergarten wing, the Estabrook project was triggered by unacceptably high levels of polychromatic biphenyls (PCBs) found in its 1961 building. And, similar to Harvard’s construction plan, the old Estabrook school building remained in use while the new one was going up about 50 feet away. Lexington’s 2012 Town Meeting voted about $40 million for the new school, which was completed in 2014.

Several months ago, Harvard’s School Building Committee chose the “construction manager at risk” model for the proposed new school. Under this model, a construction manager (CM) is chosen while the building is still in the design phase, rather than after the design is complete. The timing Once the design and cost estimates are further along, the committee and Shawmut will negotiate a guaranteed maximum price for the project, with Shawmut receiving a fixed fee.

The alternative to the CM at risk system would have been to select a general contractor on the basis of the lowest bid after Arrowstreet completed the school design. Harvard would then have negotiated a lump-sum price with that contractor.

According to a chart prepared by NV5, the CM model can shorten the overall project schedule by as much as 13 percent, because it allows the CM to begin gathering bids on early parts of the project while design work continues on later parts. In general, shortening the construction period saves money.

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