Robert Benson

As you approach Saugus Middle/High School, you’ll be tempted to think, “Did I get the address wrong? This doesn’t look like a school.”

It’s an understandable reaction. There’s not much that’s old school in this visually-stunning 270,000-square-foot, $160 million new school. That starts with blended middle and high schools and continues throughout the STEAM-focused complex of fabrication labs, collaboration spaces, and project areas. The school even includes outdoor classrooms, designed years before the pandemic.

To say the future has arrived at Saugus Middle/High School might be an understatement.

Credit Cambridge, Mass.-based architecture firm HMFH for a forward-thinking take on public school education. A sense of order, intelligence, and craft imbues nearly every aspect of the structure:

  • Interior spaces are flooded with natural light from monumental lightwells
  • Colorful graphics identify learning communities
  • A trigeneration plant produces electricity and captures waste heat for space heating and cooling, a system that helps cut carbon emissions by a third
Robert Benson

Saugus Middle/High School was set to open in September, but has been delayed because of the school district’s decision to start the school year remotely. Anticipation for students, parents, faculty, and staff remains high. It’s no secret there’s a close correlation between quality classroom design and student performance. The investment in skilled design, materials, and construction is a vote of confidence in the community’s young people. Studies show students instinctively respond to that emotionally and academically.

Division 10

Quality is easy to spot. Take Division 10 specifications: Once an overlooked, whatever-works specification category, it’s now gained new prominence with COVID-19 mitigation. Today bathroom partitions, soap and sanitizer dispensers, and other washroom accessories demonstrate the building owner’s commitment to occupant safety.

The design team at HMFH and their independent specification writer, Kalin Associates, turned to the master specifications for Division 10 guidance. For example, the basis of design for washroom partitions is ASI Group of New York City. The RFQ requires three bids, so HMFH architects weighed equivalent material manufacturers. The final spec decision came down to five factors:

  1. Single-Source Responsibility. HMFH, school officials, and the general contractor couldn’t afford the potential complications and headaches that multiple manufacturers might represent.
  2. Quality Products. “Durability and style were important considerations. The idea is to spec partitions and other Division 10 products that will outlast the building,” says Jim Kelaher, the local representative for the ASI Group.
  3. Delivery Confidence. Earlier experiences with the master specification established the manufacturer’s reputation for on-time delivery, a major consideration with a September 2020 deadline looming.
  4. Competitive Pricing. Of course.
  5. Fast Expert Service. “Their design requires a large public wall comprised of mark-up panels for the students to write and draw on. Unfortunately, the wall wasn’t quite square, meaning panel placement was at an unacceptable angle. Field modifications to the panels were required by our installation team to correct the fit,” recalls Kelaher.

Saugus Middle/High School reminds us how building design and quality materials can help advance educational excellence. Making compromises on structures expected to be in service for many decades serves no one well—especially taxpayers.

Now with COVID-19, working with manufacturers like ASI Group that embody years of global experience, product diversity, and demonstrated quality are specification factors that merit every consideration.

Learn more about Division 10 products that meet or exceed specification requirements.