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At Long Last, Community Over the Moon Over School

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Best K-12 Education

Photos by Denmarsh Photography
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It took 10 years and a few changes in direction for the $75-million Moon Area High School in Greater Pittsburgh's Moon Township to be completed. In the process, area builder Nello Construction developed a new niche in the school construction sector.

The process, however, was not easy. A flood as well as “shifting political cycles” resulted in several stop-go project cycles, says Nello Construction project manager Jerry Falso.

The project, which would ultimately become a three-story, 291,000-sq-ft facility, began in 2001, when the school district hired consultants and an architect. Construction plans were bid and awarded shortly thereafter, but the project's scope and price tag reportedly caused it to be canceled; the architect, construction manager and contractor services were terminated.

A newly appointed school board then decided to refocus the project in the form of a middle school, but, before bidding could start, the project came under scrutiny again. The ultimate decision was that the project would feature a full-scale high school, 100,000 sq ft larger than the aborted middle school. A second construction manager was terminated, Nello was hired and the project was redesigned and rebid in its final form.

Another significant impediment occurred, however, when a violent storm battered the East Coast in August 2009, bringing damaging rains that flooded the worksite. Excavations for the high school's eight-lane pool and concrete footings became bodies of water. Progress halted while workers used pumps with 6-in. hoses to get the job back on track.

“The night before the storm, the sky was clear and there was no rain predicted,” Falso says. “A subcontractor left a backhoe-loader in the swimming pool excavation since it was hard to get in and out. The next morning you couldn't even see there was a tractor in there. It took a lot of work to get the machine out, and eventually it was declared a total loss.”

Several weeks were lost, but eventually work resumed, and the project moved toward completion.

The project required a substantial information technology substrate to accommodate almost 100 classrooms with smart boards and projectors. It also called for a massive amount of concrete, frequently topping 1,000 cu yd per week, or the equivalent of more than two large residential foundations per day.

In the end, it took more than 40 carpenters, finishers and laborers working on site from January 2009 to January 2011 to complete the structure, which was delivered on time and on budget with a zero OSHA recordable incident rate.

Moon Area High School, Moon Township, Pa.

Key Players

Owner: Moon Township, Pa.

General Contractor: Nello Construction Co., Canonsburg, Pa.

Construction Manager: J.C. Pierce LLC, Canonsburg, Pa.

Lead Designer: Eckles Architecture & Engineering Inc., New Castle, Pa.

Civil Engineer: Michael Baker Jr. Inc., Beaver, Pa.

Structural Engineer: Baber & Hoffman Inc., Cranberry Township, Pa.

MEP Engineer: Eckles Architecture & Engineering Inc., New Castle, Pa.

Submitted by: Nello Construction Co.

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