Chicago-area architects unite to help Philip J. Rock Center & School obtain state funding
FGM Architects, Legat Architects, and Wight & Company join forces, donate facility assessment services to help Philip J. Rock Center & School for deaf-blind individuals obtain $6.5 million in state funding for ADA upgrades, system improvements, and envelope repairs
When there is a competition to provide architectural services for Chicago-area preK-12 schools, the shortlisted candidates often include FGM Architects, Legat Architects, and Wight & Company. Such was the case when Philip J. Rock Center & School (PRC) in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and its fiscal agent at the time, Keeneyville Elementary School District 20, sent architects a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to complete a 10-year health/life safety study (required by school code) and a five-year capital improvement plan. The organization, which serves deaf-blind children and adults, hoped to use the report to apply for state funding. Instead of the typical competitive process, something very different happened . . .
In the parking lot after the pre-proposal tour, representatives from the three firms got to talking. The facility had so many shortcomings, they agreed, that the organization’s investment should be in renovations and upgrades . . . not in the assessment. Therefore, they decided to work together and donate planning services to benefit PRC rather than pour money into a submittal and interview process.
FGM Director of PK-12 Education Ron Richardson said, “All three firms knew immediately that this was about more than a facility assessment review. This facility was not simply a school—this was the students’ home. The design teams needed to develop a plan that would address the many years of deferred maintenance while allowing the facility to remain safe and operational during construction. Bonnie Jordan, a passionate and tireless advocate for these students, made it clear at the first meeting that the comfort and safety of her kids were top priorities.”
After a workshop at FGM’s Oak Brook studio, the firms split up the work, analyzed the facility and site, and then combined their observations and recommendations in a 66-page Facility Planning Report. It covers everything from sidewalks, walls, and roofs to engineering systems and whether doors are wide enough to admit students in wheelchairs. The document includes a written analysis and photos of conditions, as well as recommended upgrades prioritized by urgency and related cost estimates. The work broke down as follows:
- FGM, looking for evidence of moisture intrusion, assessed the building envelope including walls and mortar joints, as well as the roof, gutters, and downspouts.
- Legat’s accessibility study explored everything from play areas and parking lots to classrooms and toilet rooms to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Wight & Company’s contribution included analysis of all engineering systems (i.e., civil, structural, mechanical/electrical/plumbing, and fire protection) and site components such as landscaping, fencing, and playgrounds.
Brad Paulsen, PK-12 Education Practice Leader at Wight & Company, said, “We knew that the HVAC systems and equipment were instrumental to the health and well-being of the users of PRC. In developing this plan, we were able to determine what was in immediate need of replacement and what needed to be completed to provide the proper environment for learning, living, and working.”
Thanks to the final report, the Illinois State Board of Education awarded $6.5 million in capital improvements to Philip J. Rock Center & School. The funding supports a master plan that includes the facility assessment. The resulting updates will enable the school to improve safety, accessibility, and operational efficiency, which are crucial to effective delivery of PRC’s mission.
Legat preK-12 leader Robin Randall said, “It’s gratifying to be a part of three competing firms recognizing a school in need, then bringing together our talents for the greater good.”
“FGM, Legat, and Wight & Company are vested in doing what’s best for students,” said Philip J. Rock Center Executive Director Bonnie Jordan. “They were instrumental in helping us provide a better learning and living space for the students and staff of the Philip J Rock Center & School. The attention to detail was impressive.”
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