Architectural/engineering/construction team prioritizes diversity/local involvement in the design and building of Public Building Commission of Chicago/Chicago Public Schools’ John Hancock College Preparatory High School
The new John Hancock College Preparatory High School received the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association’s (HACIA) 2022 Project of the Year award. The 178,000-square-foot high school, Chicago Public Schools’ only new school built last year, replaces the original one built nearly a century ago.
Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board, was the keynote speaker at HACIA’s 42nd Annual Awards Banquet, where the award was presented. Accepting the award were representatives from the Public Building Commission of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, Legat Architects, UrbanWorks, KRM/ALL Joint Venture, and RME Engineering. Watch this video to see K.R. Miller’s Keith Miller and A.L.L. Masonry’s Luis Puig give an overview of the project including photos.
HACIA is a 41-year-old business membership organization whose mission is to ensure the equitable participation of its members in the design and construction industry.
Team Reflects Hancock Community
According to U.S. News, 94% of Hancock High School’s students are Hispanic, while 82% are from economically disadvantaged families. Additionally, Niche reports that 54% of the residents in the Clearing neighborhood (where the school is located) are Hispanic.
Considering these statistics, the design-build team prioritized minority involvement. For design duties, Legat Architects partnered with UrbanWorks, a minority woman-owned firm. The construction team consisted of K.R. Miller Contractors and A.L.L. Masonry Construction Co., also a minority-owned firm. The owners of both UrbanWorks and A.L.L. Masonry are Hispanic.
The overall project exceeded goals for Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) involvement, as well as minority workforce participation:
- 32.8% MBE company participation (27% goal)
- 10.2% WBE company participation (8% goal)
- 82% minority apprentice workforce (50% goal)
- 60% minority journey workers (50% goal)
- 98% minority laborers (50% goal)
- 12% female apprentice workforce (2% goal)
- 21% community resident workforce (7% goal)
The core team encouraged inclusion throughout the process, from gathering stakeholder input (e.g., parents’ pot-luck engagement sessions, bilingual meetings) to building a diverse construction team (e.g., pre-construction presentation to The Federation of Women Contractors). More than 110 construction workers who live in the area worked on the project.
A Beneficial Partnership
In 2019, the Public Building Commission of Chicago hosted a competition that challenged architecture and construction teams to submit concepts for the new high school. The KR Miller/ALL Masonry/Legat/UrbanWorks team created the winning concept.
Among the challenges the project posed were a demanding deadline, tight site, and difficult environmental conditions (heightened by the site’s location just two blocks south of Chicago’s Midway Airport).
Uniting designers and contractors early in the project enabled the team to establish accurate schedules and pricing. The project broke ground in April 2019 and, despite several COVID-driven construction site shutdowns, finished on time and within budget in August 2021.
A strong focus on coordination of construction teams and technical accuracy drove everything from a strong acoustic response and the appropriate execution of façade details to the developing and tracking of Chicago Public Schools’ environmental goals.
“The design/construction partnership allowed us to create real-scale mockups during the design phases to both verify the construction and let the building owner see it first-hand,” said Legat project architect Loren Johnson. “On a publicly funded project, this rare opportunity aligned expectations, confirmed assumptions, and reduced the risk of unexpected results.”
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