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Linda Mah
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Loy Norrix Set for Remodeling

Work planned to Start in Summer

Loy Norrix High School is preparing for renovations that will seek to retain the building’s distinctive look, while updating the school with new colors and energy-efficient modifications.

The $5.5 million project, which is already out to bid, is slated to be completed over the summer of 2017 and 2018, although some preliminary work may begin as early as this spring.

Jim Ross, a project manager, and Shawn Parshall, architectural designer, with architectural and engineering firm Tower Pinkster, met with Karen Jackson, executive assistant in facilities management for Kalamazoo Public Schools, school principal Rodney Prewitt and members of the Loy Norrix Knight Life school newspaper recently to discuss the upcoming work.

The work is the last Loy Norrix project from the bond issue passed in 2013.

Last year, staff, students, and community members were surveyed about the color scheme of the school’s exterior. About 450 people responded, with 71 percent asking to see a darker blue on the building’s exterior versus the turquoise, which is currently in place, or another color.

The new blue will be most visible in the school’s glass tower, where the blue will be used throughout along with a new framework of anodized aluminum.

“We’re trying to bring that forward, and we thought we could use a blue glass there and really help to offset that entry way,” Parshall said. “Architecturally, it’s already a focus but through the use of the glass and different materials we can help differentiate it even further. We see the tower as a signature element of the building.”

Another signature element of the structure is its extensive use of glass throughout the rest of the building. The remodeling will retain as much glass as possible, Ross said.

“We know that taking daylight out of spaces creates a negative environment for students,” he said. “We know test scores are better when kids live in daylight.”

Ross said he lived through a period when schools blocked much of their windows in an attempt to improve energy efficiency, which left rooms with tiny windows. Later, schools realized that was a mistake and opened those windows again.

“It just changed the whole environment,” Ross said. “I think your mindset is like night and day with natural light. We really didn’t talk about taking away any windows in this project. The hallways still have a lot of glass. The interior courtyards and the senior courtyard will still be ceiling-to-floor glass.”

Some of the glass will be replaced with brick or fiberglass panels, especially in high traffic areas that are prone to damage, such as the ramp corridor, but largely the glass will be retained — although replacing it with thicker glass that has a coating to make it more energy efficient.

The new glass will consist of two quarter-inch thick glass panels sandwiching a half inch of air space. “There are no estimates on the energy savings yet, but we know it will improve it significantly,” Ross said. In addition to the improved efficiency of the glass, some of the old porcelain-coated steel panels seen along the bottom of some walls will be replaced by more efficient and better insulated masonry.

The idea was to upgrade the envelope of the building, while retaining its character — and to pull the building out of the 1960s, he said.

All of the building’s 92 exterior doors will be replaced by doors made of the same clear, anodized steel that will be used for the tower frame.

The Loy Norrix work will be just one of the five building projects the district undertakes in the summer, Jackson said. Other work slated for completion will be new windows, exterior doors and bathrooms at Phoenix High School; new lockers at Milwood Magnet School; new lockers and a marquee at Hillside Middle School; and new doors, technology, and a marquee at Woods Lake Elementary.

“We are very fortunate that we live in a community that is extremely supportive of our schools,” Jackson said.
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