THS project architects lead tour of construction site

THS project architects lead tour of construction site

by Emily M. Olson / The Register Citizen

TORRINGTON — A few months ago, the middle-high school project on Besse Drive was filled with piles of steel beams, trucks and ditches. However, the $179 million building project, which will have a new high school, middle school and central offices for the Torrington School District, is now taking shape.

A recent tour with members of the SLAM Collaborative, the architectural firm chosen to design the new Torrington middle-high school, also included members of the American Institute of Architects’ Connecticut chapter and Louis Grasso from Urban Mining, a Beacon Falls-based company.

AIA members were there to hear about Urban Mining’s process of using ground glass in making concrete, an innovative advancement in a sustainable building materials effort. Using ground glass emits fewer carbons than traditional concrete; it’s also a way to reuse glass, said Domenic Di Cenzo, executive director of the Connecticut Concrete Promotion Council, another tour guest.

“Urban Mining is in a joint venture with O&G Industries (the construction manager for the Torrington building project),” Di Cenzo said.

“It’s been a great experience (with Urban Mining) and a good way for us to accomplish our goals as we do our projects,” Morhart said.

For many of the guests, seeing such a large project developing from the ground up was also exciting.

O&G Industries’ Brian Pracuta, the project supervisor, joined SLAM architect Kemp Morhart in leading the group around the grounds. They first stood in the center of the lot, where the foundation for the new, three-story middle school had recently been poured, and workers were smoothing the surface.

“We’ve done 4,000 cubic feet of concrete already, and we’ve got about 3,500 more to go,” Pracuta said.

Pracuta, a resident of Harwinton, said the project was moving along and that he was glad to be part of it. “I was honored to have been picked,” he said. “For O&G to have entrusted me to do this is so exciting.”

Facing the middle school site is the five-story high school building — now a steel beam structure with a completed concrete foundation. The group walked in on what will be the ground floor.

“The central offices will be on the fourth floor of the high school building,” Morhart said, adding that the building will also have a “common” first floor for middle and high school students, with shared outdoor spaces between the two school buildings.

Visitors were seeing the bones of what is becoming a multi-faceted campus, with spaces for students preparing for careers and trades, including a culinary lab, construction, technology and robotics labs, automotive shop, ROTC classrooms to introduce students to military training and its history, and child development education classrooms, for students to learn about and become certified to work with young children, according to SLAM.

A nearly 4,000-square-foot band room is the largest SLAM has ever designed. The project’s 475-seat auditorium is designed to have professional rigging and a catwalk for the school district’s theater program, according to the firm.

The school project originally was approved by voters in November 2020 for $159 million. In January 2022, voters approved adding $20 million to the project. School building committee Co-Chairmen Mario Longobucco and Ed Arum came to the City Council in December 2021 asking for approval to add the $20 million, citing increased enrollment and rising costs for construction and materials.

The 310,000-square-foot combined middle-high school building is being built on the existing campus on the 31-acre Besse Drive property. The old building will stay open during construction and eventually will be razed. To keep the existing high school up and running during construction, project managers reconfigured the driveways and building entrances; students and staff now access the building from the back.  Once the old school is taken down, athletic fields will be created on that portion of the property; the football stadium and athletic field will remain in place.