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New Banff school won't include portable units

It is a first for the provincial government in over 10 years, but the new Banff Elementary School will not include portables as part of its design and construction.

It is a first for the provincial government in over 10 years, but the new Banff Elementary School will not include portables as part of its design and construction.

Alberta Education has been building schools around the province over the past decade utilizing portable structures as an affordable option for expanding classroom space.

Operations and maintenance manager Ken Riordon said to have the school comply with the municipality’s design standards, portables are not included and the exterior will use Rundle rock and timber features – unlike other public schools.

“This is one of the few schools Alberta Infrastructure has approved without portables,” said Riordon, adding the most recently built school in the valley, Lawrence Grassi Middle School, included a dozen portables.

David Edmunds with GEC Architecture, who is leading the school project, told the school board they expect the municipal planning department to also submit a statement to the province.

“They want the building to fit, so we want them to write a statement about the need to fit because we are going to have to say to Alberta Infrastructure there are reasons why this school is different,” he said.

Edmunds said they are close to formally submitting the development plan application to the Town of Banff and planning is currently reviewing it.

“We are not submitting this in a vacuum, the Town has been actively engaged in a lot of meetings and discussions with them,” he said. “We have shown them preliminary information.

“We are anticipating that it is going to be a fairly straightforward process.”

Edmunds said the timeline moving forward into winter is to have the project ready for tender and then get underway by the end of January.

He said the biggest challenge of the project was to get approval from Alberta Infrastrucure to build a new school instead of renovate or modernize the old one, which dates back to 1957. A number of studies were done to examine how to modernize the old building, but Edmunds said it just did not make sense to renovate as the school would end up being 20 to 30 per cent bigger than needed and inefficient.

“Parts of the building are very old or in poor condition,” he added.

Efficiency and especially energy efficiency were also key to the design of the new school and the plans are to have a building that is ready to be operated with an alternative energy source.

“We may not yet use that alternative energy source, but what we are saying is we are going to design the building to be as energy efficient as possible,” Edmunds said.

A LEEDS – leadership in energy and environmental design standards – application may be made in the future, but after phase two of the building is complete. Once complete, the school should hold up to 550 students.

Previously, the school district approached the Town of Banff to see if municipal officials were interested in contributing funds to include a high school-sized gymnasium as part of the building. Council said no to the $1.4 million request, however, approved $286,000 to build amenity space for the gym.

CRPS board chair Carol Picard said she is excited to see a timeline in place to begin construction of what has been a long process.

“I am sure the Town of Banff would also be comforted to know there is momentum and certainty to this project,” she said.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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