Designing the future: Architects, stakeholders to discuss school plans

Published 6:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2019

For the next four years, Nederland residents will a lot of the IBI Group, the architectural firm contracted to design school projects included in the recently approved $155.6-million bond package.

The Houston-based IBI Group designed and built an elementary school in Hampshire-Fannett and many other schools in Texas.

“I really believe we have a crackerjack team,” Andrew Simpson, project principal, said. “They have worked on school buildings all over the Houston region, including buildings in [Cypress-Fairbanks] ISD. One of the people on the team was the project architect on their new high school. I’m really excited about it. My role as principal in charge is assembling that team.”

IBI worked on designs for buildings for Channelview ISD. (Special to The News)

IBI worked on designs for buildings for Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. (Special to The News)

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Stakeholder meetings

While anyone can access to see photos of schools the firm has designed, it is up to the stakeholders themselves — Nederland residents — to guide the aesthetics for the new high school.

Nederland Independent School District will host community meetings for the design phase of the construction projects for the 2019 bond package.

The first meeting will be held June 8 in the NHS cafeteria and will cover the design phase for the high school, which will be built near the current high school.

“We’re going to empower the stakeholders with information,” Simpson said. “We’ll give them information about public schools and how architects respond to what educators say they want to accomplish within the building.”

“Pedagogy” is a word stakeholders will hear during the meetings. Simpson describes it as a means to delivering curriculum.

“The curriculum is the cargo and pedagogy is the way you deliver the cargo,” he said. “We respond to that with spaces that are appropriate. We’ll talk about that.”

Simpson said one does not need to be fluent with the terminology of architects to participate in the meetings.

“We’ll go through a series of informational talks and go through exercises,” he said. “We’ll walk the stakeholders through activities that are designed to give them the ability to communicate with us about things we need to know in order to design the buildings.”

One of the activities will be looking at slides of other high schools to determine a “look” of the new Nederland facility.

“One of the things we will do is a visual preference survey,” Simpson said. “Folks will see what they have a visceral sense of not wanting and a visceral sense of what they want. We will show them images of buildings juxtaposed with one another. They will see more modern-style buildings and more conservative, Ivy League, brick buildings. We will go through a whole lot of options in a systematic way. That’s just one of the exercises. There is about eight of them.”

IBI worked on designs for buildings for Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. (Special to The News)

IBI worked on designs for buildings for Pasadena ISD. (Special to The News)


Simpson said he would like to break ground on the Bulldog Stadium upgrades as soon as the 2019 football season ends and have it ready for the 2020 season.

Current Nederland middle- and elementary-school students will likely be the first to experience the design and construction of the new high school, which will take about 48 months to complete, Simpson said.

“It doesn’t take (four years) to construct it, but we have a lot of designing and engineering work to do in advance of that,” he said. We’re looking at about 24 months of construction. A lot of that depends on the opening of school in that year. It may be less than that, but you wouldn’t use it until the first day of school the following year. Our hope is that we get completely finished in the spring and have time to move in and start everything up and make sure everything works properly well before the teachers come back for in-service days.”


Basic services

During a school board meeting, board members asked Simpson about the difference between services that were considered “basic” and those that were considered “additional.”

“The terminology there is problematic,” he said. “It’s the standard form terminology in these agreements. The definition in basic services is a clear and finite list of things that are common to every building that you have to do for each project. Those are grouped together so that you can put a construction cost to that and be able to compare it to several other projects that were done within the district or other districts.”

Simpson said once someone adds things that aren’t common, then one can’t compare.

“They may be two completely different shopping carts full of stuff,” he said.

Simpson said the services aren’t considered extra because they were included in determining the final estimate in the cost of the project.

Some examples of the services include landscaping, rainwater retention, interior wall designs etc.

“One thing that was common before I got in this business and has kind of come full circle is ‘super graphics,’” he said. “It was popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was graphics that were so big on the wall they covered from floor to ceiling. That went out of favor in the late ‘80s up to very recently.”

Simpson said the firm designed a graphic for an elementary school wall that depicted a map of earth with animals on the map to represent where they live. The graphic also provided information about the animals and their habitats.

“It proved a subtle enhancement to the learning environment and it also makes the space more interesting,” he said. “There is another district that has a bear mascot. Our designer is working on a bear graphic that is particular to that district. It is not something that will probably ever apply to anybody else.”


Meetings scheduled

The first meeting to discuss the design of the new high school will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 8 at the NHS cafeteria.

The second meeting to discuss renovations for four elementary school campus designs will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the NHS cafeteria June 15.


See also: 10 years in the making: NISD high school, stadium upgrade bonds pass