May 7 2014

OPINION: Council Member Rood Advocates Yes on H

I’m writing in support of Measure H to complete the rehabilitation of our school facilities.

I think the District’s track record in funding and managing capital projects speaks for itself, and it’s telling that both proponents and opponents of the measure agree that the current 40 year-old Alan Harvey Theater facility is coming due for a major overhaul. Where they seem to disagree is on whether the proposed theater project is delivering good value compared to other recently build high school theaters. I believe it is.

The $10.5 million estimated construction cost (less contingencies and soft costs) seems to be roughly on par with the other theater projects. As an architect, I know that every building and every construction project is different. While comparisons are helpful for context, there is no set formula for dollars per square foot, per theater seat, or any other measure, because there are so many possible choices of building configuration, construction type, structural systems, finish materials, and theater amenities – not to mention a dynamic bidding environment.

Some opponents seem concerned that the project is an expansion and renovation of the theater, as opposed to a complete teardown. As a LEED-accredited processional, I want to point out that reusing buildings is generally “greener” than tearing them down and starting over.

The most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental benefits associated with building reuse, a 2012 study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Green Lab, examined cumulative life-cycle impacts over a project 75 year period for six different building types, including a school building. For most building types, including schools, adaptive reuse of older buildings was found to yield measurable – and sometimes impressive – green benefits. The study found it can take 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30 percent more efficient than an average-performing existing building just to overcome the negative climate change impacts related to the construction process. In the words of architect Carl Elefante, “the greenest building is the one that is already built.”

Of course, rehabbing an older building also uses environmental resources. The best way to minimize the impact is to choose materials and building systems carefully. Fortunately, our new state building code incorporates many green features, and the theater architects are also designing to performance criteria set out by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools to conserve energy, water and materials.

I believe renovating and expanding the theater is the right thing to do – for education, for accessibility, and for the environment.

Tim Rood, Piedmont City Councilmember

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association (PCA).  We invite various points of view on civic subjects.  PCA does not support or oppose ballot measures or candidates for public office.  COMMENTS may be made below.  Longer OPINIONS may be submitted using the link on the upper left side of this page. 


8 Responses to “OPINION: Council Member Rood Advocates Yes on H”

  1. Thank you, Tim, for sharing your professional perspective and expertise on this issue. Many of us who are not trained architects, space designers, or construction industry professionals have no sound basis on which to assess the comparative information which has been offered.

    The more I learn about the project and the process by which it has been developed, and the more familiar I become with the professionals and team members who have painstakingly deliberated on the available options, the more confident I feel that Measure H is worth supporting.

    It is a heavy responsibility to propose a relatively large, technically-complex, and highly-scrutinized public facility project. I applaud the courage and incisive inquiry of the Piedmont citizen-volunteers who have explored and refined this project over many years to its current level of approval. Though it is natural to wring hands and feel hesitant over spending public money, I foresee that our community will broadly cheer the re-opening of this live performance venue and I look forward to celebrating the ribbon-cutting ceremony with you all.

    Let’s give this project the green light and enjoy the benefits of investing in the public good, which puts conviction behind our individual decisions to make our home in Piedmont.

    Thank you again, Tim, for reminding us of the long-term environmental impacts and trade-offs of new construction.

  2. I invite viewing the opposite view on Measure H;

  3. This is the first I’ve heard that the Allan Harvey Theater (“AHT”) may be a historically significant example of fine architecture and worthy of preservation on that basis. I question that “greening” should be a primary motive for preserving the old building rather than replacement with a new theater. Surely a more important criteria is the most efficient use of taxpayer funds and providing complete theater facilities which the current renovation plan lacks.

  4. Rick, nowhere did I state that AHT is a historically signficant example of fine architecture or worthy of preservation on that basis.

  5. Tim, The primary focus: “At the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we work to preserve and protect landscapes, buildings, and neighborhoods that have played a meaningful role in our past.” And specifically “Irreplaceable historic places across the country — from beloved local schoolhouses to well-known monuments.”

    From The Trusts Green Lab site “Launched in March of 2009, the Seattle-based Preservation Green Lab advances research that explores the value that older buildings bring to their communities, and pioneers policy solutions that make it easier to reuse and green older and historic buildings.”

    By bringing in The Trust’s Green Lab study, the implication is that AHT should be preserved, and in a green manner, because of historic value. I disagree that AHT is historic.

  6. Tim,

    You say, “The $10.5 million estimated construction cost (less contingencies and soft costs) seems to be roughly on par with the other theater projects.” Yet a roughly similar project in San Leandro came in at a significantly lower cost per sq. ft., and that doesn’t even account for future “contingencies and soft costs” for Piedmont’s proposed project.

    Green projects and LEED are fine and worthy goals, but not the primary reasons for us to spend money. Why didn’t the School Board lay out a menu of rehab options and let the voters decide how much rehab and expense they are willing to incur?

    Bruce Joffe

  7. Rick, “older” does not equal “historic” and the source of the research is irrelevant. My piece referred to the ecological benefits of building reuse. I did not claim historic merit for the building. These are two different things.

  8. I am a staunch supporter of Measure H. It is a sensible plan that will provide our community with a safe and accessible theater, and supports Piedmont’s exceptional educational program. I am disappointed that opponents of Measure H have taken my name and quoted me out of context in advertisements and flyers to imply otherwise.

    Andrea Swenson
    School Board Vice President

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