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Posted 5/6/2016

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By Chelsea Smith
Public Affairs Specialist

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks garnished the construction site of the new Diamond Elementary School where 13 wide-eyed students discovered diamonds aren’t forever but they can be your best friend.

Donning safety gear at a site actively conducting work, students shadowed Archer Western officials who hosted a tour for winners of the firm’s safety poster contest May 3. Archer Western is the prime construction contractor for the project.

The contest challenged kindergarten through sixth-grade students to create original designs covering safety themes of their choice in recognition of Safety Week celebrated May 2-6. Safety Week aims to inspire best practices, infuse a safety culture within the industry and increase awareness and commitment to safety at construction sites across the nation.

Winning entries from every grade landed spots in Archer Western’s 2016-2017 calendar distributed across the Fort Stewart community. Winners scored a first look at construction in progress, which currently sits at about 60 percent completion.

Students paced through unfinished compartments of frames, concrete and space as declarations revealed students’ need to fill in the gaps – literally. 

“We can fit a whole house in here!” exclaimed a fifth-grader documenting the framework of the new amphitheater on his smartphone. “It’s going to be huge!” 

Facilitators also impressed by offering a simulated tour through a virtual reality headset developed using building information modeling (BIM). BIM technology provides a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. BIM also aids in resolving design conflicts before facing issues on field sites and allows material to be fabricated off site before arrival on site. Consequently, the tool mitigates for potentially costly delays, said Matthew Gaskin, an Archer Western project engineer.

Archer Western began construction on the $40 million facility in October 2014 about 1.5 miles east of the existing facility. The school’s modern design features an open layout with operable wall panels that slide open, promoting a collaborative educational environment. The two-story, 122,000 square foot facility also includes a kitchen and teachers area for each quad of classrooms, an outside amphitheater with a stage, gymnasium, three playgrounds and an interactive energy dashboard that tracks electricity-saving efforts, said Susan Smith, the Corps’ lead project engineer.

The original facility built in 1963 doesn’t meet current Americans with Disabilities Act criteria or satisfy current design standards of the Department of Defense Education Activity. DoDEA outlines goals to meet 21st century learning objectives through innovation in education, curriculum delivery, use of technology and requirements for sustainability and energy conservation. 

Poised to become a beacon among military educational facilities worldwide, the school will better meet DoDEA educational needs and satisfy the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification requirements, a nationally-recognized benchmark for green building design, said Smith. 

Despite all its bells and whistles, the main concern is to provide a comfortable educational environment conducive to optimal instruction and learning, said Smith.

“The verdict is still out,” she said. 

Nearly 700 students will have a chance to make their own judgments when the school opens its doors in August 2017, but a lucky 13 seemed to have already come to a consensus – and it’s likely to dazzle. 

calendar certification construction Department of Defense Education Activity Diamond Elementary School DoDEA education Fort Stewart LEED Silver safety Safety Week Savannah Savannah District school students US Army Corps of Engineers USACE