Award-Winning Spotlight: Saint Thomas Academy Student Activities Center

More about this project

​The Saint Thomas Academy Student Activities Center, named Vincent J. Flynn Hall, recently won a Design Build Institute of American Upper Midwest Region (DBIA-UMR) Excellence Award in the educational facilities category.

The DBIA-UMR Awards recognize projects that successfully demonstrate the application of design-build principles, including interdisciplinary collaboration in the early stages of the project and acceptance of single-entity risk. 

Saint Thomas Academy required the new buildings meet the following criteria to be considered a success:

  • create a state-of-the-art high school athletic and academic facility that promotes both academic and athletic excellence with a tight budget due to today’s more challenging fundraising environment,
  • minimize additional operating costs through energy efficient design and operations initiatives and
  • ensure that new facilities are in character with the existing campus architecture.
To achieve these goals, the project team faced several challenges affecting both the design and construction of the project.  In each case team members worked collaboratively to meet the challenge.

Working with the New Economy

After initial programing was completed, the downturn in the economy challenged fundraising for the project. Saint Thomas Academy asked us to provide a design-build solution that fit a reduced budget but met all of their original goals. We prepared and presented five design-build options to Saint Thomas Academy to address significant space and construction inefficiencies that had been present in design options prepared by another company. The solution they ultimately selected saved $5 million.

Phased Funding and Construction

Early in the project, we proposed phased construction, similar to a speculative commercial development, with the core and shell beginning first with various interior spaces being built out as funding allowed. This allowed Saint Thomas Academy to start the project significantly earlier and utilize the construction of the shell to build fundraising momentum.   

Minimize Operating Costs

Saint Thomas Academy challenged the team to minimize additional operating costs for the project. We partnered with their facilities team and other consultants and subcontractors to prepare a design-build solution that balanced both upfront costs and future operation expenses.
The boilers and chillers for the project are 11.8% and 36% more efficient than state energy code. The lighting system uses occupancy sensors, LED lighting, natural daylight capture and stepped dimming to lower energy use. The air handling units use outdoor air for free cooling during the spring and fall when outdoor air is cool and dry. The design earned Saint Thomas Academy a credit through Xcel Energy of over $70,000 and saves nearly $40,000 a year in operating costs over current energy code performance. Over the course of this fairly harsh winter the new 96,000-square-foot building has had roughly the same monthly natural gas cost as the 12,000-square-foot building it replaced. 

Using our unique design-build model, we were able to collaborate to successfully meet Saint Thomas Academy’s goals and vision for their new facility. After nine months in the space Saint Thomas Academy could not be happier with new educational and athletic opportunities the state-of-the-art space provides. 

Read about The Station on Washington’s DBIA-UMR Excellence Award for commercial building here.