Public Comment

Charrette Meets All Stakeholders’ Needs

By Marie Bowman
Wednesday January 21, 2009 - 06:29:00 PM

It’s time to take a look at the charette’s results. The team of 21 representatives (BUSD architects, sports field specialist, staff, warm water pool swimmers and community members) meet to review the Berkeley High School South of Bancroft Master Plan and the adaptive re-use and rehabilitation of the BHS original gym, including the warm water pool.  

The plan was driven by the need to enlarge the girls Title IX softball field from 180 feet to 250 feet. This was the determining factor for demolishing the original gym and pools. Fortunately, the field can be expanded to meet BHS’s needs while changing the orientation of the filed so the sun doesn’t blind the batter!  

Derby Fields was being designed at the same time the plan was developed. It too will have the baseball field and basketball courts identified as a need in the BHS Master Plan. Additionally, the Gilman and Bates sports fields, San Pablo Park, Grove Park and West Campus baseball fields are resources too. The BHS campus also has basketball facilities in the Donoghue and E buildings. 

While classroom space was tercery in the plan, identifying the need for five to 10, 18 have been put into the new design! The revised plan also includes outdoor and indoor flexible sports space, outdoor basketball courts, restoring the basketball court to it’s original glory, complete with seating and a higher ceiling to meet volleyball players needs, and additional classroom, office, conference rooms and storage. The proposed new building would be approximately half as large—not meeting many of the original needs. 

The landmarking of the building has made federal, state and private funding available for the rehabilitation of the building. FEMA funds are now available to rebuild the building should it be damaged in a natural disaster. 

As stated by Henrik Bull, a founder of Bull, Allen and Stockwell Architectural firm and Berkeley resident, “Preservation of buildings can be thought of as the ultimate recycling. Buildings are vast repositories of energy. It takes energy to manufacture or extract building materials, more energy to transport them to the construction site and still more energy to assemble them into a building. If the structure is demolished and landfilled, the locked up energy is totally wasted! The demolition itself uses more energy, and of course, the construction of a new building uses yet more.” 

Using formulas produced by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the old gymnasium building of 88,000 square feet, embodies the energy equivalent of 1.12 million gallons of gasoline, and the demolition would create about 7,000 tons of waste, enough to fill 45 railroad cars, which would stretch almost a half a mile. 

A new building would require more energy and would use more natural resources, releasing more pollutants and greenhouse gases into the environment. Based on recent studies, even with new buildings designed to the highest energy conservation standards, it would take at least fifty years to recover the energy lost in the demolition of the original gym and pools. 

The building is not scheduled for demolition until 2011. There is time to consider another approach, which can save money, time, energy and natural resources. It would be a truly green solution. Now, that we know that the programmatic needs can be meet, it’s time for the BUSD to move forward with a cost analysis to rehabilitate the building.  


Marie Bowman is Berkeley civic activist.