Middle and High School Groundbreaking Heralds Investment in City’s Future

Ground has been broken on the new Belmont Middle and High School. Belmont, a Boston suburb, is known for its progressive vision, civic involvement, and commitment to sustainability. The 445,100-square-foot project is conceived as a flexible and agile environment to prepare students for the coming decades and will take Belmont’s already highly-ranked public school system to a new level by supporting academic excellence while preparing students for jobs in future industries. 

“This new school is about the future—we need to prepare our students to succeed in an uncertain future by providing them with a dynamic and inspiring learning environment,” says Superintendent John P. Phelan. “Through a flexible learning and teaching environment, we can support the types of activities that will foster innovation and create lifelong learners.”

Key to this strategy is providing space for hands-on learning. “It used to be that ‘fabrication spaces’ were located in the back-of-house,” says Brooke Trivas, principal at Perkins+Will. “But for the Belmont Middle and High School, we’ve placed these innovation spaces on display in the central spine of the school—it’s about breaking down barriers between disciplines and providing spaces for interdisciplinary and project-based learning.”

“The flexibility of the new classroom spaces will allow more opportunity for integrated classes and distributed teaching and learning,” says Jamie Hood Shea, Belmont High School teacher and parent. “The movable furniture and whiteboards around the room will allow learning to migrate from the front of the classroom and provide opportunities for project-based collaborative learning.” 

This future-ready building is also tackling climate change with its intent to achieve Zero Net Energy. “The building will perform at a very high level of sustainability through a comprehensive strategy that includes geothermal wells and roof-top photovoltaic panels, all while burning zero fossil fuels on site,” says

Building Committee Chairman Bill Lovallo. “The reduction in energy use is great news for the environment and will also help the Town of Belmont to realize significant cost savings in the operation of the building.” 

The deep integration of sustainability reflects the depth of Perkins+Will’s research capability. “We have in-house energy labs and full-time Ph.D.’s working on energy analysis, who in turn consult and advise our designers,” says Patrick Cunningham, Associate Principal at Perkins+Will. “These resources allow us to be more intuitive in our decisions—essentially designing a building that makes and meets its own energy goals.”

The building will feature both carefully separated and strategically shared spaces between the Middle School and High School. By co-locating all of Belmont’s middle and high school students on one campus, the district solves a town-wide space shortage concern in the face of growing enrollment. In addition, this opens up rich opportunities for multi-age learning and affords middle schoolers access to the new facilities at the new campus.

Sited along Belmont’s Claypit Pond, this historic epicenter of the town’s brickmaking industry not only informs the materiality in the School’s design, but serves as a point of reference throughout the school complex. From virtually anywhere, occupants can orient themselves to the pond and the compelling views it provides, resulting in a space that feels comfortable and familiar for all users.

The project team is a collaboration among the Town of Belmont, the Massachusetts School Building Authority, SKANSKA, Daedalus Projects and the global design and research firm Perkins+Will. The logistics have been intricately choreographed: the new High School will be constructed while the existing High School remains fully occupied. Once complete, the existing High School will be razed to make way for the new Middle School. The High School is expected to be occupied in 2021, the Middle School in 2023. An existing shared field house, pool and locker room will be retained and renovated as part of the project.