All content, of both the original and this blog, is written from my point of view and is my opinion. I believe it to be accurate at the time it is written. ~ Kyle Prast, Brookfield resident since 1986

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Corridor Report: How wide will they be? We Don't Know

Waiting is just a part of life. We stand in line at the grocery store to check out. We wait our turn to enter or leave our church sanctuary, exit a sporting event, or even to ride Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World!

Why do you think this is?

If you think about construction costs, it may help you to understand why entrances, stairways, and hallways are sized the way they are. Most corporations and organizations size their corridors / stairways according to reasonable daily needs, not peak time.

Is it reasonable to expect people to wait their turn to get from point A to point B? I think so, as long as the wait time does not significantly interfere with the purpose of the facility. If you paid your price of admission, but could not get seated prior to the play starting because of a long line to enter the theater, you might think they needed wider corridors. But if you had to wait a bit to get to your seat, got settled, and then the curtain went up, that would be reasonable.

Because construction costs are so high now, no company wants to overspend on non-productive spaces such as corridors and stairways. An exception would be commercial facilities that are after the ooh and ah factor—a posh hotel, corporate headquarters, etc.

Construction cost per square foot for Elmbrook’s referendum run $155.00/sq. ft. for new construction, and $95.00/sq.ft. for heavy remodeling.

Elmbrook’s FacilitiesFacts sheet #10 cites constricted corridors in their list of complaints. Other “Fact” sheets warn that our open stairwells are a fire hazard.

How did the school manage all these years?

Do we suddenly have more students at the high school than in years past?

Bob Borch relayed this information: “The highest enrollment at the two high schools occurred in 1977-78 when there were 3,110 students. We do not have the breakdown between the two schools. In 1982-83 there were 1,646 at Central and 1,479 at East for a total of 3,126. This is when the schools were 10 - 12 high schools. The lowest enrollment was 1,037 at Central and 880 at East which occurred in 1991. Currently we are at 1413 Central and 1391 East for a total 2,804.”

Did you catch that?
Highest ever: 1977-78, 3,110 students as a 10th – 12th grade school. (No breakdown for Central.)
Highest 9-12 grades: 3,126, 1,646 at Central, 1,479 at East.
Lowest ever, 1991-92: 1,917 total, 1,037 at Central, 888 at East.
Currently, for 2006-07: 2,804 total, 1,413 at Central and 1,391 at East.
Projected for 2011-12? 2,510 total, Central and East specifics unknown.

Central is now 233 students below our historic high. In 5 years it is projected to be even lower.

Why are the students having such a hard time “fitting” the facility? More than one person has quipped, the kids must be fatter these days!

I suspect there is more fooling around in the halls instead of promptly making their way to the next class?

So how wide is this corridor at Central in the Journal photo? Well, it depends how you measure it.

From narrowest point to narrowest point, it measures 12’ 5”. The block columns take up about 1 foot total. That 3-D ceramic sculpture probably does not help either. The stairway has about 2 1/2 feet of vacant space between the stringers (sides). Central’s stairs measure 4’ 6” at the narrowest point.

Notice that Journal photo shows traffic is not bumper to bumper on the stairs, there are spaces. Notice too that many of the students involved in the "congestion" are at their lockers on the main floor. This impedes traffic flow.

East High School measures 13’ 7” across the main hall and 6’ 9” across stair tread.

How does this compare to some neighboring schools?

Wauwatosa West, built in 1970s: Corridor measures 13’ wide, stairs 6’2” wide.
Longfellow, built in 1958: Main corridor measures 16’, north south corridor measures 12’, stairs measure 5’2”.

Now for the $108.8 million dollar question: How wide will the NEW hallways and stairs be? THEY DON’T KNOW.

This is what Andy Smith sent in reply to my question: What is the width of the new proposed corridors and stairways at Central?

Andy: “In speaking with the district's architectural firm, as of this spring, buildings of this type need to comply with the 2006 International Building Code which specifies a multitude of things. The staircases will need to be wider; they are closed at the bottom and top so that smoke and fire are not able to so easily race from floor-to-floor; an area of rescue in the stairwell for people with disabilities is mandatory.

Minimum typical hallway 'free space' widths are 8-feet at the elementary level and 10-12 at the secondary level, but depending on building population, uses of rooms leading to the corridor in question and code requirements could be from 12 to 20-feet wide; for instance lobby-type corridors might call for a greater width.

If the referendum passes, the conceptual plans will be reviewed extensively with attention given to detail in meetings with teachers, administrators and others to determine specific layouts, dimensions and amenities of classrooms, corridors and other facility features, so it is not possible yet to determine specific widths of corridors and staircases at this time until those discussions and development of draft construction drawings would occur during the roughly six months between the potential passage of a referendum and groundbreaking.”

That was a long answer for we don't know yet.

Is there anything we can do about this without a referendum? Sure.

We could relocate those lockers on the library end of the hallway near the stairway. This would alleviate some of the congestion. There is that 2 1/2 feet of open space next to the actual stair treads at Central. Maybe the stairway could be replaced with wider treads? They could be increased to 5' 6"? There seem to be other stairways in the building too, could they go back to the UP and DOWN only stairways? That may help organize traffic flow too.

Many other school districts solve their open staircase problem by adding a wall below with fire doors at the bottom of the stairway. This prevents fire/smoke from traveling up to the next floor.

If they would adopt a 20 foot wide main corridor, changing to that width would cost about $1,900 to $3,100 / lineal foot! (Depending if they call that new construction or remodeling.) I don’t know how long that corridor is, I am guessing 120 feet? But is that how we want to spend $230,000 to $370,000? Remember, we are headed toward an era of budget cuts.

That seems to be a lot of money to spend just so students don’t have to wait in line and take their turn. Besides, I thought they learned that in kindergarten.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking, Brookfield7,


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