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Ballou Senior High School

Washington, D.C.

General Contractor: Hess Construction and Chiaramonte Construction Company (Joint Venture)
Architect: Bowie Gridley Architects
Engineer: Setty & Associates International, PLLC
Contract Amount: $21,865,226
Start Date: August 2013
Completion Date: December 2014

Construction of the brand new 356,000-square-foot Ballou Senior High School, located in the Anacostia section of Southeast Washington, D.C., was completed in 16 months. Meeting this tight and challenging schedule required extensive planning and coordination by the Shapiro & Duncan project team. The unusually cold winter of 2013-2014 compounded matters by impacting productivity and further compressing the schedule.

The new school features a four-pipe hydronic mechanical system consisting of condensing boilers for heating and chillers plus a cooling tower for cooling; electrical and data closets are served by small split-system heat pumps. Altogether, the mechanical system is made up of more than 500 individual pieces of equipment and over 7 miles of pipe.

The biggest mechanical systems challenge on this design/assist project was the coordination of system routing through the structural steel design. Shapiro & Duncan’s advanced building information modeling (BIM) system, which produces CAD drawings in 3-D, identified more than 600 clashes – an overwhelming number – when our coordination team ran the initial reports. Our coordination team then took the lead in working with the sprinkler, electrical and other trades to overlay and then resolve the clashes. Throughout this process, our team stayed in constant contact with the architect and engineer because the design was changing and evolving.

Another challenge was relocation of the cooling tower, after the D.C. Department of General Services (the building owner) decided it didn’t want cooling tower in view of the school.


In order to move the cooling tower, our team first had to redesign the condenser water piping system and then bury the condenser water lines. The tower was moved 150 feet away, down a hill, and situated in a below-ground enclosure 30 feet below grade level.

Meanwhile, following the clash detection and resolution by our coordination team, as many mechanical components as possible were prefabricated in Shapiro & Duncan’s 51,000-square-foot fabrication shop in Landover, Maryland. On a project of this size and scope, the more components that can be prefabricated, the better.

Air handler coil sections were shipped directly to the shop, where heated and chilled water coils could be prefabricated in a controlled environment. Hydronic coil hookups were also prefabbed in Landover, then soldered together, tagged and labeled for shipping to the site where they were ready for installation upon delivery.


The project was completed ahead of schedule and came in under budget. Our team received the following e-mail from Tom Bizzarri, Director of Operations at Chiaramonte Construction Company: “I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your work in helping to design and build The New Ballou Senior High School. As a design-assist subcontractor, Shapiro and Duncan rose to the occasion and provided their expertise for all phases of the design to ensure that a state-of-the-art facility would be constructed, and nothing less. Their work was outstanding and we could not have completed the project with anyone else.”

The ribbon cutting on December 17, 2014, which was attended by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and other city dignitaries, was covered by all the major TV and radio news stations. Fox 5 News reported: “The state-of-the-art renovation was long overdue… Staff and students say the upgrade is about more than just the building. They feel like they are getting a new beginning, too.” As one faculty member interviewed in the Fox 5 story put it, “It’s a game changer.”

When it comes to building a new school, or redesigning one, the same can be said for Shapiro & Duncan. We are the game changers.