Daniel Webster Elementary School Renovation

Potrero Hill, San Francisco
Daniel Webster Elementary School Renovation

In June 2015, Bay Area General Contractor Thompson Builders broke ground on a major renovation project for Daniel Webster Elementary, a bilingual public school originally built atop Potrero Hill in San Francisco. While construction sites situated on urban hills typically pose logistical nightmares for building crews, Thompson Builders made a point to factor unforeseen delays into the project schedule.

“This project is a major overhaul,” says Mike Pahland, lead project manager for the renovation. “We’ve gutted the school down to the studs. The walls are gone, we’re installing new plumbing, electrical and mechanical, new interior and even a new roof.” In 2008, more than 100 volunteers gave the school a little TLC by decorating the walls with a fresh coat of paint and planting flower bushes. Today, the school is getting more than a facelift.

Once finished, the two-story classroom building, administration facility and cafeteria/auditorium will have new window walls, façades, carpentry, framing, concrete work and finished trim—in addition to seismic work—all completed by Thompson Builders. Thompson is also taking steps to fully preserve the school’s large tile mosaic You’ve Got a Right to the Tree of Life.

“The buildings are also getting pop-out expansions that will tie everything together—and a lobby is part of that expansion,” says Pahland, who’s been with Thompson Builders for the past 18 years. While classroom pop-outs might sound easy enough, they’re actually two stories tall.

“We started construction right when the kids got out of school,” he says. “There are six phases for this project, and all six phases must be complete in a little over a year in order to accommodate their school schedule.”

Accessibility for all

Each school day, a dozen or more children who live in Potrero Hill public housing join a “walking” school bus to travel safely with friends to Daniel Webster Elementary School. To help support the walk-to-school initiative, Thompson Builders is set on redesigning Daniel Webster as an accessibility-friendly campus, starting with ramps that head up from the sidewalk and onto the school grounds.

“As part of our effort to make this school accessible, we’re also building an ADA-compliant elevator,” says Pahland. “The elevator will reach the classroom building expansion and connect the three buildings together for accessibility via the new elevator shaft system.”

“Once kids travel through the courtyard and into the lobby, they can hop in the new elevator, arrive at the second floor and head over to class,” concludes Pahland. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

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