Exception approved for Ashwaubenon school air conditioning projects
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The school district received an exception from the village code related to screening rooftop ductwork to install air conditioning throughout two schools.
The Ashwaubenon Site Plan Review Committee voted Tuesday, March 16, to grant the exception at Ashwaubenon High School and Valley View Elementary School.
Adding air conditioning throughout the high school, Valley View and Pioneer Elementary school is part of a $10.05 million capital referendum district voters approved last April.
Of the referendum total, estimates obtained by the district placed the cost of installing air conditioning throughout the three buildings at $4.35 million.
Installing air conditioning at Pioneer isn’t an issue to comply with the village code, which requires screening of rooftop equipment, but it is at Valley View and the high school.
The district and the engineering firm it is working with, Brander Engineering, asked the committee for an exemption due to hardships, which include:
• Additional wind loads imposed on the existing steel roof joints.
• Additional snow drift loads.
• Degradation of existing roof from multiple penetrations.
A letter from Brander Engineering stated hundreds of rooftop penetrations would have to be made into the existing watertight roofing material for the posts to support the screens, possibly increasing the potential for water leaks and subsequent water damage and/or roof failure.
“We ask for your consideration and understanding that the two existing 50-60-year-old buildings were not originally designed for the additional structural loads that would be imposed by the screening,” the letter states. “The compromised structural integrity of the existing roof joists along with the numerous additional discontinuities of the roof membrane make the installation of the roof screening inadvisable.”
The committee two weeks earlier denied the exception and asked the district to come back March 16 after looking into other alternatives for screening the ductwork, such as using screening material that would lessen the wind load.
Committee members expressed concerns about how the ductwork would look without the screening, which they said could create an eyesore with residential areas near the high school and Valley View.
Keith Lucius, district business director, appeared before the committee to discuss how the ductwork could be laid out to minimize it being noticed in the residential areas.
Lucius said a different type of screening with holes wouldn’t be a workable solution.
“What will happen is you’ll see the ductwork and the screen, and it just won’t do the intended job,” he said.
Lucius said attaching screens to the ductwork, which isn’t penetrating the roof, doesn’t have the engineering strength to handle the wind loads of the screening, which would require more penetrations to the roof.
“It would look not as nice as normal screening, because you’d have screening in all different directions, as the ductwork goes in a lot of different directions,” he said. “The wind load on that ductwork would increase by over 60 percent, if you attached the screening to it.”
Lucius said the ductwork would be made of non-metallic light brown material to blend into the outside of the building, creating a horizontal line similar to the building.
“Someone, if they do see some of the ductwork, it’s not going to be in your face,” he said. “It’s going to blend in with what they’re seeing with the rest of the building. It’s not going to jump out at someone.”
Based on the input the committee provided at its March 2 meeting, Lucius said the ductwork’s layout was changed to raise the main lines in the center of the two buildings and then lowered the lines going to each classroom.
“At the center of building, farthest away from the edge of the building, it’s higher, but then as it goes out toward the classroom, it’s lower, so they’ll be less (ductwork) exposed,” he said. “The other big advantage is it’ll be a straight horizontal line as you see that center ductwork.”
Village President Mary Kardoskee said people she contacted living near Valley View didn’t have a problem with the ductwork being added on the school roof without screening.
Kardoskee said she also was concerned about making numerous penetrations in a flat roof.
“Personally, I have flat roofs, and I have huge issues punching 240 holes in a flat roof,” she said. “I would have a problem, and I’d be sick to my stomach, punching four holes in a flat roof.”
Kardoskee said she would have a “hard time not accepting the exception” to the screening requirement.
With the school district being granted an exception, committee member Dan Pamperin questioned what would happen for the next request for an exception for a 50-year-old building.
Community Development Director Aaron Schuette said a screening exception granted for one project doesn’t set a precedent for another project.
“Each project, if there’s an exception request, has to be judged on its own merit,” he said.
Schuette said the district’s requested exemption is similar to one granted to Wisconsin Public Service for additional heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and ductwork to replace some existing rooftop units as well as some existing units installed in the interior of WPS’s service garage at 2850 S. Ashland Ave.
He said WPS provided a structural analysis to demonstrate the roof itself could not support the weight of the screening, especially considering the snow load and wind load requirements to support it.
District Facilities and Maintenance Coordinator Tom Schmitt said screening for the two school’s rooftops could have added $700,000 to the air conditioning costs.
He said the air conditioning work is more feasible from a financial standpoint with an exception being granted.
Schmitt the district received bids for the air conditioning work, which was also on the Ashwaubenon school board’s agenda March 17.