$52M Tech High School Renovation Culminates in Oct. 22 Ribbon-Cutting

8th project makes KBE Building Corp. CT’s foremost tech high school builder

DANIELSON, Conn., Oct. 24, 2014 – Conn. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, State Senator Donald E. Williams, and State Technical High School Superintendent Dr. Nivea Torres joined KBE Building Corp. at the ribbon-cutting for the $52.4-million renovation and addition at Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School.

KBE served as General Contractor for the 117,300-square-foot renovation and 68,000-square-foot addition to the existing building at 613 Upper Maple Street in Danielson. The architect was The S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury, Conn. The building was completed eight months ahead of schedule.

The new Harvard Ellis Technical High School is the latest jewel in the State’s ongoing program to renovate Connecticut’s technical high schools. As with all the newly renovated tech schools, Harvard Ellis is a high-tech, cutting-edge academic and technical training facility designed to better prepare Connecticut students for technical careers in construction, manufacturing, and more.

It’s a high-quality project throughout, from the careful and detailed programming and design that reflect the school’s educational mission to the caliber of the construction and focus on bringing the architect’s vision to life.

“It was a primary goal of the owner to express the technological evolution in the body of the school building,” said Julija Singer, AIA, NCARB, design architect for The S/L/A/M Collaborative. “With a relatively simple material palette and a variety of building forms – including angled and serpentine walls, a soaring aspirational canopy – we were able to transform the 1950s factory-like facility into a modern building with a crisp contemporary image, one that does justice to the complexity of functions that happen inside the building.” This is the second of the State’s technical high schools S/L/A/M has completed with KBE.

“Being able to deliver this project a full eight months ahead of schedule meant that students and teachers could start using these exceptional spaces even sooner than hoped,” explains KBE principal and CEO Mike Kolakowski, who bought the firm in 2007 with Eric Brown and Simon Etzel. “We developed an alternate phasing plan that let us complete the project much sooner than anticipated. It was a real team effort with the State, the school, the architect, and the subcontractors.”

Harvard Ellis Project Highlights

  • Upgrades to all trade shops, including manufacturing, auto tech, autobody, carpentry, electrical, masonry, and plumbing, and athletic fields
  • New bus garage, gymnasium, classroom wing, media center, community café
  • New culinary arts/teaching kitchen and hairdressing studio

Harvard Ellis remained open and fully operational during all construction work.

“This is KBE’s eighth technical high school project for the State of Connecticut, and we have a lot of experience working around vulnerable populations at schools, senior living centers, and medical facilities,” said Kolakowski. “That enables us to keep students learning while still managing to complete the project on time and on budget.”

State-of-the-Art Addition and Renovation

Harvard Ellis now provides 11 innovative technical programs taught within shops boasting state-of-the-art features. The carpentry shop, for example, uses highly specialized dust collection and extraction systems that require proper balancing with the building’s Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems and interface with the alarm and sprinkler systems.

KBE Project Manager Shaun St. Lawrence and the firm’s in-house Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) Specialist, Charlie Juhasz, worked closely with all subcontractors and the commissioning agent throughout the installation process to ensure that the building systems were properly operating and balanced as specified.

Supporting Technical Education and Careers in Connecticut    

Building isn’t the only way KBE is helping promote technical education and careers in Connecticut, a state long-recognized for its cutting-edge contributions to precision manufacturing and high-tech engineering.

In June 2014, KBE awarded $17,000 in scholarships to 34 bright and hard-working students within Connecticut’s technical high school system. Students will apply their scholarships toward expenses associated with continued education in construction or related fields including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

KBE is also helping educate the entire state about Connecticut’s high tech industries by serving as the Founding Sponsor of a year-long Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN) initiative and original documentary, which premiered on CPTV on Oct. 23 and will re-air on Oct. 26 on CPTV and Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 on CPTV Sports.

It’s All Because of 50 Ways

Both the scholarships and the founding sponsorship are part of KBE’s corporate philanthropic program 50 Ways to Make a Difference.

Established in 2009 to celebrate the firm’s new ownership, name change, and 50 years in business, 50 Ways has helped KBE associates donate more than $1.2 million and 5,000 volunteer hours to charitable causes benefiting children, seniors, and military veterans in Connecticut and Maryland.

Individual KBE associates have been honored for their philanthropic contributions; principal and Senior Vice President of Procurement Simon F. Etzel, Jr. received the Jewish Senior Services’ Arthur and Gladys Lunin Humanitarian Award at the organization’s Oct. 23 Fall Gala, featuring a performance by Art Garfunkel.

The State’s Top Technical High School Builder

Since 2002, KBE has completed eight technical high school projects across Connecticut – more than any other building firm in the state.

In September 2014, KBE celebrated the grand re-opening of Stamford’s J.M. Wright Technical High School, which underwent a $60.5-million renovation and addition in 2014.

KBE also performed work at these schools between 2002 and 2014:

High-resolution photographs of the Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School ribbon-cutting ceremony are available below. Credit to Connecticut Technical High School System.


Caption: The official ribbon-cutting ceremony


Caption: CTHSS Superintendent Dr. Torres speaking at the ceremony


Caption: CT Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman with Dr. Torres and Ellis Tech Assistant Principals Rafael Calixto and Angela Corentin

High-resolution photographs of the renovated Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School building are available below. Credit to Paul Burk Photography.


Caption: Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School exterior


Caption: New windows at Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School


Caption: Upgraded auto shop at Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School


Caption: Library at Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School


Caption: Hair salon at Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School

About The S/L/A/M Collaborative, Inc.

The S/L/A/M Collaborative, Inc. is a fully-integrated, multi-disciplinary architecture firm with offices in Connecticut, Atlanta, Boston, and Syracuse. 160 people strong, SLAM offers architecture, planning, interior design, landscape and site planning, structural engineering, construction services, and is qualified to take responsibility for building projects from design through construction. With a growing roster of national and international projects, SLAM focuses on designing buildings that help our clients fulfill their missions to teach, heal, and discover. SLAM’s education work is diverse and comprehensive and includes expertise in science teaching and research facilities and professional schools for the health sciences. Building Design & Construction Magazine recently ranked SLAM in the top 20 nationally for volume of higher education work.  For more information visit www.slamcoll.com.

About KBE Building Corporation

Regionally located in Farmington, Conn., and Columbia, Md., KBE Building Corporation is a full-service, single-source commercial construction company strategically positioned to serve the Eastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S. Founded in 1959 and incorporated in 1966, the firm is celebrating its 55th year providing preconstruction, construction management, design-build, and general contracting services to clients in the educational, senior living, federal, corporate, hospitality, health care, institutional, and retail markets. KBE has managed more than $2.5 billion in construction volume over the last decade and is ranked among Engineering News-Record magazine’s top 400 construction companies nationally.

Media Contact: Jonelle Lawhorn | KBE Director of Marketing

t: 860.284.7431| c: 860.836.7517 | f: 860.284.7831 | e: jlawhorn@kbebuilding.com