Glass walls, open space features of new Horry County schools

CAROLINA FOREST, SC (WBTW) – While students enjoy summer break, Horry County Schools will race to get three schools built and equipped for the 2017 fall semester.

Standing outside the new Ten Oaks Middle School in Carolina Forest is a visual for a $43 million construction project.

The company responsible for building the school, First Floor Energy Positive, is also building the four other new schools in Horry County. CEO Robbie Ferris led News13 through a guided tour of the school.

“We’re going in the side of the building,” says Ferris as he steps past tools and building material. “Sorry we couldn’t go in the front door.”

When Ferris submitted the most expensive proposal, he won over the board after promising to finish all five schools in May. But after weather delays, among other things, Ten Oaks Middle School is the closest to being done, and another delay was announced Monday night at the school board meeting.

Upon granting Ferris’ company the projects – which total $240 million – the Horry County School Board noted the importance of completing the schools by the May deadline.

“It is specifically agreed amongst this board that a May 1, 2017, timing of delivery is of utmost importance,” voiced board member Ray Winters in a board meeting following Ferris’ confirmation.

One of the features of the new school is a “collaboration area” that overlooks the library. Ferris says the open design eliminates potentially dangerous areas that may be found in older schools.

“You can eliminate bad things in the built-in environment by eliminating the places in which those bad things typically happen,” predicts Ferris. “In this school, we’ve eliminated virtually all of those bad places.”

Glass walls let teachers monitor their students, whether those children be inside the structured classroom, or outside in the collaboration area.

“This is a typical classroom,” Ferris says as he walks into a transparent space. Concrete planks help control the temperature in the room. “This building is unique with how it stores thermal energy.”

With so many windows, sensors can decide whether the lights need to be on, helping save on electrical costs.

“All of the systems in the building are tied to the automation system so they can manage the heating, the cooling, the lighting, remotely,” says Ferris.

The windows help cut energy costs and an underground tank in a field just outside the building holds water to help heat and cool the facility.

“The building, in general, reduces energy consumption by 50 to 60 percent over a traditional school,” Ferris claims.

Ferris says solar panels will generate about 10% more energy than the building uses each year.

“On a nice day like this, the building would easily be generating twice as much power as it’s consuming,” estimates Ferris.

Ferris says, over three years, he’ll have a company make sure the building performs as he promised.

“So it’s not just, go build a building and be done,” explains Ferris. “It’s really about making this work. I hope you see that our goal all along has been to give this count an energy positive building that actually performed.”

The glass walls in Ten Oaks Middle are not unique to this school. The feature will be included in all the newly constructed Horry County Schools, which left News13 questioning how school officials will keep students safe in potentially deadly situations, such as a school shooting.

Tuesday night at 11 p.m., News13 investigates how the design of the school could affect student safety in dangerous circumstances, and how Horry County Schools and the builder plan to address the security issue. Watch News13 @ 11 p.m. live.