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Bismark Construction – Longfellow Elementary School


Bismark Construction lends its education expertise to a renovation-turned-rebuild in Bridgeport, Conn.

By Chris Petersen

The community of Bridgeport, Conn., found itself in a delicate situation in 2012 as it prepared to renovate Longfellow Elementary School. As school district officials started work on renovating the 54-year-old structure, they discovered that the site was contaminated with hazardous chemicals. The unexpected discovery forced the district to put the brakes on the renovation project and change gears.

Rather than a renovation, the community now faced a complete demolition and rebuild of the school building. To help it navigate the project, the school district sought the expertise of Bismark Construction, a regional expert in school construction and other construction management projects.

The brand-new, $50.9 million school building is being built on the original building’s site, which has been remediated and all hazardous materials cleaned up. Bismark Construction Project Manager Anthony Wargo says the nature of the site made for some challenging work, but the experience and expertise of the company have helped make for a very smooth project so far and have kept the work on track for Longfellow Elementary School to reopen to students by the end of the calendar year.

Based in Milford, Conn., Bismark Construction has been a family owned construction management and general contracting firm for more than 30 years. Primarily focused on serving municipal clients in its home territory of Fairfield and New Haven counties, Bismark Construction says it has forged lasting relationships with clients thanks to its strong capabilities and experienced personnel.

“Our resources include the ability to blend the latest construction management techniques together with our tradition as true general contractors,” the company says. “Along with our management teams, we jointly also employ over 60 tradesmen including carpenters, masons, operators, and laborers. Our team’s direct involvement as master builders has enabled us to stay current with construction techniques, market trends, and these conditions give us a useful database to evaluate our superior construction quality and competitive costs.”

School projects have been a major component of Bismark Construction’s portfolio since its inception, and the company has numerous successful education projects under its belt. Wargo says this was a significant factor in the company’s involvement in the new Longfellow Elementary School project. “School construction has been a major component our workload through the years.  In the 1990’s ADA code upgrades were prevalent, now schools built in the 1950’s are reaching their end of use and translating into new school construction,” he says.

Challenging Site

The new 75,680-square-foot Longfellow Elementary School will include such features as a full-sized gymnasium, cafeteria, media/technology center and outdoor playground areas. The building will accommodate approximately 550 students from kindergarten through 8th grade in 29 classrooms. Although Wargo says the design of the building was fairly standard as far as Bismark Construction’s experience was concerned, the contaminated nature of the project site required some extra care. “I think the most challenging part of the project has been the site that we’re on,” Wargo says.

Because of the required remediation of the site, Bismark Construction had to work hard to coordinate the remediation efforts with the installation of the piles the entire building is built on. “Once the Demolition of the existing school, soil remediation, pressure injected footing installation, and grade beam installation were completed, the balance of construction is erecting the steel structure and building a typical educational facility as we’ve performed for decades,” Wargo says. “With a public bid, you never know who is going to be the low bidder. Luckily on this project, we’ve had tremendous participation from all prime contractors helping this to be a successful project.”

Completely rebuilding Longfellow Elementary School not only represented an opportunity to clean up a contaminated site, but also to ensure that the new facility lives up to the newest sustainability standards. Wargo says the project is being built to meet LEED Silver certification. Attaining this certification involves not only including features such as LED lighting and energy-efficient air-handling units, but also employing sustainable construction practices such as utilizing recycled materials and sourcing materials from local suppliers.

True Benefit

Wargo says the building’s roof recently was completed, leaving interior finishes as the next major milestone to be completed. The project’s timeline is expected to have the new Longfellow Elementary School completed and ready for students to return by the end of 2016.

What had started as a simple renovation project quickly turned into something more complex for the community of Bridgeport, but thanks to the experience of Bismark Construction and its close coordination with the rest of the project team, the new Longfellow Elementary School will be a benefit for the community for a long time to come. 

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