The new Niagara Falls High School also serves as a community center.
NIAGARA FALLS, NY — When Carmen Granto, superintendent of the school district here, and Phil Mohr, chief administrator of the new Niagara Falls High School, talk about their new school, they do it with a genuine fervor for what the city has put together — a truly state-of-the-art educational facility.

The city originally had two high schools that were both aging. According to Granto, there were three reasons to build. First, it was best for the school district. He noted, “One of the schools couldn’t be retrofitted because it was too old.”

It was decided to build one new, larger high school, and also make it into a community center. The only way to make this happen for the financially strapped city, Granto said, was through a public-private partnership with Honeywell, Morris Township, NJ, which raised money on Wall Street for the project, eliminating the need for the city to raise taxes.

A cooling tower from Baltimore Aircoil Co. sits on the roof.


Another reason for going through with this uncommon arrangement, stated Granto, was to “raise standards for the kids.” For example, he continued, “Due to ongoing problems with the roof at one of the old schools, the district actually had basketball games that were rained out,” because of the persistent leaks in the gym.

The third reason for the project was to provide a social center for the city, supplying a variety of educational and entertainment events throughout the year.

In addition to the much-needed financing, Honeywell served as program manager for the project and also provided some of the hvacr equipment.

To help make this very large high school of about 2,500 students feel smaller, Granto said, it was designed by the Hillier Group, Princeton, NJ, with four wings. The four are: business education; math and science; visual and performing arts; and health and sports. Students stay within a single wing primarily, and go to other wings for required classes such as English or electives.

Shown is one of the dual-compressor chillers from McQuay.


Right from the start, “Technology was integrated with the construction,” remarked Granto. At the center of the school is its Technology Core, featuring IBM equipment. The first story houses a library with PCs throughout. The upper floor has a high-speed Cisco network and IBM Netfinity servers.

Every student was given an IBM ThinkPad laptop computer, leased through the IBM ThinkPad at School program. The school has a “cyber cafeteria” where students can plug in their computers, which include Internet access, to work on a paper or look up information on the Web. The teleconferencing amphitheater is designed for long-distance learning.

The entire school district is wired, via a wide area network, which enables the distribution of audiovisual signals and provides for secure access to grades and transcripts.

Teachers provided important input in the building process and, according to Granto, they received “98 percent of what they wanted.”

Mohr said that a high school quality council, made up of various members of the community, was put together, which “studied many different aspects of what would be best to help kids learn.” The council presented 172 recommendations. “We accepted all of them,” he stated. One different aspect here — this high school has no bells.

In addition, Mohr pointed out that the city was able to combine two long-time rival high schools without incident, another major accomplishment.

For dehumidification, the pool uses Dectron units with a heat recovery system.


The school district had been doing performance contracting with Honeywell to update and maintain hvacr equipment. Granto then made the suggestion: “Why can’t we build a new school like that?”

Honeywell then went to work on his idea, generating $73 million worth of certificates of participation (COPs), which will be paid off over 30 years to the investors. In order to make this unusual project a reality, however, several exceptions had to be made to state legislation.

The district received special permission to use COPs and tax-free financing. It received a low-bid exemption as well as a sales tax exemption. And it was given an exception from Wicks Law, which requires four prime contractors for a school/government project.

“It took two years to get all the exceptions,” said Granto. Union labor was used on the project.

The new Niagara Falls High School now has more than a year of high-tech, high-quality education under its belt, and is looking forward to many more.

Sidebar: A Wealth Of Hvacr Equipment

A walk through Niagara Falls High School’s mechanical rooms and across its rooftops reveals a variety of equipment from a range of manufacturers. The equipment was installed by mechanical contracting company John W. Danforth Co., Buffalo, NY.

First, to monitor it all, Paul Schnettler, stationary engineer at the school, has Honeywell’s Excel Building Supervisor on his PC. The school’s systems are divided into sectors, to enable him to more easily keep track of each piece of equipment.

Warmup setpoints in the morning supply 90 degree F air to the classrooms until the return air temperature reaches the setpoint value, quickly heating the rooms. In addition to its thermostats, Honeywell also provided the school’s security system.

Steam heat is used for the facility. “Steam heat reacts much faster in this part of the country,” said Schnettler. Boilers used are dual-burner Cleaver-Brooks models operating on natural gas or No. 2 oil. “We can bring in an oil tank as needed.”

This system includes Honeywell steam valves and Sarco thermostatic steam traps. A National water softener unit is used for the boilers due to the hard water here. This “helps in maintaining the boilers and getting better efficiency,” he noted.

Nesbitt electric heaters are stationed at entranceways and Sterling cabinet unit heaters are employed for stairwells.

McQuay dual-compressor chillers operate with chilled water primary pumps and secondary variable-speed pump systems.

A variety of York air-handling units are used for several sections of the building and the auxiliary gym. Semco air handlers with heat recovery feed the main arena. Governair air handlers are also installed. Large Greenheck return fans are used. “Fire dampers will close down if a fire should be detected,” Schnettler said.

Several Liebert air conditioning units are used in the main transformer room, the data processing equipment room, and the TV studio.

The cafeteria area includes a Reznor makeup air unit with heat recovery. Refrigeration equipment includes a Penn walk-in freezer, Continental freezer and cooler, and two Brown walk-in units.

In the natatorium, two Dectron dehumidification units are used. Both include a heat recovery system to supply heat for the pool water. The vav boxes maintain 50% outside air, which is better than state standards.

Publication date: 01/14/2002