Choate Rosemary Hall: The Challenges of New Construction at Academic Facilities

Updated: Oct 13


Former President John F. Kennedy, Actor Michael Douglas, former first-daughter Ivanka Trump -- those are just a few of the many famous elite names associated with Choate Rosemary Hall, a private coeducational college-preparatory boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut. Founded in 1890, the school’s mission is to provide a rigorous academic curriculum with an emphasis on the formation of character in a residential setting that allows teachers and students to live with and learn from each other.


About 90% of the school’s faculty live on campus and LaRosa Groups was selected to build seven new single-family faculty houses and renovate Delbos House, a former farmhouse located on the same street, Hillhouse Way. The newly constructed houses are 2,200-2,300 square feet modern farmhouses with 2-4 bedrooms, front porches, two-car garages, decks, and patios. By expanding the residential opportunities, the school hopes to include additional faculty on campus and promote a more tightly knit Choate community.



“LaRosa Groups has been involved in renovation and new construction projects for more than 120 middle, high school, and colleges, and we are proud to be the construction company of choice for both public and elite institutions of learning in the Northeast,” stated James LaRosa, CEO, LaRosa Groups.


There is no way around it: there will always be surprises that come up with any construction or renovation project. The Construction on Hillhouse Way began in October 2022. While all the new construction is complete, the renovation of the Delbos House experienced some mild delays due to unforeseen conditions.


In this article, we discuss the five challenges specific to the renovation of the Delbos House and the new construction.


🚧 Foundation Problems

A foundation is a structural element that provides support for various loads acting on the superstructure and the soil underneath. “We discovered a part of the Delbos House, an addition to the original, was built on a rubble foundation. We had to raze that section of the house to remove that foundation in order to maintain the historical integrity of the farmhouse. That set our schedule back a few weeks,” explained Rome Santilli, Senior Project Manager, LaRosa Groups.


🚧 Winter Weather

Probably the biggest challenge for any construction company is building new construction during the winter. Though the project was initiated in Fall 2022, the excavation, concrete work, and framing had to be completed during the winter months. “Winter construction is more difficult,” explained Rome. “You have to protect the ground and concrete as well as the workers from freezing temperatures. The construction was slowed down dramatically due to the weather and then we had to find ways to make up for the lost time.”


🚧 Supply Shortage

Another challenge we faced was the availability of building materials and supplies. There was a long lead time required for the shipping of HVAC units, windows, and exterior doors. The school is committed to sustainable development so the seven new homes were designed to use electric heating systems instead of gas or oil-based heating, and solar panels were ordered for the roof. The solar panels for the roof also took longer than expected. 🚧 Campus Logistics

The site of the new construction was located just north of the school’s Carl C. Icahn Center for Science. “Working in an academic neighborhood offers a completely new set of challenges. Debris, noise, and cleanliness were a concern. Traffic, parking, and maintaining access to the construction site were a big logistical challenge,” Rome explained.


🚧 Passive House Standards

The plan was to go green and incorporate passive house standards into the seven new residences. The Delbos House was excluded since renovated properties can have some passive house features but cannot fully meet the passive house standards.


Passive House Standards stand for superior levels of comfort, quality, and extreme energy efficiency. It’s all about the wall system that seals the house, the triple-paned windows, where the windows are placed, and the energy exchange system.

“There are multiple benefits for faculty living in a campus residence that has met passive house standards. Their house is not only energy efficient, with a lower monthly bill, but also environmentally friendly,” explained Rome.


Click 👉 HERE to learn more about LaRosa’s extensive construction experience with passive housing as well as the other academic facilities we have renovated or built as new construction.

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