Ryan Miranda – Bristol County Agricultural High School
- Written by: David Harry
- Produced by: Matthew Warner & Kirk Dyson
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
How many U.S high schools have automatic battery-operated bathroom faucets that recharge when people wash their hands? Now, how many of those schools have robotics to milk cows?
Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton, Massachusetts, can boast of both—and more—thanks to a $104 million campus renovation and expansion that was nearing completion as Ryan Miranda chatted with Blueprint in December 2022.
Miranda, Class of 1996 and the school’s director of facilities, managed the extensive project, which included renovating and expanding Gilbert Hall, the school’s original building. The school also renovated its Agricultural Mechanics Building and built the Center for Science and the Environment, Student Commons, a Landscape and Arbor Building and a Dairy Barn.
The projects have earned LEED Gold certifications for sustainability and energy efficiency—and the robotics in the Dairy Barn have increased the milk yield and quality.
And Miranda can’t imagine a better way to give back to his alma mater.
“I came in as a troubled youth and I left with a vision of what I wanted to do,” he says. “The teachers I had weren’t afraid to help guide my life. It started the dream to come back and use the tools and education I got here.”
A tradition and a vision
Miranda returned to Bristol Aggie as facilities director in 2012 after working in construction, including on high rise buildings, in the Boston area. He now leads a facilities team of 14 from forepersons to custodians.
“The continual need for agriculture and education, and the passion to impart the historical value of Bristol Aggie, was my motivation and platform to produce the best quality facility for students to learn,” he says. “The faculty and staff were all extremely flexible throughout the process. Their cooperation made it all possible.”
He also credits Bristol Aggie Superintendent Derek Costa and Assistant Superintendent and Principal Kevin Braga—along with Bristol County commissioners and board members—for providing the vision for upgrading the school while staying true to its tradition.
Bristol County Agricultural High School was founded by the state legislature in 1912 and opened in 1913. The school is a rarity—it’s one of five agricultural high schools in the U.S. and one of three in the Bay State.
Bristol Aggie serves 33 cities towns (as well more throughout the Commonwealth) with programs in animal science, agricultural mechanics and diesel technology, floriculture, arboriculture, landscape design and contracting, and natural resource management—which was just expanded to include environmental engineering. The campus renovations and additions enable an increase in capacity from 450 to 640 students.
Setting new standards
The Massachusetts School Building Authority funded $50.5 million of the project cost with the remainder paid for by participating communities. Bristol Aggie hired HMFH Architects and Gilbane Building Co. to design the new buildings and renovations and manage construction.
The design phase lasted two years as HMFH created stakeholder groups of administrators, faculty, students and community members to learn more about the school’s vision, buildings and setting.
Construction on the new 74,000-square-foot Center for Science and the Environment began in 2018. Along with automated and rechargeable faucets, features that have earned it LEED Gold certification include triple-paned windows that prevent heat loss and block ultraviolet rays from getting into the building. Automated HVAC and lighting controls can shut off lights and reduce heating and cooling to unoccupied rooms. Rooftop solar cells provide power, while compostable toilets reduce water use and a rooftop rain-collection system feeds agitation to the North Campus.
After the science building was completed in January 2021, work began on the new Student Commons, which contains a kitchen, cafeteria, media center and second-floor conference center. According to HMFH, the timber-frame design is a low-carbon alternative construction method. The Student Commons also has triple-paned windows and automated building systems controls.
While the Student Commons was under construction, renovations also began on the Agricultural Mechanics Building. Work there included adding a 20-foot-wide and 16-foot-tall garage door to accommodate repairing large farm equipment. Also, eight booths were added to the welding and metal fabrication area as its ventilation system was improved.
Artifacts and robots
In 2020, renovations began on the 75,000-square-foot Gilbert Hall, the original Bristol Aggie building. The new windows and systems controls highlight efforts to get the building LEED Gold certification, Miranda says.
He adds cleaning out the century-old attic uncovered artifacts and documents that can be displayed in a small museum HFMH designed for the building.
Classes were shifted to the new Center for Science and the Environment during Gilbert Hall renovations. Students and faculty returned in fall 2021 to an expanded building with a new entrance way, classrooms, administrative space, two gymnasiums and an indoor climbing area.
Then the cows came home—to a new Dairy Barn with solar panels that help make it net zero for carbon emissions and power the robotic milkers. Miranda says it took about four weeks to get the herd used to the automated milking parlor but now cows are milked as many as four times per day.
“The herdsmen, the farm foreman, department teachers and administrators—all of them had a hand in making sure the transition was a successful one,” Miranda reflects.
The project was about 98 percent complete in December 2022—Miranda says he was working down the punch list for finishing work while also guiding representatives from county towns around campus. Earlier in the fall, Bristol Aggie resumed its annual fall show and open house. The event typically draws as many as 4,000 people—in 2022, he says about 7,000 people came out.
While crediting the Bristol County residents and commissioners for supporting Bristol Aggie’s transformation, Miranda adds a personal touch—his family endured the long hours he put in and as students at the school, his children added their own ideas to the project.
“This project has been the center of my life for the past four years,” Miranda says. “I’ve been honored to be cog in the wheel of the process that required amazing teamwork from everyone on campus. All the administration team and the building committee spent countless hours to make it all happen.”
Photo Credit: Ed Wonsek
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2023 Edition here.
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