Connecticut Education

KBE Celebrates Ellis Tech High School Ribbon Cutting

Exterior of Harvard H. Ellis School at night

Exterior of Harvard H. Ellis School at night

Danielson, CT – Conn. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, State Senator Donald E. Williams, and State Technical High School Superintendent Dr. Nivea Torres joined KBE Building Corp. at the ribbon cutting for the $52.4 million renovation and addition at Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School.

KBE served as general contractor for the 117,300sf renovation and 68,000sf addition to the existing building at 613 Upper Maple Street in Danielson. The architect was The S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury, Conn. The building was completed eight months ahead of schedule.

The new Harvard Ellis Technical High School is the latest jewel in the state’s ongoing program to renovate Connecticut’s technical high schools. As with all the newly renovated tech schools, Harvard Ellis is a high-tech, cutting-edge academic and technical training facility designed to better prepare Connecticut students for technical careers in construction, manufacturing, and more.

CT Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman with Dr. Torres and Ellis Tech Assistant Principals Rafael Calixto and Angela Corentin

Conn. Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman with Dr. Torres and Harvard Ellis Tech assistant principals Rafael Calixto and Angela Corentin

“It was a primary goal of the owner to express the technological evolution in the body of the school building,” said Julija Singer, AIA, NCARB, design architect for The S/L/A/M Collaborative. “With a relatively simple material palette and a variety of building forms — including angled and serpentine walls, a soaring aspirational canopy — we were able to transform the 1950s factory-like facility into a modern building with a crisp contemporary image, one that does justice to the complexity of functions that happen inside the building.” This is the second of the state’s technical high schools S/L/A/M has completed with KBE sooner than anticipated. It was a real team effort with the state, the school, the architect, and the subcontractors.”

“Being able to deliver this project a full eight months ahead of schedule meant that students and teachers could start using these exceptional spaces even sooner than hoped,” explains KBE principal and CEO Mike Kolakowski, who bought the firm in 2007 with Eric Brown and Simon Etzel. “We developed an alternate phasing plan that let us complete the project much sooner than anticipated. It was a real team effort with the state, the school, the architect, and the subcontractors.”

Project highlights included upgrades to all trade shops, including manufacturing, auto tech, auto body, carpentry, electrical, masonry, and plumbing, and athletic fields, a new bus garage, gymnasium, classroom wing, media center, community café culinary arts/teaching kitchen, and hairdressing studio.

Harvard Ellis remained open and fully operational during all construction work.


“This is KBE’s eighth technical high school project for the State of Connecticut, and we have a lot of experience working around vulnerable populations at schools, senior living centers, and medical facilities,” said Kolakowski. “That enables us to keep students learning while still managing to complete the project on time and on budget.”

Harvard Ellis now provides 11 innovative technical programs taught within shops boasting state-of-the-art features. The carpentry shop, for example, uses highly specialized dust collection and extraction systems that require proper balancing with the building’s Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems and interface with the alarm and sprinkler systems.

KBE Project Manager Shaun St. Lawrence and the firm’s in-house Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) Specialist, Charlie Juhasz, worked closely with all subcontractors and the commissioning agent throughout the installation process to ensure that the building systems were properly operating and balanced as specified.

Building isn’t the only way KBE is helping promote technical education and careers in Connecticut, a state long-recognized for its cutting-edge contributions to precision manufacturing and high-tech engineering.

In June 2014, KBE awarded $17,000 in scholarships to 34 bright and hard-working students within Connecticut’s technical high school system. Students will apply their scholarships toward expenses associated with continued education in construction or related fields including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

KBE is also helping educate the entire state about Connecticut’s high tech industries by serving as the Founding Sponsor of a year-long Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN) initiative and original documentary, which premiered on CPTV on Oct. 23 and will re-air on Oct. 26 on CPTV and Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 on CPTV Sports.

Both the scholarships and the founding sponsorship are part of KBE’s corporate philanthropic program 50 Ways to Make a Difference.

Established in 2009 to celebrate the firm’s new ownership, name change, and 50 years in business, 50 Ways has helped KBE associates donate more than $1.2 million and 5,000 volunteer hours to charitable causes benefiting children, seniors, and military veterans in Connecticut and Maryland.

Individual KBE associates have been honored for their philanthropic contributions; principal and Senior Vice President of Procurement Simon F. Etzel, Jr. received the Jewish Senior Services’ Arthur and Gladys Lunin Humanitarian Award at the organization’s Oct. 23 Fall Gala, featuring a performance by Art Garfunkel.

Since 2002, KBE has completed eight technical high school projects across Connecticut – more than any other building firm in the state.

In September 2014, KBE celebrated the grand re-opening of Stamford’s J.M. Wright Technical High School, which underwent a $60.5-million renovation and addition in 2014.

KBE also performed work at these schools between 2002 and 2014:

  • E.C. Goodwin Technical High School
  • Norwich Technical High School
  • Platt Technical High School
  • Quinebaug Valley Middle College High School
  • Vernon Cleaves Vocational Agricultural Center
  • W.F. Kaynor Technical High School



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