South Okanagan school gets top marks at building awards

SOSS a big winner at the Southern Interior Construction Association Commercial Building Awards.

Principal Marcus Toneatto of South Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver looks over some of the award-winning design work of the interior of the rebuilt portion of the school.

Principal Marcus Toneatto of South Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver looks over some of the award-winning design work of the interior of the rebuilt portion of the school.

It’s been little more than a year since the new South Okanagan Secondary opened its doors, but the new building is already gaining serious attention.

It has won one commercial building award and been featured in an architectural digest. Now, the SOSS building was named Judges’ Choice winner for best overall entry in the sixth annual Southern Interior Construction Association Commercial Building Awards.

The annual awards highlight the best commercial and industrial properties built in the previous year.

Painted Rock Winery also received an excellence award in the wine industry category. Merit awards were given to the SS Sicamous in the community restoration category and the Penticton Indian Band’s Snxastwilxtn Centre for community facilities.

Along with best overall, SOSS also won the excellence award in the community facilities category.

The community was devastated when fire destroyed the old school building in 2011, while it was undergoing renovations. But Marieze Tarr, chair of the Okanagan Similkameen School District board, said they are now proud of the new building.

“I think everyone in the communities of Oliver and Osoyoos and Keremeos, all of the communities in our school district are very proud of the high school,” said Tarr. “We were just going to do a reno on the old footprint. I think the opportunity that the fire did give us was to have a beautiful state of the art school.”

SOSS principal Marcus Toneatto said the loss of the old school was also difficult for the staff, many of who had been there for years.

“They are very attached to the old school and they thought there is no way the new school could replace what was here,” he said. “But now that we are in the new school and they see what we have, its unanimous that we have a brilliant school and they are proud to be here.”

“It really is a spectacular building. We are so fortunate to come to work here every day and students can come and study here,” said Toneatto, who describes the SOSS building as the cadillac of schools. “The building doesn’t make up your school. It’s your culture and the day-to-day interactions and connections  you have with the kids. But having a beautiful building and all the facilities, that does not hurt.”

Operationally, the school has proved to be a boon to the school district. Built to LEED standards, Tarr said they have been able to cut utility costs with the energy-efficient design.

“We have a wind generator, we have solar panels, we use a ground loop for heating, so yes, very energy efficient,” said Tarr. “We have managed to save money on utilities in that school and actually we have tried to introduce some new technology in other schools and see if we can cut down on the utilities.”