By Tony Sjolander, Director of Project Planning and Development, Kraus-Anderson
A national leader in K-12 school construction, Kraus-Anderson has constructed over $1 billion in school facilities over the past five years and is ranked sixth in the nation by Building Design + Construction. KA works closely with school districts early in their facility planning to provide and evaluate options, address questions and to provide knowledgeable pre-referendum information.
School construction is continuing at a record pace nationwide, much of it fueled by bond referenda. What’s driving the boom? Last week we looked at some of the influences behind K-12 school referendum efforts, taking a deep dive into evolving goals for educational adequacy. Today, we’re looking at two of the other primary drivers: building condition; and building capacity.
Building condition includes aspects of the facility that affect occupant comfort, which in turn affects student performance and productivity. The age of a building in and of itself isn’t necessarily a reason to build or renovate; however, facilities built a generation or more ago often lack the benefit of best practices and lessons-learned in design and materials technology developments since their original construction. Considerations such as
• Indoor air quality;
• Thermal comfort, and
all are considerations within the discussion of building condition.
Safety and security aspects are also part of building condition, and are a top priority among the districts we work with. Considerations include:
• Secure entry, bus drop-off zones and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design(CPTED)
• Fire separation/suppression/detection measures
• FEMA tornado safe rooms
• Lead/mold/asbestos abatement
Deferred maintenance items are also part of the equation. Districts typically are dealing with existing building components that are deficient and past their intended design life; as well as systems that are affecting occupant comfort, performance and productivity. Other deferred maintenance evaluation points relate to energy consumption and operating costs, such as
- Total cost of ownership (TCO) vs. initial construction cost
- Return on investment, and payback period, energy modeling and commissioning
- Renewable vs. conventional fossil fuel
- Carbon footprint
The third major factor driving school construction initiatives is Building capacity. Many of the districts we encounter have experienced extensive enrollment growth. Others have experienced enrollment declines. In either case, significant enrollment changes affect space utilization, student/teacher ratios and grade configurations, attendance boundary revisions.
Building consolidation is often evaluated as a solution in districts experiencing capacity challenges. We help districts assess potential reductions in operating costs. We also help them weigh the pros and cons of neighborhood schools vs. grade center schools, which more easily facilitate the ability of educators to meet regularly and to collaborate to improve teaching skills and academic performance. Considerations include:
• Distance from home to school
• Number of building transitions for students
• Transportation: Walk, bus or ride with parents
• Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
Educational adequacy. Building condition. Building capacity. When districts strike the delicate balance among these three drivers, aligning facilities with the strategic direction of the district; educators, those who have the greatest impact on student outcomes, have the tools to prepare students to succeed now and in the future. Your why often becomes the path to your district’s what and how.