PHASING OF A SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROJECT
BY DAN COOK, DCA ARCHITECTS
Many charter schools find that their physical space needs do not match the ability of the school to finance the project. You may have an ultimate need for a 20,000 square foot building, and you end up having the financial capability to only do a 14,000 square foot building. If you find your school in a similar situation, you might consider the following:
Construct a 20,000 square foot “shell” and only finish off 10–12,000 square feet of the interior. While this does not satisfy all the longer-term needs, it could certainly solve the more immediate needs, in line with funding ability.
Some of the financial advantages of this alternative (#2 below) are shown in this representative example:
Over a two year-period, you are generally better off to complete the entire building in a single phase (Alternative 1). If this is not financially possible, Alternative 2 works very well and gives you the same end product. Alternative 2 is more costly but not significantly, considering the cost and value of money.
As can be seen by the chart, Alternative 3 (essentially constructing the building in two pieces) is the worst alternative--ultimately costing almost 40% more than completing the entire building initially. The chart does not take into consideration architectural fees, which can be as much as twice the cost for a project like Alternative 3, or the impact on school operations during the phased construction. Completion of Alternative 2 can generally be done during the summer months. Alternative 3 would probably have students on campus at the time some of the construction is being completed.
Advantages of a “phased” approach like Alternative 2 include:
Additional classrooms can be added as needed. When the classrooms are added, they can be put to immediate use, thus generating additional per-student revenues to help pay for the completion of those rooms.
Generally, when we phase a project, we put in all of the electrical distribution equipment, mechanical ductwork, and complete all plumbing. It is more economical to complete as much work as possible from those subcontractors up front. Trying to phase plumbing is very difficult with the exception of adding minor fixtures such as sinks in future classrooms. The same is true for individual restrooms for kindergartens. They are not difficult to add at a later time as long as the plumbing was planned for in the beginning.
- The site and structure are completed at the same time, requiring only one contractor mobilization, landscaping sub-contractor, utility extension, etc.
- It is less expensive per square foot to complete a 20,000 square foot shell than to make a 10,000 square foot addition to an existing building. For example, if you construct the first 10K building in the first phase, you would need to finish the entire exterior. In the second phase 10K addition, some of these exterior walls would become interior walls in the final project and new exterior walls, foundations etc. would need to be constructed.
- Utilities would need to be extended into the addition, landscaping torn out, sidewalks and drives extended, etc.
- The “curb appeal” of the school is better if the entire exterior of the building is completed at one time.
- It is possible that the interior completion at a later date could be done by a smaller contractor at a more economical cost, thus reducing costs even more than shown.
Building inspection departments frequently see phased projects. Shopping centers, strip malls, and office buildings are examples of projects which are always phased. The inspection department’s requirements are generally the same throughout the country. Common requirements are that all life safety items need to be installed prior to occupancy, and unfinished spaces need to be sealed off from the rest of the building so that students cannot have access. Unfinished spaces also require some form of smoke detectors and fire sprinkler systems. Storage will not be allowed in the unfinished areas.
These are only some of the considerations. Each job is different, and each site may change the parameters significantly. You should always get professional advice on this type of decision from your architect or contractor before any decisions are made.?
For information contact John Cox, DCA Architects