01/28/2003

Money Talks, Schools Listen

Investing in Education

 

The administration at California State University Los Angeles wanted a "signature" building when they set out to construct a new student center. They succeeded. The $23 million facility, designed by HGA Architects of Los Angeles, features dining and student services, as well as a Barnes and Noble bookstore.

A District Prepares for Major Changes

In Florida, the recent passage of the class-size reduction referendum leaves officials at large, rapidly growing districts, such as Broward County Public Schools, wondering where funding to support the measure is going to emerge.

“It’s supposed to be funded by the legislature,” says Drew Lippman, project manager II with the district. “But they don’t know yet how it is to be funded.”

Lippman says the measure has created a whole host of problems that the school district – the country’s fifth largest – will have to overcome. Broward County, on the average, has been getting between 5,000 and 10,000 new students each year “probably since Hurricane Andrew struck in August 1992,” Lippman says.

“This means that we have not been able to keep up with demand while we also try to go back and bring the facilities at older schools to newer standards,” he says.

It’s a big job. The district has more than 250 schools and approximately 15 administrative facilities throughout the county. Between 1987 and 1996, the district spent $1.5 billion on schools, including 36 that were newly built or rebuilt. In that same timeframe, 124 buildings were renovated and/or expanded.

School officials are now creating a new Long Range Facilities Master Plan for all of the schools in the county. The long-range plan will be used to better identify funding that is needed and when, Lippman says.

It appears the district’s new long-range facilities master plan, which is in the public comment phase, will dwarf its predecessor. It is expected to cost between $2.46 and $2.59 billion, the second largest program in the district’s history. It would build 15 new schools, replace 42, and renovate 126, notes Lippman.

The plan also is taking in account the new class-reduction requirement, as well as another state measure that passed in November that requires districts to provide voluntary, universal, and free access to pre-kindergarten education for all four-year-olds by the 2005 school year.

“We are having to build an estimated 3,000 classrooms, 1,000 of which were already in the plan and the 2,000 added because of the class size-reduction legislation,” Lippman explains.

The question Lippman and other district officials ask is this: Will there be enough site area on existing sites in which to put more classrooms?

“Our county is already built out into the Everglades,” Lippman says. “For the last 20 years or more, we have been building homes and schools in what used to be the Everglades. On sites where the capacity meets the site area requirements, will the state give us a waiver for the classes that we will have to add; or, if not that, will we have to look for additional sites?”

The push for modernization of the country’s many aging schools, colleges, and universities has strongly impacted the U.S. educational facilities segment.

Both public and private institutions have stepped up efforts to revamp or replace facilities that no longer meet technological requirements or code standards. Facilities teams also have taken into account the demands posed on them by end-users – taxpayers and even students who spend each day inside these facilities.

Public interest in the state of American education and the buildings where learning takes place is strong. A post-general election analysis piece running in the Nov. 10 issue of The New York Times revealed that voters this past fall were “high on education.” Across the nation, voters showed strong support for education-related measures, including class size and school construction initiatives, even when they voted down other key non-education-related issues on their respective ballots and live in states where budget crises prevail.

Case in point: In California, voters passed the largest bond issue in state history – $13 billion for school construction, despite the fact that the state has a $24 billion budget deficit.

Similarly, Florida taxpayers approved a class-size reduction referendum that is estimated to cost the state $27 billion over eight years and will likely force tax increases in a state that ranks near the bottom in per-capita education spending.

“People are willing to pay for that which they believe in,” says E. Lander Medlin, executive vice president of the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers (APPA), based in Alexandria, VA. “There are many different issues related to facilities and how they relate to their customer. And today’s customer is very different than the customers we had 10 or 15 years ago.”

Medlin isn’t just talking about the U.S. taxpayers or alumni of private institutions. She also means students. At both K-12 and higher education levels, those who attend these institutions are speaking their minds about what they want in a school facility in terms of technology, amenities, and comfort.

At California State University Los Angeles, professionals from HGA Architects are designing a $23 million dining services and student center. The complex will feature a Barnes and Noble bookstore and will be a “signature” building on the campus. The services and amenities offered by this complex came from comments from the university community and the administration’s desire to provide current and future students with the best facilities they can offer, the architects say.

“The president wants parents and prospective students to visit the campus and say, ‘Wow! This is a great place,’” says Michael F. Ross, principal in charge of HGA’s Los Angeles office. “A modernized student center with full amenities is part of the draw.”

 

Instructional Shifts Prompt Changes

Students’ desire for greater technology in the classroom also drives facilities modernization programs nationwide. At Loara High School in Anaheim, CA, construction has begun on two “Classrooms of the Future.” The rooms are working laboratories that allow teachers and students to sample and assess various kinds of technological advances in a classroom setting.

LPA Architects of Irvine, CA, and McCarthy Building Companies Inc. in Newport Beach, CA, are leading the project. Besides traditional technology facets such as laptop computers and wireless connectivity, construction plans also address everything from types of flooring to the color of desks to lighting placement and control.

Instead of old-fashioned chalkboards or more modern dry-erase white boards, each of these test classrooms features special “smart boards” that permit what it is written on them to be transferred to a computer program. Instead of the bulky, old television carts, each room is equipped with a digital camera and projection unit mounted on the ceiling. Desks specified for these spaces are easily movable into table formats or stand on their own – an important feature that supports today’s instructional approaches.

“Curriculum and technology are starting to work better together. It used to be that curriculum would stay the same. Now it’s catching up to technology,” explains Ray Bordwell, principal and director of Educational Facility Consulting, at Perkins & Will Architects in Chicago. “Curriculum and instructional methods are starting to impact how facilities are being designed. We’re now designing facilities to accept specific student-centered instructional models.”

Bordwell uses a Perkins & Will project in Charleston, SC, as an example. The firm has designed a high school there based on what’s known as a “world-view curriculum model,” an instructional approach developed out of the University of North Carolina. “It’s not just about classrooms anymore,” Bordwell says. “Learning is more experiential and based on world learning. It’s more hands on.”

Bordwell says we’ll start to see some exceptional “break-the-mold” schools in the next five to 10 years – schools that have turned away from benchmarking as a design determination and instead focus on specific district needs and wants in determining appropriate design.

Benchmarking, he says, had its place, but with all the changes in the educational facilities market, comparing one district’s building needs to another is like the proverbial apples to oranges comparison. “There’s no way to really know if what the district down the road did is going to meet your students’ needs and your curriculum,” Bordwell says. “There’s no out-of-the-box solution.”

Finding the Right Solution

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Education estimated that it would take up to $127 billion to bring our nation’s school facilities into good overall condition. The National Education Association (NEA) estimates that figure is well beyond $200 billion, attributing soaring enrollments and the need to stay current with technological changes as major factors.

According to statistics from the NEA, the average public school in America is 42 years old. Twenty-eight percent of the public schools in America are more than 50 years old. Forty-six percent of American public schools lack the electrical and communication wiring to support today’s computer systems.

Nationwide, school administrators and facilities professionals are seeking the right solution for their aging facilities. Deficits aren’t limited strictly to technological concerns.

Public school officials in Monroe, MI, hope to put a bond issue on the September 2003 ballot, according to Michael Bross, the district’s operations supervisor. While technology is being factored into the programming and planning process, the district has other hot buttons to address.

“As far as needs and wants, our high school pool has been deemed non-compliant,” Bross says. “The state has shut it down. When it was built in the 1970s, the depth of it was fine. Now it doesn’t meet the depth requirement of our State Health Department.”

The existing pool is 48 inches on entry. The state wants 79 inches, Bross says. The district could revamp the existing pool or build a new one. Fiscally, a new one might make more sense, Bross notes.

“By the time you put money into the existing pool, you can pretty much build a new one,” he says. “We will have to do some major things to accommodate it.”

The solution comes down to funding. Monroe Public Schools will go to the taxpayers this year. Across the country, other public school districts, as well as higher education institutions, are reaching out for state and voter funding to support both operating expenses and capital improvements. The thing is, most states already are financially strapped – a condition E. Lander Medlin refers to as “resource scarcity.”

“The colors of money are not equally used in public systems,” she says. “When you look at the latest national governors’ association report, you’ll see that the states are experiencing their worst financial crisis since WWII. That’s scary, and the public side is feeling the brunt of it.”

Robin Suttell, based in Cleveland, is contributing editor at Buildings magazine.

 


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Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.

 

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

 

Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.

 

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