Los Angeles Unified School
Los Angeles, CA
For the first time in the history of Buildings magazine’s annual Who’s Who report, an institutional owner - Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) - tops The A List. This well-deserved honor recognizes not only LAUSD’s vision for the future, but also the commitment (in dollars) and dedication (in support) by both the district and the communities it serves. An incredible, all-encompassing school construction and repair program is the largest in the nation’s history, with $19.2 billion being directed to approximately 150 new schools, more than 70 classroom addition projects, and a modernization, upgrade, and repair program that addresses aging buildings throughout LAUSD’s 800-plus campuses.
A defining moment for LAUSD came in the mid-1990s, when the lack of a school-building plan resulted in severe overcrowding of the existing student body. Unfortunately, growth rates were also on the rise, and the result was to supplement existing space with bungalow-type buildings, condense academic calendars to a 160-day cycle on a year-round calendar, and bus some children out of their own neighborhoods to less-crowded schools. In April 1997, Proposition BB funded an initial set of projects; more monies became available through further initiatives, specifically Local Measure K (approved in November 2002), Local Measure R (approved in March 2004), and Local Measure Y (approved in November 2005). Although the modernization, upgrade, and repair program is ongoing, the current new-construction program is slated for completion in 2012.
FY05-06 (ending June 30, 2006) was a historic year for the Los Angeles school district: It opened 32 new schools - the largest number of new-school openings in a single year. According to LAUSD’s facilities services division’s year-end report for FY05-06, the current modified budget for capital project funds was just under $4.74 billion, and the current modified budget for operational funds (including deferred maintenance) was at more than $541 million. Presently, the district reports a portfolio of 69 million square feet of space within more than 13,000 buildings. LAUSD employs 5,185 professionals who are involved full-time in facilities.
Yes, the program’s scope is systematic and impressive, but LAUSD deserves even higher marks for its approach in making the most of such a substantial investment in its communities. Not only is the district promising to target operational excellence throughout its portfolio of buildings, but it is also pledging to create facilities that accommodate students and staff, and enhance productivity and performance. Key to the program are core design principles - including the Collaborative for High-Performance Schools (CHPS) standards - that are continuously reviewed and adapted.
These design principles are both broad and specific, and incorporate all educational programming needs and state requirements, community interests, and elements that promote quality learning environments. Such educationally supportive themes include creating smaller schools within larger schools, providing spaces for students and teachers to mingle, and encouraging collaboration between teachers. At the same time, LAUSD’s principles support such student- and teacher-friendly elements as sound-insulating windows and quiet mechanical systems, sufficient locker space, comfortable furniture, and tackable wall surfaces. Community interests are also encouraged through public access and the use of playfields and gymnasiums, libraries, multi-purpose rooms, and auditoriums - with accommodations for persons with special needs. Technology-savvy and energy-conservative facilities encompass the state-of-the-art in security, safety, and communications (including Internet connectivity), as well as the use of daylighting and natural ventilation, low-maintenance finishes and furnishings, reduced-consumption water fixtures, and more. Lastly, the district is employing green concepts that include usable, hardy play spaces and trees that shade and reduce heat, among other elements. Best of all, each school possesses a unique, identifiable design, which is compatible with its neighborhood.
Never content to remain static, the facilities services division (most specifically, its school planning and design department) reviews LAUSD’s design principles with the Board of Education every 3 months, seeking recommendations for improvements. Central to this involvement is an energy- and performance-based “scorecard,” which monitors utility and sustainability objectives on projects once they are completed. Not only does this scorecard provide measurable milestones, it has also become a wonderful planning tool for future developments within LAUSD and to the industry in general.
After all is said and done, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s New School Program and Modernization & Repair Program represent much more than a strategic approach to building and modernizing school facilities. Pride in school and in one’s self, after all, opens doors to all things.