Independent School Facility Growth Presentation

The Independent School’s
Guide to Facility Growth
NJAIS Trustee Day 2013
Who We Are and What We Do
REDCOM Design & Construction LLC is a multifaceted design/build company. Established over 30 years ago as
REDCO Engineering & Construction Corp., we are a second generation General Contracting company. Our 30
person staff includes in-house licensed Architects, Engineers, Designers, Project Managers, and Job
Single source responsibility, qualified in-house professionals, and experienced project managers have enabled
REDCOM to design, receive approvals, and construct many diversified facilities.
Over the past 30 years, we have designed and built over $150 million dollars worth of new construction. We
have been designing and building private schools specifically for over 25 years and have worked with a number
of NJAIS and ASAH schools in NJ including: Chatham Day School, Gill St. Bernards, Midland School, ECLC,
Cerebral Palsey School of Union County, Goddard School, Learning Experience, Rainbow Academy, Kids One
School, Somerset Hills School, and High Road School.
Our clients are continuously impressed by our creative and economical approach to design and construction.
Gregory J. Redington, P.E, P.P, President
• Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a minor in
• Professional Engineer and Professional Planner in the State of NJ
• 25 years of experience in the Design Build industry
• President of REDCOM since 1997
• Lives in Westfield, N.J., with his wife and 3 children. Outside of work, Greg enjoys family activities, coaching,
playing lacrosse, surfing, sailing, and traveling.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Objective: Today I will explain the process involved in expanding or renovating your
school so that you will be able to move forward and produce a facility
change that is in alignment with your school’s mission in the most efficient
To Do This I Will:
• Show you a bird’s eye view of the entire process
• Share with you my company’s 5 step process that we use with all our clients
1. Assessing
2. Forecasting
3. Budgeting
4. Planning
5. Executing (Designing/Building)
• Give you suggestions, instructions and forms so your school can go through
most of the process on your own
• Provide you with examples throughout
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
What is the mission of your school?
I imagine it has something to do with becoming great at:
• Educating students
• Attracting new students and families
• Staying financially healthy
How do you determine and acquire your school facility needs now and into the future to
achieve these goals with excellence?
How do you make sure your school’s campus and all
its physical assets are aligned perfectly towards
achieving this mission? These goals? These values?
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Mistakes that I see schools (as well as other organizations I work with) make often include:
Not exploring and pursuing the “big dream”
Not being able to make the hard decision to move forward with confidence
Not having the courage to redirect the focus after resources have been spent
Not choosing the proper in-house school team
Not choosing the proper outside consultant team
Not looking into all possibilities for each step of the process (my personal fear of omission)
Hiring one professional to do too much too soon
Not choosing the proper construction team and method
Not maintaining good communication and coordination between everyone
Being surprised by design issues, costs, or delays late in the project that were
not planned for
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Who are team members?
School board
Land Use Attorney
Facility committee
Finance Dept.
Head of School
Interior designer
Furniture designer, etc.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
The Team Member Test
Ask yourself these questions when deciding to bring on each new team member:
Do they care about this project?
Do they bring any working knowledge about the process or details required of it?
Do they have the time to commit to it?
Will they work well with the others involved?
Are they experts in an area that is important to this project?
Are they looking after their own needs or the needs of the school?
Can you count on them to work with you if things go poorly?
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
5 Step Process
5 Step Process
To measure and itemize your school’s existing situation
To calculate or estimate something in advance of your school’s changing size
Assigning costs to each need, want, and wish
Putting priorities in the proper order
Getting it done in three dimensions
3 Dimension
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Fear Of Omission
Fear of Omission
What facility change does your school need in order to be perfectly aligned with its mission?
Now think about other more subtle changes that your school needs to make
And finally really small change or updates that you school needs.
I bet you missed some things…
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Physical elements of an independent school:
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Step #1
ASSESSING: To measure and itemize your school’s existing situation
Perform a present day “programming analysis” (PA)
A measurement of your existing facilities and current conditions
It can be as broad as
• “Language department is fine”
• “Science rooms need updating”
It can be as specific as
• “10 swivel stools in art room, 4 need repair”
• “Sink in lower wing janitor’s closet drips”
• “Library is too small”
• “Gym locker rooms need a new floor”
Count every room, desk, item, and space
Is anything underutilized?
The more specific you get, the better your results!
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Suggestion for completion:
Self-perform department by
department evaluations for
presentation to a board committee
using these standardized forms. Have
each department submit a list with
items listed in 5 categories (Waste,
Works, Needs, Wants, Wishes)
Follow the directions.
Hire a consultant to conduct
interviews of your staff, inspect
your physical facilities, and write
a large report about your existing
1. Get a list of all the areas in independent school might need
2. Have a department head staff meeting explaining the process of evaluation the school is going to undertake
3. Personalize & distribute forms to department heads for each of their spaces
4. Have each department conduct a staff meeting to explain the process and distribute the forms to all their staff
5. Have the Department heads review and compile all their forms and summarize all the items into lists of Waste,
Works, Needs, Wants, Wishes
6. All department summary forms are to be submitted to the facility committee
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Questionnaire Form
Data Form
Bubble Form
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Term Definitions
WASTE: This is part of your facility that is not being used to its fullest potential.
An asset that is too large or that goes un-used part of the day are examples of
WORKS: An area (or thing) that is perfect for its use, and is used to its fullest potential.
NEEDS: This is something that you are severely lacking that is a top priority just to
continue serving your current needs.
WANTS: This is an item that you would like to have to improve your current situation.
WISHES: This is the big dream item. Don’t limit your imagination
here, if you dream about it write it down.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Step #2
FORECASTING: To calculate or estimate something in advance of your
school’s changing size
Forecasting Steps:
• Similar to Assessing, only here you need to incorporate a “growth factor” to your requirements
• Determining this growth factor is a high level board decision
Do not fall into the trap of letting your current campus
facilities determine your growth factor
Your growth factor should be based only upon what your IDEAL school size is
If your school is currently at its ideal student body and staff level then your growth factor will
be 1.0
Go through each form from the Assessing step and adjust it for your determined “growth factor”
“Growth Pinch Points”
• When will you need another section for 4th grade instead of another desk?
• When do you need another lunch period or larger dining hall vs. more tables?
• When do you need another practice field vs. different scheduling?
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Suggestion for execution:
Perform in-house department by department
meetings with one of the school’s leaders
about how growth can be best managed, and
how their department fits in with the rest of
the school’s plans. Have each department
submit a list with items listed in 5 categories
(waste, works, needs, wants, wishes).
Follow the directions.
Hire a consultant to follow up on
the present day programming
analysis by conducting planning
meetings with school leaders
about future plans, growth, and
needs. Apply multipliers to the
current facilities and write up a
report about what they heard.
1. School board decides upon a growth factor
2. Meetings with Department Heads to talk about inter-department size changes
3. Department Heads adjust PA Forms according to growth factor
4. All department forms get submitted to the facility committee
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Now all your background information has been compiled and your future needs have been identified.
But your school already knows what it needs next – right?
You may feel that the specific improvement your board has been talking about for years is an obvious choice to
being your first priority and there is no need in going through the previous few steps of Assessing and Forecasting.
In most cases this thinking will result in a less than ideal change to your school. Since you have not asked
thorough detailed questions to all of your departments there are other needs at your school that are passing by
unnoticed or they are possibly being held up behind the popular “big addition” to your campus that has been
talked about for years.
Another thing to consider is even if the process of Assessing and Forecasting does not yield a priority higher
than the one that the board has been thinking about for years, it is likely that some other need will present
itself that you will be able to incorporate into your “big addition” idea.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Midland School
The Midland School - 2002
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Midland School
The Midland School – 2002 – Enlarged Portion
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Midland School
The Midland School – 2004 – Gym Schematic Plan
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Midland School
The Midland School – 2006 – As Built Plan
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Step #3
BUDGETING: Assigning costs to each NEED, WANT, and WISH
All the results of your programming analysis get itemized here with a cost attached
Every “waste” category item gets a credit attached to it because there is a value you may
not be taking advantage of:
You have extra space in the lower school wing
You have extra furniture, equipment, etc.
Some spaces are empty some parts of the day
Every “works” category costs $0.00 because it is fine now and for the foreseeable future
The “needs”, “wants”, and “wishes” categories get costs attached to them
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
How do we know what things will cost?
How can we get prices without specific designs?
How can we nail down costs without knowing when the work will be done?
How can we tell if the quality & details you expect will be included in the budget?
There are plenty of experts and consultants that would be anxious to share their knowledge
about costs at little or no fee.
If they object, then maybe they don’t meet your criteria for an ideal
team member.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Suggestion for completion:
Assign the task to an in-house
team member. Have them access
experts and/or consultants
familiar with the costs of each
Follow the directions
Hire a consultant to line item
your “programming
analysis” results with price
estimates attached and
present a report to you.
1. Collect all the PA Forms from the Department Heads
2. Create 5 separate lists: 1) Waste, 2) Works, 3)Needs, 4) Wants, 5) Wishes
3. See if anything from the “Waste” use can be matched up with a Need/Want/Wish
4. Assign costs to all other Need/Want/Wish with the help of experts and consultants
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Expert vs. Consultant
Words of caution:
An expert is a person or company that performs the work. The expert is afraid of not getting the
work for fear of giving you too high a price and losing the job to someone else, but he is also responsible for the
price he is quoting you because he is the one that is committing to provide you the service personally for the
costs he is quoting.
A consultant is a person or company that specifies (designs) the work. The consultant has no
personal liability in giving you a high or low price, but he is afraid of giving you too low a value for fear that you
will go over budget late in the project and blame them. All consultants are also experts in specifying (designing),
so as far as acquiring estimate for the cost of their services, they are experts.
It is hard for a consultant to be up to date on the trends and month-by-month fluctuations in economic costs,
product availability, and timing that affect all facility costs. Even on the most thorough of designs receiving
different prices that range over 25% from one another is not uncommon.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Step #4
PLANNING: To determine in advance the best order of priorities for a number
of items
Make a plan.
Set a goal.
What is a goal?
A dream with a deadline.
Up until now all the steps have been fact finding exercises
Planning now becomes the subjective part of the process
All your items have been identified and assigned a costs
Which ones get top priority?
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Suggestion for completion:
Set facility committee meetings to
prioritize the needs/wants/wishes
in order of value to the school.
Follow the directions.
Hire a consultant to walk the school
decision makers through the exercise
of evaluating the prioritizing all of the
needs/wants/wishes and writing up a
report with the results.
1. Go through the “needs list” and categorize all of them by cost from least to most
2. Take the top two selections and compare them to each other
3. Remembering your school’s mission and each item’s cost, ask the question:
“Which one of these two items is most in alignment with my school’s goals”
4. Take the winning selection and then compare it to the third item on the list the same way
5. Continue down the list comparing the winning item to the next item, until you get to the end
6. Do the same with the 2nd item – one by one down the list – always elevating the winner
7. Remember to consider the costs of each item as well as its alignment with the schools goals when you are
deciding each winner
8. Do the same with the Wants & Wishes lists – placing the first want below the last Need, and the 1st Wish
below the last Want.
9. “Growth Pinch Point” items may jump the list as needed
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
The resulting list will be the school’s needs in order of VALUE to your school’s
• Do not let a small cost item get buried behind a large dream that is years away
• You may discover that some smaller items may be able to become incorporated as
part of a higher priority larger item
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Example #1:
Your in-house team has gone through the first 3 steps in this procedure and came up with these items as
Paint Classrooms & Halls
Tennis courts
Repaving & lighting Parking lot
Dining Hall
$ 30,000.00
$ 80,000.00
$ 200,000.00
$ 1,000,000.00
$ 3,000,000.00
Your board or CFO told you that there was $200,000.00 available to spend on facility improvements.
Do you save it for the new Gym or Dining Hall in the future? (the big things will never happen unless you
save for them…)
Do you spend it all on the parking lot now? (it costs more and more each year to patch it, and it looks bad…)
Do you build the tennis court now and save the rest for the larger projects (the kids would love it, and the
parents would be impressed – and it is a multi-use surface)
Should you paint the classrooms & Hall and save the rest? Maybe also do the tennis court?
Maybe repave only half of the parking lot and do the tennis court and classroom painting?
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Example #2:
You have decided to build or renovate your gym.
Budgeting assessed a $2.5 million price to this a few years ago.
Your board has already completed all the items on the list with a higher priority, and it is the gym’s turn.
You have set a 2 year fundraising deadline.
A consultant(s) is brought in (Lawyer, Architect, Engineer, Contractor, etc.) to work with you on the project. . .
During more detailed discussions with your consultants and communication with other schools that have gone
through the process themselves in the past, you learn that you can spend either $2 million or $3 million on a
gym that would “do the job”. Your fundraising committee tells you that the $2 million gym can be finished in 2
years, but you would have to wait another year to build the $3 million gym.
Also, the $1 million dollar difference could instead be used for that art/music/dance/classroom/administration
wing that is the next priority on the list of achieving your school’s goals.
Which way should you go with the gym?
Would your decision change if all the money could be acquired at the same time?
(There is likely a way to do that with urgency, loans, or other funding resources)
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Example #3:
What is better for the school?
To have more building area with less expensive details, or a smaller area with more expensive
Can you build the larger building area, and after it is open fill in costly details in the coming
years as the money comes in, or as namesake donations are received (hold off on the
$100,000.00 bleachers to help pay for the meeting room and offices you want right away).
Or do you permanently change a design decision (like building size - or wood or rubber for the
gym floor) based upon cost?
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Step #5
EXECUTION: Designing/Building: Getting it done in 3 dimensions
During this step you will select your outside team members. These may include:
Land Use Attorney
Civil Engineers
General Contractor
Interior Designers
Lighting Designer
Sound Engineer
MEP Engineers
Structural Engineers
Furniture Suppliers
IT Companies and etc.
Lessons to Remember:
Do not limit your choices to organizations you have previously worked with
Once hired, do not let one of these new team members get too far ahead of the others
Encourage communication between outside team members and manage this communication
Make sure all team members have passed your team member test
Don’t be afraid to replace a team member if this decision is in alignment with the school’s mission
It takes courage to say NO to what is commonplace so you can find something that is truly exceptional
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Tips for qualifying new outside team members:
Having a team member being local and familiar to the community helps. (Land Use Attorneys,
Engineers, and Surveyors)
Having a team member knowledgeable with the type of project you are undertaking helps.
(Architects, Sub-Contractors, Interior Designers, and Furniture Suppliers)
Having a team member with the experience and professional staff needed to work well with others
and bring everyone together to act as one whole. (General Contractors)
Also remember the level of importance each outside team member is to the process as measured by
the portion of the total costs that you pay them:
0-2% - Attorney, Surveyor, Interior Designer
2-10% - Architect, Furniture Supplier, IT Company
90% - General Contractor
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Things you should do before hiring any outside team members:
Get references and speak with them
Visit jobs they have completed and speak with the owners (or heads of school).
Remember not to fault or praise the contractor for the design, or the designers for the
quality of construction, or the lawyer for either
Visit their offices and meet their key personnel
Go over their proposal and contract in detail
Review all with your school’s attorney
Make sure they pass the team member test we discussed earlier
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Try to hire the “Big Four” outside team members at the same time:
• Land Use Attorney
• Engineer
• Architect
• General Contractor
The involvement of these four professionals early on will ensure no resource is wasted during the
execution stage as the project goes through its feasibility tests. It will also ensure a fast-tracked
and smooth execution after township approvals are received.
The town planning zoning ordinance has to be researched to ensure that your school’s
project is permitted to be built
Engineering analysis of the land’s attributes will contribute heavily to the project’s
location on your property and associated costs
The facility size and layout will affect both of the other legal and engineering issues
A realistic value engineered price estimate will help finalize the decision of the school to
move ahead with the project
Other outside consultants will also be needed, but most of these will be brought on under the
umbrella of one of the main four already selected.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Often hired professionals have some very specific ideas about how a project should proceed. Try
and vet out this information during your selection process:
Lawyers often have a good idea of the probability of success you will have at the town and
how long it will take
Engineers will know a lot about a site just from historical information they have and online searches they do. They often know how they will go about their designs before they
are awarded the contract.
Architects should have done layouts, shared design ideas, and produced some drawings
as part of their proposal to you.
General Contractors should already have shared their experience in costs per square foot
for the type of facility you are considering, as well as shared value engineering ideas they
have used on other projects.
Each of them should be able to give you a firm estimate of the price and time duration it will take
to do their portion of the project before you commit to bringing them onto your team.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Mis-Step Example #1
Too often I see schools go down the road with an architect or engineer and spend much to much money
with them too early in this process. It is common for large sums to be paid for the detailed design of a
facility. Then it gets priced out, and the entire thing gets tabled for years or the town rejects it and it
needs a re-design.
After which the process usually starts all over again with another team.
How can you avoid this cycle?
You need to challenge the need, priority, scope, and costs for every facility change along every step.
Just because one designer’s cost estimate for one design is $3 million for the item they have been
hired to design does not mean that you can’t get the same space for $2 million. Or you might want to
spend $4 million on it. Don’t rely on one idea, price, or design. There are lots of others out there to
consider before you charge ahead, or shelve something.
Design competitions are a good way to see how committed outside organizations are to your school,
it is also a good way of getting differing views on a solution quickly and inexpensively from qualified
It is often a good idea to get your “favorites” together for a casual discussion about the project to see how
they relate to each other, and see if any new ideas come out of it.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Township Approval
After you choose your land use lawyer, civil engineer, and architect you can make application
to the town for a site plan approval if your facility growth priority involves new construction.
Very few detailed drawings are needed by the architect until after town approval is secured.
Only a basic floor plan and elevations are required. However, once town approval is received,
then the footprint and general building image is locked in place, so it is important that your
General Contractor has given you a firm construction estimate so that you know that the
school is financially ready to go ahead with the project.
Once town approval is secured it is time to decide the form of construction you should use
and what your relationship between your architect and contractor will be.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Forms of Construction:
• Low Bid General Contractor (GC)
• Invitation only Low Bid GC
• Negotiated GC
• Design/Build (D/B)
• Construction Manager (CM) to GC
• CM directly to Subcontractors
• Owner’s Rep. directly to Subcontractors
• Developer (when a lease is involved)
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Low Bid GC & Invitation Only Low Bid GC
This is when an architect and engineer prepare full bid documents and specifications that go out
to the public market place (or invited bidders only). This is the format our government uses for all
public projects.
• This method allows your
school to get apples to apples
bids on a single design
• The owner should know
exactly what the facility’s
specs are before prices come
• Pay and wait for full set of design documents
as well as allowing for bidding time to get
project cost
• Forces owner to a single design
• Creates an adversarial relationship between
designers and winning GC
• Public bid documents are expensive and
time consuming to produce due to volumes
and volumes of information given to protect
GC’s from litigation and change orders
• Designer’s professional goals are not aligned
with the goals of your school
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Negotiated GC
This is when a GC is selected to join your team early in the process, before the design drawings are
• Enables your school to know the costs of all
your design decisions while they are being
• Allows your school to have more than one
professional opinion (“value engineering”)
• Enables your school to change the scope of
the project as costs are learned
• Ensures time and expense of final design is
not wasted
• Fast-tracks process by allowing bidding and
document development to overlap
• Ensures cooperation between designers and
• It is impossible to have a true apples to
apples cost comparison
• Your school is at the mercy of the GC for
pricing any future detail
• Some design element decisions that are
left in the school’s hands if the designer
and GC disagree on some details
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Design/Build (D/B)
Design/Build is when the design and the general contractor join up to present the school with a single
team in charge of the design and construction of a facility. A D/B team may be a single company or it
could be a combination of separate companies.
• Offers all Pro’s of Negotiated GC
• Presents school with pre-formed team
• Enables owner to know exactly what design choices
cost – in real time
• Avoids time delays when two separate
organizations are involved
• Minimizes soft costs on design work
• Little to no expense wasted on design documents
• Cooperative relationship between designer and
• Almost always results in a shorter project duration
with less money wasted
• D/B team’s goals are perfectly aligned with your
school’s goals
• Does not allow for exact apples to apples
competitive bidding between competing D/B
• Eliminates a layer of 3rd party oversight
• “Value Engineering” options offered all come
from the same organization
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
CM Directly to Subs
During this format a construction manager is hired as in the example before, but in this case a GC is not
hired. Instead the CM also acts as a GC and hires the subs directly.
• “CM directly to Subs” offers all of the Pros
of a CM to GC arrangement
• The school saves the expense of a GC
• There is not any firm fixed price
involved with this job. You will not
know the costs until the end
• The CM’s costs will likely be more
under this arrangement
• Like the other CM arrangement this is
more practicable for the larger multiphased projects.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Owner’s Rep directly to Subs
This is the format you are currently using for small projects. Your facility team hires subs directly to
work on various things on your campus. In a slightly more formal version, your school would hire an
individual directly to work specifically on one project as an employee or “Owner’s Rep”
• Works well on low expense simple projects with
only a few subcontractors
• Lower cost than other solutions
• Best if this individual also hires the design team
• Minimizes time required by other school staff
• High complexity jobs may reach a choke point
with only one individual running the entire
• All Sub’s checks need to be written individually
by the schools finance department which could
create a paperwork burden
• There is little recourse if things go poorly on the
• There is no guaranteed fixed price
• The longer the project lasts, the longer the
Owner’s Rep is employed
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Construction Manager (CM) to GC
CM to GC is when your school decides to hire a construction manager to manage this entire last step for
your school. This can incorporate the selection of the designers as well as the GC. Usually a CM works
under a contract with the school that includes a fee that is a set percentage and also a fixed monthly
expense that may vary depending on the stage of the project you are in. This arrangement is limited to
large multi-phase projects which may involve different designers and GC’s for different portions of the
• Allows school to have
independent 3rd party team
member to overlook all
phases of a project
• Minimize required
involvement of in-house team
• The longer and more costly a project is, the
better it is for the CM
• The expense of a CM is on top of all the other
costs of a project
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Developer (when a lease is involved)
This arrangement is only engaged when your school wishes to lease a facility from the developer that is
building the facility for you. A lease rate and term would be agreed on based upon a facility’s size and
finishes agreed upon. This option may come into play if you have an off-campus facility or if you wish to
minimize the school’s capital investment in real estate.
This is a very specialized circumstance, please come see me if you are presented with this as an option.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Financing Options
There are also a variety of financial arrangements that can be used:
Cost Plus
Fixed Fee
Lump Sum
Developer – build to suit to lease
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Insurance Needs
There are different levels of insurances you need to request and decide upon
Owner’s risk (inexpensive when the owner buys it – and worth it)
General Liability (for all 3rd parties involved)
Professional Errors and Omissions insurance for consultants
Construction Bond (costs 1 ½% - 3% of a job’s total and only kicks in if the builder is
basically bankrupt)
Operations daily insurance (some is included with owner’s insurance – additional is
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Ideas to consider:
Bring the culture of the school into the facility growth process.
Tours or studies on things they can see during the construction – math, science, geography
(where materials come from), history (how long have they been doing it like this)
Include student design or art in the finished product, or in it’s development.
Student design competition for the project, or art, etc.
LEED facilities
Solar panels as a ethically responsible way of generating a 5-7%
return on your investment.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
The more specific you question, the more specific the answers you get.
If you ask a general question in passing: “How are you doing” you get a general
answer: “Fine”
But if you ask a specific question: “How is your family making out during this bad flu
season?” You are likely to get a more specific answer: “Ok, after my daughter got
really sick around Thanksgiving we all went and got flu shots and since then we
have been fine.”
People are also amazingly adaptable and resilient. I have spoken to teachers
working in basement classrooms about how they like their space – they love it, it’s
fine, no problem.
You need to push for reality. “What are all those blankets in the corner?” Oh, the
kids wear them whenever it gets below freezing outside. “Don’t you have any
heat?” Oh of course we do, but that one radiator hasn’t worked in years.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Clayton Christensen who wrote “The Innovator’s Dilemma” said “Questions are places in your
mind where answers fit – If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It
hits your mind and bounces right off.”
In the case where you are depending upon others to come up with answers – Their answers are
only as good as the questions they ask, or are asked. Your school staff knows better than
anyone what the issues are. But often they are so use to doing the best with the existing
conditions it is hard for them to imagine anything really different. You really need to question
deeply, challenge thoroughly, and push them it imagine a better way.
You need to keep challenging others to come up with better and better solutions to your needs.
People will rarely give you more than you ask for. Whether
it is more money, more details, more time, or more effort.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
General questions usually receive general answers.
If you ask a department head “How are your classrooms?”
You may receive a “They are fine”
But if you ask instead
“Do your classrooms need painting?”
“How are the chairs?”
“Do you have enough computer outlets and printers?”
“Is the HVAC keeping each classroom comfortable?”
It is likely that the classrooms are not all “fine”. Hopefully, the dept. head will also
realize that they may not know all the answers to your questions, and want to ask each
teacher about things also…
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
You may ask for an energy efficient building. This is an extremely general request.
There are a hundred ways to make a building energy efficient. Solar panels, radiant heat, automatic doors,
toilets, lights, geothermal HVAC, windows (sizes, numbers, locations), floor covering, LEED, and building
layout are all ideas that just start scratching the surface of energy efficiency in a building.
If you accept the first answer/design/solution/opinion presented to you with its associated cost and
energy usage, then you will never know how much money you can save by using slightly less efficient
methods, or how just slightly more money spent can save you a huge amount of ongoing energy expenses in
the future or even generate income for your school (solar panels – yes, even for a 501c3 organization).
Your in-house team may ask for a large foyer and a large meeting room. Your designer may come back
with a beautiful design with a large high ceiling space entry foyer, with another large meeting room just
off of it. Everyone loves the design. And if no one asks the question – Can we have both spaces for less cost?
You never know. But if the question is asked, then maybe the designer will return with one room on top of
the other, and use only 50% of the roof area, or they may come back with one room that can serve both
purposes at once with a second side entrance to use when a meeting is going on – and save 50% of the floor
area needed.
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
Usually my clients end up building the 10th or 15th version of a design. A am afraid that people settle on
the 2nd or 3rd version too often, and never get to find out how the school could have benefited by having
the design challenged more, and looked at from other points of view. Often I set up independent teams
within our office to develop designs individually and present them at an in-house review by my entire staff.
How can your school ensure that you are getting the best conclusion after a number to different
approaches? Offer out a design competition to potential team members. This will give you multiple
different insights about how a solution may be approached. You may choose to pay for this service, or as
payment, award the design contract to the winning team. This will also give you insight about which
organization is interested in your project, and which one will become a good team member for your
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
With facility needs sometimes it is better to think inside the box…
Can you get that extra classroom by taking some space from your current dining hall?
How? By going to a 3rd lunch period, thereby reducing the number of students eating at
one time, thereby reducing the size of the dining hall. You will also be benefiting from a
quieter, more intimate, and more easily managed eating environment.
Are your existing classrooms sized according to the class size you have at your school, or
are some of them leftovers from another era?
We all love the idea of new things. They look nice, smell nice, impress others, and are fun
to dream about. But often “new” can be achieved without adding any new space.
Sometimes all it takes is moving a few walls, fresh paint, flooring, and window
treatments to transform a space into your “new” department. This may turn out to
produce a more cost effective and quicker solution than the “build it from scratch”
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
And sometimes it is better to just think a little harder and come up with a unique
Can you provide more “gym” space on most days by building an outdoor fenced
tennis court area? Or can you use areas of the parking lot that is only used during
drop off and pick up times?
Can you use specialized spaces (like a stage) for daily activities (like a classroom)
with small changes like installing a rigid folding door instead of its open curtain?
Can your dining hall be used for other activities in the mornings or afternoons?
How about that visual arts class you wanted or the music room? Lunch midday,
library before and after?
An Independent School’s Guide
to Facility Growth
As proud as I am about the ability of my staff to troubleshoot problems and come up with creative solutions
to issues that our clients have, I have to admit that the most stubborn of our clients get the best solutions.
They are always questioning us, pushing us, and challenging us to come up with another idea that will
better suit their needs (faster, better, cheaper, etc.)
This is common for all creative organizations. If our client is happy with the first version then everyone
appears to win. We have impressed them the first time around with our great solution. We have minimized
the time it has taken our company come up with it, and therefore maximized our profits. On the surface it is
all perfect.
Nothing should ever be accepted or approved on the first go around, but very often it is, with only minor
changes made afterwards.
I believe that although everyone is happy with the result, the result in this case is not even close to being the
best solution to the problem. You need to really challenge yourself, your professionals, and all your team
members to keep searching for the ideal solution. And finally, after time, trials, tons or trace, sweat and
thought, a magically simple, economical, beautiful solution will rise to the surface. And everyone will know
it is perfect. Immediately.
Too good to be true – you ask? Maybe.
But it is our goal. Your dream with a deadline.