School’s Out for Summer

By Steven A. Watchorn, Assoc. A.I.A., LEED AP BD+C

Most public schools begin their summer recess the final week of June, and the race will be on to complete renovation and repair projects at many schools around the State.  This year, many school districts have had to add school days in June to make up for the additional snow days they used this past winter.  That will leave approximately 60 calendar days, but only about 35 business days (taking into account weekends and Holidays) for schools to complete their
 projects in advance of teachers returning in August for the 2013-2014 academic year.  Since many schools offer summer activities, particular attention to phasing the project to accommodate occupied areas will also have to be addressed.

This makes for an aggressive construction schedule which cycles around this time every year, but Architects and Engineers face this particular obstacle even before the current projects are completed and the children are returning to school.  The race will be on in early September for the A-E industry to complete their designs in advance for final review and coordination of meetings, as well as the bidding schedule, which can take up to a month or more.  Depending on the type and size of the project, most summer construction projects should be under Contract by March so that the Contractors have sufficient time to verify existing conditions and quantities, submit shop drawings to the Architect, create mock-ups, and order materials. 

A successful school renovation project is one that finishes on-schedule, and therefore is directly impacted by early programming and planning by the school district and the design team.  A realistic design and construction schedule should be completely ironed out from the beginning.  Construction estimates should also be finalized around this time to prevent scheduling impacts associated with design changes.  This means that schools considering renovations or repairs for next summer must begin negotiations with a design professional at least one year in advance (or well before that for larger addition/renovation projects).  School districts should consult with design professionals who are familiar with this unique challenge as soon as they begin considering their next project.  Delays early on can cost a school district an entire year of agony waiting for their next project to begin.