I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Why We Should Site Adapt our New Construction Projects

Rendering of recently completed Ernest Ward Middle School, designed by Sam Marshall Architects, built by Greenhut Construction Company.  Sam Marshall Architects were not/will not be utilized for designing Escambia County's newest proposed middle school to be built in Beulah.  The four short-listed firms are Bullock-Tice, DAG, Quina Grundhoefer, and STOA.
While I am in disagreement with parts of the plan that has been put forth to address over-crowding in  Beulah near the Navy Federal Credit Union expansion, and I have made my significant  disagreements known both online , directly to district facilities staff, and at recent meetings, there is one facet to construction that we should all universally want and upon which we all should agree---keeping costs as low as possible must be a priority!

We're about to spend as much as $75Million dollars on construction--and we have to get this right!

One way to do this is to re-think the way we build.  

Why do we need a brand new design for every new school we build?  

What is the purpose?-- because designing every new school we contemplate building adds 6-9% to the overall project's costs.

It is for this reason we should Site-Adapt an existing design for our soon to be built schools.  

Take a school we have already paid to design and build, and use the same design and site adapt the exact design for the plot of land upon which such a school will be built, taking into account the physical characteristics of the land--slope, terrain, wetlands, existing underground utilities, road frontages, etc, etc.

It does not even need to be a design we have paid for or built.  We can find a school in a 100 or so mile radius that is exceptionally well built, tour the constructed facility, speak to the users, then contact the architect of the one we like best.  Next, we hire them to reproduce their design for us, site adapted, for our parcel.

--Doing this allows for a better, time tested facility  ( after being built the first time, all kinks will be known, can be ironed-out and addressed/corrected for new location)
--Design costs can easily be reduced by as much as 70%---leaving more money for other facilities 

requirements district-wide!
--Construction timelines can be cut in half.
--Construction costs can be contained because pitfalls from the initial construction of the first iteration of the design can be avoided/mitigated.

This is how we ought to be doing this new construction; there is absolutely no justification for commissioning brand new designs for soon to be constructed school-houses.  

Architects may disagree, but of course they would.  They would much rather be paid the full percentage of the building's budget to design something.  

But we ought to be about the business of maximizing value for students and taxpayers, not being an enrichment device for architect firms.  We're building school-houses, not rocket ships.  We know the requirements, great designs are already out there.

We should site adapt existing, time tested designs to maximize efficiency and savings!

This is just one of the points I will be making/raising at the upcoming special meeting on July 20th to more intelligently address our facilities needs.


Anonymous said...

This is unrelated to this post, but since I can't find a link simply to email a question to you, I'm going to go ahead and ask my question here. Some scores have been released and Warrington Middle is at the bottom (FCAT Science and Civics EOC). What happened? District hired new admin (bumping them several steps to get them there) and paid how many hundreds of thousands for a "one year turnaround" company? Didn't the new Principal just recently give a presentation to the Board about how much better they expected their scores to be? It ain't looking good...

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous--believe it or not your comment is not completely off-topic. Many of Warrington Middle School's former students now attend Jim Bailey Middle School, which is now significantly over-capacity. There is not currently a plan to fix this being formally presented to the board, which is a travesty because Bailey has been over-crowded for a decade. The Superintendents alluded to a potential reason for this in our last workshop when I asked about why Bailey's long-running problem was not being addressed in any of the planned $75Million building projects. At one point in the meeting, he mentioned that "If we get Warrington where it needs to be then many that are attending other schools will come back" --or something very similar, I'm paraphrasing here. I caught that, and so now it makes sense why Bailey's needs are not addressed---however this is the wrong way to proceed. Leaving Warrington MS 54% utilized while Bailey is 108% of capacity "hoping fixing Warrington will alleviate Bailey's overcrowding" is wishful thinking. So back to Warrington. Of course we know the principal got 3 steps to move from Ferry Pass to Warrington--and I like Dr. Lipnick and think highly of her--so I hope she can turn this school around. If you watch the video of that discussion about funding year two of the one year school turnaround, you will see I voted against year "2" of the "One Year Turnaround Solution" because the rosy presentation to the board alluded to the fact that things are indeed looking up at Warrington MS but I've been told there are still significant academic and discipline issues at that school. Obviously, with the release of the limited information on EOC tests, we see Warrington is not doing so well after all, and it is interesting they wanted a vote on another year of these consultants before the test data were released. I voted NO. It was a 4-1 vote so we are now officially in year 2 of the one year turnaround at Warrington, after 6 years of increased spending, facilities improvements, extra staff, extra resources, etc. etc. At some point this school has to perform without an artificially inflated staff and inordinate levels of resources that are being provided; put simply-we can't keep hanging on to the notion that we just need to keep on spending at Warrington---they are down to only 650 kids in a facility that has been renovated at a cost of $millions of dollars and is designed for 1200. Something has to give.