Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pennsylvania School Construction Buzz

We are getting closer to making the decision on the high school project. I have posted here recently about future discussion and community meetings. One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my sources of information with readers. Besides listening to folks and getting an idea about how much each possible decision will cost an individual taxpayer (which I have broken down and will post when we have actual numbers), it is important to understand data that is out there that can help in the decision making process.

Today I will point out two sources of information, each from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and I encourage you to read them. They both contain very important information about costs, community involvement, decision making processes, and even PlanCon reimbursement guidelines.

The first source is called "Renovate or Replace? The case for restoring and reusing older school building". This publication was produced by the PDE, Pennsylvania School Boards Associations, Pennsylvania Historic Schools Task Force, and The American Institute of Architects. It includes sections on older school renovations, lifecycle planning and much more. An emailer had pointed out this document to me because it includes an entire chapter titled, "Mount Lebanon Achieves Academic Excellence, Retains Character with Renovated Neighborhood Schools." Even though it is 32 pages, it's a pretty quick read with a ton of examples of restored buildings.

The second source I want to point out is a study of renovations versus new construction costs that has been completed by The Pennsylvania Department of Edcation. This document is simply a list of completed school construction projects from 2003-2006. You can view the document here. The conclusion of this document is that new construction has on average cost $212.99 per square foot for the years in the study. Renovation has on average cost $114.16 per square foot for the same time period. Again, this study was based on PDE's own statistics.

I also have one final note. There has been talk in the community about obtaining a LEED certification for the high school project. As I understand it, a LEED certification can be gained for either new construction or for major renovation. The LEED for Schools 2007 Checklist can be found here. At the top of the page is a table that shows how many points you need to reach in order to obtain different levels of LEED certification. There are a lot of points to be gained under the Material and Resources section that have to do with re-use of building and waste management. There is a lot I don't understand about the form including the section on Optimize Energy Performance where you can gain up to 10 points towards your certification. I'll keep researching and let you know what I find. I don't know yet if LEED certification is the direction we should go but the option at least needs to be on the table for discussion.