Here is a chronological order of how school buildings are often built:
o An architect is hired or already retained by the school district to draw up plans for a building project based on the district wishes.
o A cost estimate is formulated.
o Money to build is made available be it by a bond issue, private, or grant monies.
o The architect brings the plans to a school board meeting for approval.
o The school board approves the plans and authorizes the architect to receive bids for the next monthly meeting.
o At the following monthly board meeting the low bid is approved and ground breaking is announced.
o The building is built.
o The staff has to move in and deal with the building 'as built'.
Sound familiar? Is there anything wrong with this picture? In most board meetings when the architect brings the plans and specifications for review, they are often approved without anyone ever rolling the rubber band off of the blue prints and looking at them in detail. One of the biggest mistakes that educators and school boards make when proceeding with building or remodeling a school is to blindly trust the architectural firm that they have employed to build a building that will fit all of their needs.
Most architects are excellent but there are a few things to remember about a lot of architects. First, they are in business to make money. That's the reason everyone is in business, right? Secondly, architects are in the business of making everything pleasing to the eye, making sure everything flows correctly, or leaving their design or 'mark' on what they build. This sometimes leads to a lot of wasted space in a building or designing things that do not work well for the flow of the educational process. Thirdly, the architects sometimes in the middle of a project will charge the school district extra for additions to the building that they omitted from the plans. The subcontractors are notorious for this but that will be left for another article.
So how does one save money before the construction even begins? The answer lays in scrutinizing and making changes to all of the plans and specifications before they are approved by the school board and before the project goes out for bid. Many construction experts would tell us, and I'm sure from past experience many of the readers would agree, that a typical construction project will experience somewhere between an 8% -15% increase in cost due to change orders over and above the original contract bid. With proper attention to details almost all of the change orders can be eliminated.