Welcome to the second installment of out Capital Programs 101 series. If you’re just joining us and would like to catch up by reading part one, click here.
During the entire Design Phase, a process of continual review and consultation must occur among team members on all issues. As the design process proceeds from schematic through final design, the team must be conscious of the need to consider the issues critical to each phase, moving from fundamental and general decisions to details as design progresses. This may be accomplished through periodic constructability reviews by the CM.
Accurate cost estimating can save more than money. It ensures the reputation of the school district. It’s prudent to update and revise estimated costs, and your project budget, at key stages of project development:
Comprehensive Facilities Planning Stage
During this stage, survey each building to determine renovation and modification needs and costs, and list alternative solutions. For new buildings, estimate price per square foot on the basis of enrollment capacity (for existing buildings, use actual square footage). More elaborate estimates at this early stage are counterproductive. If too much is vested in a particular solution prematurely, it’s difficult to make fair comparisons among alternatives. It’s at this point that you’ll likely find that your needs exceed your ability to fund – you’ll have to prioritize so the most important stuff will get done.
Cost estimating for renovations requires more itemizing, listing the building’s defects, and listing what it will cost to repair them. There is no unbiased way to set priorities unless all major costs are estimated for all schools in the facilities plan. When the cost estimates for renovations are compared to the benefits, you can make informed decisions about repair or replacement. Because of hidden conditions behind the walls, renovation costs are commonly underestimated, so make sure that you include an adequate contingency amount in your cost estimate.
After you decide what you’re going to do, get more details to refine the project cost before developing the scope of work for the design contract. For example, potential school sites require an environmental analysis, which might raise cost issues such as removing hazardous materials or installing special drainage. The environmental analysis can reveal whether the site work will increase expenses because of necessary environmental or toxic substance remediation.
Project Design Phase
After the facilities plan for the school district is completed and financing is arranged for top priority projects, it’s time to do cost estimating for each project. If the district-wide plan calls for a new elementary school with 30 classrooms and you generalized costs per square foot, this must now be refined. Your construction budget should be broken into specific building components such as classrooms, media center, office, custodial, food service, toilets, and specific mechanical systems in the design, using applicable unit costs and actual quantities for each category. Putting all these pieces together gives a more accurate preliminary estimate than using gross cost per square foot and unit costs.