Capital Projects & Facilities
Frequently asked questions: Cost of schools' construction
What amount did voters approve in the 2016 bond measure?
A: In 2016, voters approved an $81.2 million bond measure that included $39 million towards replacing Blakely Elementary, $30 million towards replacing the Bainbridge High School 100 Building and $12.2 million towards district-wide repairs & renovations.
What is the estimated cost to rebuild Blakely?
A: Estimates fluctuate throughout the design process. At schematic design, the School Board approved maximum construction cost of $43,098,378 with $2,574,049 identified for contingency during construction.
Does this mean Blakely is over budget?
A: Blakely is not significantly over the Master Plan cost estimate. When voters were asked to approve the 2016 bond, we knew it would cost more than $39M to rebuild Blakely. At the time, it was projected Blakely would cost approximately $45M. We chose to ask for only $39M because other resources were identified that could contribute to the project.
Why didn’t you ask the voters for the full amount to rebuild Blakely?
A: We did not want to overcharge our taxpayers when we believed we had other money available. The district planned to use money from the following sources:
- Unspent Blakely essential renovations dollars: For example, the Blakely roof replacement was postponed with patch and repair in anticipation of a complete building replacement.
- Class size reduction grant: OSPI estimated that the district would receive $1.26M for additional classrooms. Due to the enormity of responses, OSPI was unable to fill all of the grant requests, including BISD’s.
- Anticipated interest earnings: Interest is earned on unspent capital fund balances.
- Balance from 2009 projects: Implementing cost-saving measures such as prudent project management and accessing in-house staff in lieu of hiring outside consultants.
How were the costs estimated at the time of the election?
A: The district worked with a professional cost estimating firm, The Robinson Company, who considers many factors when projecting costs such as escalation (fuel, energy, supplies) current market conditions (material and supply availability, labor, which are difficult to predict far in advance), district construction standards, site conditions and recent and projected bond passage or requests.
What is causing such high escalation?
A: Competition for materials and skilled laborers continue to significantly impact construction costs. Overall market costs in the Seattle area are currently outpacing national trends. Recent articles in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce reported “disappointing” school bid results, with sub-contractor availability particularly challenging. The article continued to say, “General contractors and cost estimating firms continue to be surprised by the rate of cost increase in the past few months.”
Additionally, a recent article (May 19, 2017) in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce cited a new survey from Turner & Townsend which ranks Seattle as the sixth most expensive place to build in the world. This directly correlates to rising expenses for BISD, as the materials and skilled laborers needed for BISD school projects come from the Seattle market
Due to escalation, how much more does the district anticipate the capital projects will cost?
A: Market conditions are very unpredictable, current estimates suggest original estimates could change between 10%-20% or more.
Why doesn’t the district put the projects on hold and wait for the construction industry to slow down?
A: This could be one strategy, but it comes with a cost. Given the current condition of Blakely and the BHS 100 building, the district would need to invest capital dollars into postponing, patching and repairing many areas, including roof replacement and infrastructure (fire, electrical, structural) improvements. Initial estimates for both buildings including escalation could cost as much as $20M, and the buildings would still need to eventually be replaced.
Additionally, due to increases in population in the greater-Seattle area and aging buildings, school districts have passed $5 billion in school bonds in recent years with billions more coming to voters over the next few years. It is unlikely that the market will soften anytime in the near future. Postponing new construction, with repairs to old buildings, does not improve educational spaces nor support 21st Century Learning.
Why doesn’t the district scale-back the construction projects?
A: Throughout the entire design process the team has focused on opportunities for value engineering (cost reductions).
The district elected early in the Blakely replacement project to gain approval from the state to use an alternative construction delivery method called general contractor/construction management (GC/CM). This method allows the contractor to work alongside the district and architect to use cost effective designs, materials and minimize site costs.
The district is committed to building 50+ year schools that have a high-degree of energy efficiency and ease of maintenance. The district’s buildings are designed to meet 21st Century Learning environments while maximizing flexibility. As educational programs evolve, our buildings need to support change and provide the ability to address future growth. Read more about BISD's Educational Design & Construction Standards here.
If this is a regional issue, how are other school districts handling the escalating expenses?
A: In normal circumstances, a district can direct the architect or contractor to develop a variety of cost-saving measures. Some examples that help meet a project’s budget may include modifications to the building design, reduction in energy efficiencies, minimizing building materials, reducing building square footage. Further, a district can phase portions of a project.
However, we are currently experiencing anything but normal circumstances in the Puget Sound construction market. Many districts in the area, most of which are considerably larger than BISD, are able to reallocate funds from one project to fully-fund another. The unbuilt projects will be placed before the voters on future bond requests.
What guidelines were given to the architects for the Blakely replacement project?
A: At the beginning of every project, the district provides construction and educational standards for the architects. Additionally, educational specifications are developed in partnership with teachers, staff and community representatives. The Blakely building will have classrooms and shared learning spaces to accommodate 450 students and associated staff. Support spaces also include: elementary-sized gymnasium; cafeteria/commons; and administration offices. In addition to grade-level classrooms, space is provided for:
Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM)
Integrated Learning Center (ILC)
Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy (OT/PT)
Blakely will be occupied during construction. After the new building is completed the old building will be demolished. In its place, playgrounds and playfields will be completed. The entire site of 12 acres will be fully-developed and will include stormwater management improvements (Low Impact Development/LID) as adopted by City of Bainbridge Island in December, 2016. The designs ensure only clean water leaves the site.
What are things in the district’s control, what are things out of its control?
A: Out of its control: Market conditions and over-commitment (labor shortages, low material inventory and available subcontractors), government-imposed regulations and codes; soil conditions; and weather.
Within its control: Educational program square footage; design process; architect and consultant selection; construction delivery method, (I.E. design-bid-build or GC/CM,) overall design and material selection; and schedule to some degree.
For Blakely, has the project been scaled back?
A: As with any project, the design develops over time. The entire team is continually focused on cost reductions.
A few examples of cost reducing efforts that have already been implemented, include: reduction in building square footage; changes to the original location of where the building was located on the site to minimize retaining walls and the cost of importing and exporting of soil; building finishes have been minimized ; in-floor radiant heat systems have been eliminated; roofing materials have been changed; windows have been reduced; minimized site disturbance and landscaping strategies have been employed.