Healthy Progress

Increased awareness of the need for new and improved education facilities, combined with a favorable political and economic environment, resulted in a record amount of construction put in place in 1998 by the nation's schools and universities. According to American School & University's 25th annual Official Education Construction Report, spending topped $24 billion last year, and activity is projected to remain vibrant through at least 2001.

Sparked by a sharp rise in construction by school districts, total spending on new facilities, modernization and retrofit, and additions to existing buildings by educational institutions jumped 23 percent to $24.42 billion in 1998 from a previous record high of $19.92 billion in 1997. Over the next three years, the nation's schools and universities project a whopping $70.81 billion will be spent on construction.

As the bellwether report documenting education construction activity for the past 25 years, the AS&U survey is regularly referenced by local, state and federal agencies, as well as the nation's leading news organizations. AS&U actually started compiling data on school and university construction in 1950 for the 1949 year. After a decade or so of yearly surveys, data began being compiled sporadically until industry demand prompted AS&U to start collecting data annually again. The annual reports resurfaced in 1975 with information on education construction completed in 1974, and data has been collected and published every year since.

Where the spending occurred A frenzy of spending by school districts in all areas of construction made up most of the expenditures in 1998. K-12 construction spending skyrocketed 38 percent in 1998 to $17.09 billion, compared to a previous high $12.39 billion the year before. New school construction increased 29 percent in 1998 to $7.89 billion, while the amount spent on modernizing and adding to existing buildings rose an impressive 46 percent. This is the third year of strong K-12 construction activity, reversing a downward trend in construction spending completed in 1994 and 1995. Rapid population growth, deteriorating buildings, incorporation of technology, and new and evolving program demands all are cited as reasons for the robust activity.

Modernization of and additions to existing school facilities represented 54 percent of theK-12 construction dollars spent in 1998. Districts overall have an easier time securing funding for modernization, retrofit and additions than for totally new construction, which typically is much more expensive.

While school districts posted significant gains in the amount of construction completed, colleges and universities spent less in 1998 than in the prior year. A total of $7.33 billion worth of 2-year- and 4-year-college construction was put in place in 1998, a 3 percent drop from the $7.53 billion spent in 1997.

Spending on new college construction and modernization of existing buildings dropped last year, but spending on additions to existing facilities rose sharply. However, as has always been the case with colleges and universities, the lion's share of dollars is spent on new construction.

Arriving at the figures In compiling the 25th annual Official Education Construction Report, a detailed questionnaire was mailed in December 1998 to chief business officers at the nation's school districts and colleges. The questionnaire basically asked two questions:

-Did you complete any construction during the past year?

-Will you complete any construction in the next three years?

Those administrators answering "yes" to either question were then asked to provide a variety of details on the amount being spent, the type of construction being done (new, addition or modernization), and the expected completion date. All respondents involved with new and retrofit construction were asked to provide additional information on each project. Responses were separated by institution type, region of the country and institution size, and projected across the education universe.

Understanding the data Table 1 details the basic findings of this year's construction report. Total construction completed by the nation's schools and universities topped $24.42 billion in 1998. Slightly more than 50 percent ($12.33 billion) was spent on additions to and modernization of existing facilities. This is a deviation from past activity, where new construction made up the larger share of all education construction. Educational institutions spent close to $6.16 billion on additions and virtually the same ($6.17 billion) on modernizations. Approximately $12.1 billion was spent on totally new construction.

As discussed earlier, school districts were responsible for the most significant portion of total education construction spending, putting in place more than twice the amount as higher-education institutions. Of the roughly $17.1 billion of school construction completed in 1998, 46 percent ($7.89 billion) was for new facilities, 30 percent ($5.14 billion) for additions to existing buildings and 24 percent ($4.06 billion) for modernizations.

Colleges and universities put in place $7.33 billion worth of construction in 1998, a slight decrease from the year before. New buildings accounted for 57 percent ($4.20 billion) of the construction dollars, while the remainder was spent on modernizations (29 percent or $2.11 billion) and additions to existing buildings (14 percent or $1.02 billion).

A preview of what's to come The future of education construction looks bright. Administrators are optimistic about their potential to complete some much needed work, projecting $70.81 billion worth of projects over the next three years. Table 2 details the amount and type of construction projected to be put in place through 2001, and breaks down data by type of institution and type of spending. Future construction activity is expected to grow by 12 percent over estimates made by administrators in last year's survey.

School districts project to put in place $46.44 billion worth of construction over the next three years. Approximately 47 percent of the money will be for new construction, 27 percent for additions to existing buildings and 26 percent for modernizations.

After making some pretty conservative estimates last year of future construction activity, colleges and universities are projecting a healthy dose of new, addition and retrofit construction through 2001. More than $24.37 billion is estimated to be spent over the next three years, with new construction outspending additions and modernizations by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Higher-education institutions project spending $16.96 billion on totally new construction, $5.09 billion on modernization projects and $2.32 billion on additions.

A decade of construction activity is documented in Table 3, which looks at the amount and type of education construction completed by institution type. It is interesting to note that total education construction has posted three consecutive years of record increases after five successive years of level spending.

Regional activity A breakdown of where construction is taking place across the nation can be found in Table 4, which reports expenditures in each of the nation's 10 regions (refer to map on page 43). The table is categorized by school districts, colleges and universities, and all education.

Three regions put in place approximately 54 percent of all education construction in 1998: Regions 5 (Great Lakes states), 6 (South Central) and 4 (South East). These same three regions did approximately 55 percent of all school construction in 1998. Add the amount of construction completed by Region 9 (South West) to the above, and two-thirds of all activity is concentrated in just four regions. Rapid school-age population growth, class-size-reduction programs, and buildings in dire need of repair and upgrade are the principal reasons cited for the robust activity.

On the college front, Regions 5, 2 (New York and New Jersey) and 4 completed 56 percent of all higher-education construction in 1998. Region 9, which typically posts large college-construction numbers, did not even make the top five in dollars spent.

As has been the case for a number of years, Region 5 was the single most active constructing region, putting in place $6.05 billion worth of education facilities. The second most active region was Region 6, which spent $3.75 billion, followed by Region 4, which put in place $3.36 billion worth of construction.

Table 5 outlines construction by region of the country, type of spending, and percentage of dollars spent on new facilities and additions/modernizations. A majority of regions spent more of their construction dollars on adding to and modernizing existing buildings. Only four regions (4, 5, 6 and 9) allocated more than half of their construction dollars to totally new buildings.

Spending is further defined in Table 6, which highlights how K-12 construction dollars were split in 1998, breaking out regional spending as well as the percentage of dollars allocated to new, addition and modernization projects. School districts in only three regions (4, 6 and 9) spent more than 50 percent of their construction dollars on new facilities. Additions to and modernization of existing buildings were the predominant forms of construction in every other region.

Table 7 details how the college and university construction dollars were spent, breaking out regional spending, as well as the percentage of dollars allocated to new, addition and modernization projects. Unlike their school-district counterparts, higher-education institutions target a larger percentage of their expenditures to totally new facilities. Seven of 10 regions spent more than 50 percent of their construction dollars on new buildings. Only regions 2, 4 and 9 did more additions and modernizations than new construction in 1998.

Future construction Projected spending on construction over the next three years by school districts and colleges is detailed in Table 8. The table examines construction by region through 2001, and is broken down by region and by type of institution. Region 5 is projected to complete the most education construction through the beginning of the new millennium-approximately $19.69 billion is expected to be spent.

Following Region 5 is Region 6, which is projected to spend $9.61 billion on construction and Region 9, which will have expenditures approaching $7.59 billion. These three regions will represent 52 percent of all education construction to be completed over the next three years.

Table 9 highlights how the school construction dollars are projected to be split through 2001. The same three regions (5, 6 and 9) that will be doing the majority of all education construction also are expected to do the bulk of all school construction (57 percent). While six regions project they will spend more than half of their dollars on new construction, new construction will account for only 46 percent of the money spent on all K-12 facilities through 2001.

How the college and university construction dollars will be split over the next three years is detailed in Table 10. Regions 4, 5 and 6 will be doing the majority of higher-education construction (approximately 50 percent). Every region of the country, except Region 8, will be spending the majority of its dollars on new construction.

It is interesting to note that school and university administrators historically have underprojected the amount of construction expected to be completed in future years, often by double-digit percentages.

Detailing cost data A variety of cost data and facility features are documented in Table 11. Among the findings of the "How much does a new school cost?" and "How the dollars are spent" tables:

-The median new public elementary school is constructed for 600 pupils, provides 105 square feet per student, costs $114.29 per square foot for a total price of $7.6 million. At an average size of 71,000 square feet, it contains 30 classrooms.

-The median new public middle school is built for 788 students, provides 143 square feet per pupil, and costs $118.81 per square foot for a total cost of $12.7 million. With 40 classrooms, the average size of the typical middle school is 113,750 square feet.

-A typical public high school built in 1998 accommodates 950 students, provides 167 square feet per pupil, and costs $123.08 per square foot for a total price of $20.7 million. The average size of the median high school is 160,000 square feet with 57 classrooms.

For those wanting a regional picture of the data supplied in Table 11, turn to p.52. Detailed cost and related information is provided by region for new elementary, middle and high schools.

It cost the most to build an elementary school and high school in Region 3-$10.38 million and $28.89 million, respectively. The highest median cost of middle schools was posted in Region 1 ($19.37 million). Elementary and middle schools cost the least in Region 6, while it is less expensive to build a high school in Region 4.

Cost per square foot was highest in Region 9 (elementary and high schools) and Region 1 (middle schools). Region 1 also posted the highest cost per student for middle schools and high schools. Region 2 had the highest median per-student cost for elementary schools. Lowest costs per student were reported in Region 4 (middle and high schools) and Region 6 (elementary schools). Region 6 also posted the lowest cost per square foot for elementary schools, while Region 8 had the lowest cost per square foot for middle schools and Region 4 for high schools.

The largest schools, in terms of total square footage, are built in Region 5 (middle schools and high schools) and Region 3 (elementary schools). Region 3 also constructs its schools to contain the largest number of pupils in all categories. The smallest schools were reported built in Region 9.

Table 12 examines the types of facilities featured in new elementary, middle and high schools, as well as the percentage of schools reporting such facilities. In addition, current information is compared with data from 1996 and 1997 to help identify possible trends. One interesting note is the growing popularity of library/media centers in new elementary, middle and high schools. They are found in a larger percentage of projects than most of the other areas surveyed, including such staples as cafeterias and gymnasiums.

The incidence of air conditioning and carpeting in new school buildings (see sidebar on p. 42) has been of particular interest over the past couple of decades. In 1998, new elementary schools air-conditioned 87 percent of their space, exactly the same amount as was reported in last year's survey. Both middle and high schools air-conditioned a smaller percentage of their new space in 1998: Middle schools air-conditioned 84 percent (88 percent last year) and high schools included it in 79 percent (87 percent last year) of their space. Colleges and universities air-condition 91 percent of their new space.

The percentage of new space that is carpeted grew slightly across all types of education facilities in 1998 compared to last year's survey. In new elementary schools, the use of carpeting grew to 54 percent of space from 49 percent the year before. Carpeting's use in new middle schools increased to 47 percent of space from 44 percent reported in last year's survey. High schools carpeted 30 percent of their space compared to 27 percent the year before. Colleges and universities report carpeting 46 percent of their floors.

Delving into retrofit Data collected on the types of retrofits performed in 1998 by schools and universities, their related costs, average size of projects and type of cabling/wiring implemented can be found in Table 13. Be aware that arriving at comparable data in regard to retrofit projects is extremely difficult, at best, because each institution's project is so different. For example, one school may consider repainting and carpet replacement as a retrofit, while another may only consider a total building modernization as meeting the requirement. Your retrofit costs may vary greatly depending on the size, scope and type of project, as well as region of the country you are located.

Understanding these limitations, the typical elementary and middle school retrofit more than twice the amount of space than a high school (49,000 and 46,761 square feet, respectively, versus 23,000 square feet at high schools). Cost per square foot is highest at the high-school level and lowest at middle schools. Cost per student and total cost are similar across all levels of K-12 institutions.

Colleges and universities spend more per typical retrofit than their K-12 counterparts, but spend less per student than school districts. While cost per square foot is higher than at K-12 institutions, higher-education institutions retrofit smaller areas than all school-district levels, except high schools.

The predominant forms of building retrofits at both schools and universities are HVAC, electric, lighting and painting/interior trim. When retrofitting for technology, all education institutions most often install Category 5 cabling. Fiber-optics also are common, especially at elementary schools, high schools, and colleges and universities.

To order the complete 25th annual Official Education Construction Report, contact Candis Logue at (913)967-7214, fax (913)967-1898 or e-mail at [email protected]

As the bellwether report documenting education construction activity for the past 25 years, the AS&U survey is regularly referenced by local, state and federal agencies, as well as the nation's leading news organizations. AS&U actually started compiling data on school and university construction in 1950 for the 1949 year. After a decade or so of yearly surveys, data began being compiled sporadically until industry demand prompted AS&U to start collecting data annually again. The annual reports resurfaced in 1975 with information on education construction completed in 1974, and data has been collected and published every year since.

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