Strong Showing: The 29th Annual Official Education Construction Report

Education construction remained one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster economy.

As the nation's economy continues to suffer, and school districts and colleges are forced to make significant cuts in programs and staff, one area continues to show surprising strength — education construction spending.

According to American School & University's 29th annual Official Education Construction Report, education institutions spent $40.5 billion on construction in 2002. While shy of the $41.5 billion spent on new facilities, additions and modernization of existing buildings in 2001, the figure represents the second highest amount in history. And over the next three years, education construction spending is projected to remain robust.

Colleges and universities continued to spend record amounts on construction as physical-plant needs escalate and enrollment climbs. Higher-education institutions spent $16.2 billion on new facilities, additions and modernization of existing buildings in 2002. This represents a 10 percent increase over the $14.7 billion spent in 2001.

While overall school construction slowed to $24.3 billion in 2002 from $26.8 billion the year before, spending on new school construction reached an all-time high $11.7 billion. Even so, new construction represents only 48 percent of school district capital expenditures; the remaining 52 percent is spent on additions and modernization.

Primary findings

Table 1 details the amount and type of construction spending by schools and colleges in 2002. The $40.5 billion in construction spending completed last year is just 2 percent shy of the record $41.5 billion spent in 2001, proving the education construction market's strength and resiliency in tough economic times.

Elementary and secondary schools continue to account for the majority of education construction spending (60 percent). Both school districts and colleges put in place record amounts of new construction in 2002, as rapidly rising enrollments fueled the demand for more space.

Table 2 outlines the amount and type of construction projected to be put in place through 2005, as well as a breakout of data by type of institution and type of spending. Geopolitical issues and economic concerns don't seem to be dissuading education administrators — as $148.8 billion worth of construction is projected to be put in place over the next three years.

School districts will continue to account for the majority of the education construction spending through 2005 (63 percent or $93.7 billion). New construction will make up more than half of the spending by elementary and secondary institutions (55 percent).

Colleges and universities will continue their strong spending on construction through 2005. Over the next three years, higher-education institutions expect to put in place $55 billion worth of construction. New facilities will make up the majority of the projects (76 percent).

Table 3 offers a look at education construction by amount and category, as well as by type of institution, over the past 10 years.

The regional picture

Table 4 outlines the five most active construction regions broken out by school districts, colleges and all education. A map of the regions can be found above.

Table 5 breaks out the type of education construction completed in 2002 by region and type of spending (new buildings, additions and modernization). New school facilities made up 55 percent of the spending, while additions accounted for 20 percent and modernization 25 percent.

For a look ahead at where the education construction dollars will be spent, turn to Table 6, which details projected spending by region on construction through 2005 by school districts, colleges and universities, and all education.

The nation's school and university administrators expect to complete almost $149 billion worth of construction over the next three years. Approximately 56 percent of all education construction will take place in just three regions. Regions 9, 5 and 2 expect to complete almost $83 billion in projects. Region 9 will be the most active construction region, with estimated spending through 2005 of $32.6 billion.

On the school district front, 71 percent of the $93.7 billion projected to be spent over the next three years will be completed by four regions (5, 9, 1 and 2), with Region 5 topping the list at $22.8 billion. College construction is more evenly distributed throughout the regions, with Region 9 projecting the most at $12.9 billion.

Table 7 details how the school construction dollars through 2005 will be split. Six regions will be spending the majority of their construction dollars on totally new facilities. Of the three that will be spending the bulk on additions and modernization, Regions 7 and 5 will be allocating the largest percentage amounts (64.9 percent and 64 percent, respectively).

Table 8 outlines how the college and university construction dollars will be split over the next three years. All but one region (8) will spend significantly more than half of its dollars on new construction.

Building specifics

Table 9 outlines a variety of cost data and facility features for both the national median and national mean (average) new elementary, middle and high school.

Table 10 provides information on the types of retrofits performed in 2002 by schools and colleges. At the school district level, those retrofits performed most often are energy related, such as HVAC (70 percent) and lighting (69 percent). Colleges focused more on aesthetic aspects, such as painting/interior trim (79 percent) and carpeting/flooring (both 67 percent). Energy-related retrofits also were popular, with electric, lighting and HVAC most often done.

The ultimate resource

As the bellwether report documenting education construction activity for the past 29 years, the American School & University 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. American School & University is the only authorized source of this information.

Methodology

To arrive at results for the 29th annual Official Education Construction Report, a detailed questionnaire was mailed in September 2002 to chief business officials at the nation's school districts and colleges. Basically, two questions were asked:

  • Did you complete any construction during the past year?

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

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. Further follow-up calls were made to clarify some data. Responses were separated by institution type, region of the country and institution size, and projected across the education universe.

TABLE 1: Education construction completed in 2002
($000s)

 

The National Picture

SCHOOL DISTRICTS

 

$11,659,722

New

 

$5,683,365

Additions

 

$7,000,376

Modernizations

  $24,343,463 TOTAL

COLLEGES

 

$10,845,043

New

 

$2,331,021

Additions

 

$3,028,440

Modernizations

  $16,204,504 TOTAL

ALL EDUCATION

 

$22,504,765

New

 

$8,014,386

Additions

 

$10,028,816

Modernizations

  $40,547,967 TOTAL

TABLE 2: Education construction projected to be completed in 2003-2005
($000s)

 

The National Picture

SCHOOL DISTRICTS

 

$51,162,337

New

 

$15,352,273

Additions

 

$27,208,060

Modernizations

  $93,722,670 TOTAL

COLLEGES

 

$41,833,428

New

 

$4,317,162

Additions

 

$8,877,753

Modernizations

  $55,028,343 TOTAL

ALL EDUCATION

 

$92,995,765

New

 

$19,669,435

Additions

 

$36,085,813

Modernizations

  $148,751,013 TOTAL

TABLE 3: Education construction: A decade of activity

 

($ Billions)

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

School Districts

$10.778

$10.687

$10.417

$10.964

$12.394

$17.095

$16.039

$21.567

$26.777

$24.343

Colleges

$6.408

$6.421

$6.717

$7.235

$7.530

$7.330

$13.964

$14.703

$14.732

$16.205

All Education

$17.186

$17.108

$17.134

$18.199

$19.924

$24.425

$30.003

$36.270

$41.509

$40.548

New Construction

$8.216

$8.315

$7.970

$9.642

$10.471

$12.097

$14.431

$19.139

$20.112

$22.505

Additions

$4.048

$3.731

$4.922

$4.002

$4.249

$6.160

$7.043

$4.936

$5.814

$8.014

Modernizations

$4.922

$5.062

$4.242

$4.555

$5.204

$6.168

$8.529

$12.195

$15.583

$10.029

TABLE 4: Top 5 most active construction regions, 2002: By institution type

 

SCHOOLS

COLLEGES

ALL EDUCATION

Region

($000)

Region

($000)

Region

($000)

2

$4,484,506

5

$3,239,836

9

$6,810,187

9

$3,786,388

9

$3,023,799

2

$6,357,638

1

$3,057,880

4

$2,619,755

4

$5,232,589

6

$2,727,535

3

$2,499,664

5

$4,804,785

4

$2,612,834

2

$1,873,122

3

$4,274,423

TABLE 5: Education construction, 2002: By type of spending
($000)

 

Total dollars spent

Region

New Bldgs

Adds

Mods

Total

1

$2,448,607

$688,075

$856,107

$3,992,789

2

$2,061,033

$2,368,453

$1,928,151

$6,357,637

3

$2,596,321

$616,163

$1,061,939

$4,274,423

4

$2,797,931

$1,322,672

$1,111,986

$5,232,589

5

$2,464,498

$889,386

$1,450,901

$4,804,785

6

$2,634,613

$618,888

$403,049

$3,656,550

7

$793,843

$561,603

$1,246,269

$2,601,715

8

$1,967,199

$319,728

$530,365

$2,817,292

9

$4,740,720

$629,418

$1,440,049

$6,810,187

Nat'l

$22,504,765

$8,014,386

$10,028,816

$40,547,967

TABLE 6: Education construction projected to be completed, 2003-2005
($000)

 

The Regional Picture

Region

Schools

Colleges

Total

1

$14,980,524

$3,141,576

$18,122,100

2

$13,158,192

$8,943,480

$22,101,672

3

$6,259,279

$8,707,980

$14,967,259

4

$7,375,617

$7,060,310

$14,435,927

5

$22,805,141

$5,236,035

$28,041,176

6

$1,764,464

$5,042,601

$6,807,065

7

$1,169,966

$1,287,328

$2,457,294

8

$6,449,941

$2,732,569

$9,182,510

9

$19,759,546

$12,876,464

$32,636,010

Nat'l

$93,722,670

$55,028,343

$148,751,013

TABLE 7: How the school construction dollars are projected to be split, 2003-2005

 

Total School Construction ($000)

Region

New

Adds/Mods

% New

% Adds/Mods

1

$6,755,563

$8,224,961

45.10%

54.90%

2

$7,484,456

$5,673,736

56.88%

43.12%

3

$3,424,235

$2,835,044

54.71%

45.29%

4

$3,959,264

$3,416,353

53.68%

46.32%

5

$8,198,957

$14,606,184

35.95%

64.05%

6

$1,306,830

$457,634

74.06%

25.94%

7

$410,606

$759,360

35.10%

64.90%

8

$4,864,648

$1,585,293

75.42%

24.58%

9

$14,757,777

$5,001,769

74.69%

25.31%

Nat'1

$51,162,336

$42,560,334

54.59%

45.41%

TABLE 8: How the college construction dollars are projected to be split, 2003-2005

 

Total College Construction ($000)

Region

New

Adds/Mods

% New

% Adds/Mods

1

$2,312,563

$829,013

73.61%

26.39%

2

$7,030,800

$1,912,680

78.61%

21.39%

3

$6,158,038

$2,549,942

70.72%

29.28%

4

$5,811,584

$1,248,726

82.31%

17.69%

5

$3,873,807

$1,362,228

73.98%

26.02%

6

$4,280,395

$762,206

84.88%

15.12%

7

$927,081

$360,247

72.02%

27.98%

8

$1,125,642

$1,606,927

41.19%

58.81%

9

$10,313,517

$2,562,947

80.10%

19.90%

Nat'l

$41,833,427

$13,194,916

76.02%

23.98%

TABLE 9: How much does a new school cost?

 

(MEAN)

 

Elementary

Middle

High

All

Cost/Square Foot

$128

$149

$158

$134

Cost/Student

$16,795

$22,804

$23,409

$18,167

Square Feet/Student

134

153

166

138

Number of Pupils

515

650

979

675

Size (sq. ft.)

70,174

109,152

125,304

86,055

Total Cost ($000) $8,016 $16,033 $19,067 $11,825

(MEDIAN)

 

Elementary

Middle

High

All

Cost/Square Foot

$113

$167

$123

$113

Cost/Student

$16,462

$20,000

$16,616

$16,462

Square Feet/Student

146

159

134

141

Number of Pupils

650

850

765

650

Size (sq. ft.)

75,000

135,455

114,000

92,800

Total Cost ($000) $8,850 $13,100 $10,400 $9,000

TABLE 10: Type of retrofits performed

When schools and universities renovated facilities in 2002, these were the types of retrofits most often performed (by percentage of projects):

 

Schools

Colleges

ADA Compliance

66%

64%

Carpeting

51%

67%

Electric

64%

76%

Flooring

55%

67%

HVAC

70%

67%

Indoor Air Quality

42%

30%

Lighting

69%

74%

Painting/Interior Trim

60%

79%

Plumbing

54%

60%

Roofing

40%

25%

Security/Life Safety

39%

45%

Technology Infrastructure

45%

53%

Windows/Doors

54%

57%

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.

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