Bucking The Trend: 28th Annual Official Education Construction Report

May 1, 2002
Even as the overall economy continued to suffer, education construction spending reached record heights in 2001, and promises to remain robust through at least 2004.
Editor's note: For a PDF version of the report as it appeared in American School & University magazine, click here.

While the nation suffered through a recession last year, the education construction market experienced no such problem — as schools and universities spent a record amount on new facilities, additions and modernization of existing buildings.

An all-time-high $41.5 billion was spent by education institutions on construction in 2001, and over the next three years spending is projected to remain extremely strong, according to American School & University's 28th annual Official Education Construction Report.

School districts put in place a record $26.8 billion worth of construction last year. The majority of the money (58 percent) was spent on additions and modernization.

Table 1
Education construction completed in 2001($000s)The National PictureSCHOOL DISTRICTS $11,193,760
$4,227,939
$11,354,920
$26,776,619 New
Additions
Modernizations
TOTAL COLLEGES $8,918,169
$1,586,532
$4,227,798
$14,732,499 New
Additions
Modernizations
TOTAL ALL EDUCATION $20,111,929
$5,814,471
$15,582,718
$41,509,118 New
Additions
Modernizations
TOTAL Table 2
Education construction projected to be completed in 2002-2004($000s)The National PictureSCHOOL DISTRICTS $52,705,539
$18,966,931
$36,089,177
$107,761,647 New
Additions
Modernizations
TOTAL COLLEGES $35,950,846
$13,231,340
$11,683,111
$60,865,297 New
Additions
Modernizations
TOTAL ALL EDUCATION $88,656,385
$32,198,271
$47,772,288
$168,626,944 New
Additions
Modernizations
TOTAL

Colleges and universities spent an impressive $14.7 billion on construction — an amount matching last year's record amount. Higher-education institutions are preparing for the influx of new students expected to pass through their doors over the next decade.

Reviewing results

Primary findings of this year's Official Education Construction Report can be found in Table 1 (p. 24). Construction of additions and modernization of existing buildings accounted for more than half (52 percent) of the total spending.

The record $41.5 billion in construction spending completed in 2001 by the nation's schools and universities represents a 14 percent increase over the previous all-time high posted in 2000. Spending by elementary and secondary schools grew 24 percent over the previous year, topping $26.8 billion. Colleges and universities spent an amount almost identical ($14.7 billion) to what was spent in 2000.

Table 3
Education construction: A decade of activity($ Billions) 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 School Districts $10.731 $10.778 $10.687 $10.417 $10.964 $12.394 $17.095 $16.039 $21.567 $26.777 Colleges $6.451 $6.408 $6.421 $6.717 $7.235 $7.530 $7.330 $13.964 $14.703 $14.732 All Education $17.182 $17.186 $17.108 $17.134 $18.199 $19.924 $24.425 $30.003 $36.270 $41.509 New Construction $8.380 $8.216 $8.315 $7.970 $9.642 $10.471 $12.097 $14.431 $19.139 $20.112 Additions $4.605 $4.048 $3.731 $4.922 $4.002 $4.249 $6.160 $7.043 $4.936 $5.814 Modernizations $4.197 $4.922 $5.062 $4.242 $4.555 $5.204 $6.168 $8.529 $12.195 $15.583 TABLE 4
Top 5 most active construction regions 2001: By institution typeSCHOOLSCOLLEGESALL EDUCATIONRegion ($000) Region ($000) Region ($000) 5 $6,650,031 4 $2,504,357 5 $9,087,444 8 $5,157,935 5 $2,437,413 8 $6,541,960 6 $4,159,483 1 $1,937,941 4 $5,693,422 1 $3,571,188 2 $1,907,350 6 $5,652,899 4 $3,189,065 6 $1,493,416 1 $5,509,129

Elementary and secondary schools continue to account for the majority of education-construction spending (almost 65 percent). But while school districts allocate more than half of their dollars adding to or modernizing existing facilities, colleges and universities spend most of their money on totally new construction (61 percent).

TABLE 5
Education costruction 2001: By type of spending($000)Total dollars spentRegion New Bldgs Adds Mods Total 1 3,421,762 488,254 1,599,113 5,509,129 2 1,363,060 938,485 1,094,963 3,396,508 3 1,014,841 345,477 764,621 2,124,939 4 3,912,600 495,322 1,285,500 5,693,422 5 4,590,885 1,897,935 2,598,624 9,087,444 6 1,511,438 675,591 3,465,870 5,652,899 7 373,934 196,208 408,654 978,796 8 2,816,206 126,846 3,598,908 6,541,960 9 1,107,203 650,353 766,465 2,524,021 Nat'l 20,111,929 5,814,471 15,582,718 41,509,118 Future spending

Even after the events of Sept. 11 and an economy that sees no immediate signs of recovering, education administrators are optimistic about the future. After all, with enrollments rapidly rising, existing buildings in need of repair and modernization, and new technologies and programs boosting space requirements, spending on construction is not something education institutions “should” do, but it is something they “must” do.

In fact, facilities needs are expected to be so great in the near future that the nation's schools and universities project to put in place more than $168 billion worth of construction through 2004.

TABLE 6
Education construction projected to be completed 2002-2004($000) The Regional PictureRegion Schools Colleges Total 1 17,200,751 4,670,126 21,870,877 2 12,542,256 6,095,419 18,637,675 3 7,303,473 4,631,524 11,934,997 4 6,428,843 16,011,685 22,440,528 5 26,620,606 9,002,584 35,623,190 6 12,006,233 6,558,197 18,564,430 7 3,420,140 1,937,667 5,357,807 8 14,531,448 5,372,327 19,903,775 9 7,707,897 6,585,768 14,293,665 Nat'l 107,761,647 60,865,297 168,626,944 TABLE 7
How the school construction dollars are projected to be split — 2002-2004Total School Construction ($000)Region New Adds/Mods % New % Adds/Mods 1 13,737,986 3,462,765 79.87% 20.13% 2 2,051,548 10,490,708 16.36% 83.64% 3 2,909,987 4,393,486 39.84% 60.16% 4 4,659,984 1,768,859 72.49% 27.51% 5 10,838,125 15,782,481 40.71% 59.29% 6 4,437,000 7,569,233 36.96% 63.04% 7 1,693,873 1,726,267 49.53% 50.47% 8 7,835,898 6,695,550 53.92% 46.08% 9 4,541,137 3,166,760 58.92% 41.08% Nat'l 52,705,538 55,056,109 48.91% 51.09%

The amount and type of construction projected to be put in place through 2004, as well as a breakout of data by type of institution and type of spending, is detailed in Table 2 (p. 24). School districts will continue to account for the majority of the construction spending through 2004 (almost 64 percent or $107.7 billion). Additions and modernization will make up more than half of the spending.

Colleges and universities project robust spending on construction over the next few years. Through 2004, higher-education institutions expect to put in place almost $61 billion worth of construction. Approximately 60 percent will be spent on new buildings ($35.9 billion).

For a historical look at education construction, Table 3 (p. 26) details the amount and type of construction completed by institution type over the past 10 years.

Regional performance

Various regions of the country were more active than others in regards to education construction. Table 4 (p. 28) outlines the five most active construction regions broken out by school districts, colleges and all education. A map of the regions can be found on p. 28. (NOTE: This year, Regions 8 and 10 were combined to represent more accurate results.)

In fact, the five regions listed in each of the three categories made up a disproportionate amount of the construction spending. For example, the top 5 school-district construction regions accounted for almost 85 percent of all activity, the five college regions almost 70 percent and the five regions for all education 78 percent.

Table 5 (p. 28) breaks out the type of education construction completed in 2001 by region and type of spending (new buildings, additions and modernization).

TABLE 8
How the college construction dollars are projected to be split — 2002-2004Total College Construction ($000)Region New Adds/Mods %New %Adds/Mods 1 3,126,178 1,543,948 66.94% 33.06% 2 4,280,094 1,815,325 70.22% 29.78% 3 2,445,429 2,186,095 52.80% 47.20% 4 6,684,932 9,326,753 41.75% 58.25% 5 6,653,949 2,348,635 73.91% 26.09% 6 4,290,537 2,267,660 65.42% 34.58% 7 1,326,868 610,799 68.48% 31.52% 8 3,580,622 1,791,705 66.65% 33.35% 9 3,562,237 3,023,531 54.09% 45.91% Nat'l 35,950,846 24,914,451 59.07% 40.93% A look ahead

To see where the hot spots of construction spending will be, Table 6 (p. 30) details projected spending by region on construction through 2004 by school districts, colleges and universities, and all education.

The nation's education administrators anticipate completing almost $169 billion worth of construction over the next three years. About 60 percent of all education construction will take place in just four regions of the country. Regions 5, 4, 1 and 8 expect to put in place approximately $100 billion in projects. Region 5 will be the most active construction region, projecting to spend $36 billion.

Table 7 (p. 30) outlines how the school construction dollars through 2004 will be split. Of the almost $108 billion in elementary and secondary school construction spending anticipated over the next three years, 51 percent will be on additions and modernization.

Four of the nine regions will spend more than half of their dollars on new construction: Regions 1 (80 percent), 4 (72 percent), 8 (54 percent) and 9 (59 percent). While three of the same regions expected to be the most active in all education construction (Regions 5, 1 and 8) show up again in the school-district data, Region 2 (NJ and NY) is projecting to be the fourth most active construction region ($12.5 billion).

Table 8 (p. 32) details how the college and university construction dollars will be split over the next three years. Unlike school districts, all but one region (4) will spend more than half of their dollars on new construction. Region 4, however, will be the most active college construction region through 2004, expecting to spend upwards of $16 billion on new, addition and retrofit projects over this time.

Inside data

Table 9 (upper left) outlines a variety of cost data and facility features for the national median new elementary, middle and high school. A more detailed analysis of regional costs and features of new schools can be found on p. 36.

Information on the types of retrofits performed in 2001 by schools and universities is found in Table 10 (left). The most-often performed retrofits (more than 50 percent of the projects) performed by school districts are HVAC and electric. At colleges, those improvements most often completed are lighting, painting/interior trim, HVAC, electric, plumbing, carpeting and flooring (all in more than half of the projects completed in 2001).

TABLE 9
How much does a new school cost? Elem. Middle High Cost/Square Foot $125 $159 $159 Cost/Student $14,477 $18,086 $13,174 Square Feet/Student 99 177 134 No. Pupils 550 450 600 Size (sq. ft.) 29,496 79,500 34,600 Total cost ($000) $5,510 $7,253 $10,103

This study is now available for download. Choose the national overview, or breakouts by region or enrollment size. Major credit cards accepted. Visit our website at www.asumag.com.

Air conditioning and carpeting

Overall, schools and colleges increased their use of airconditioning and carpeting in new projects completed in 2001, compared to the prior year, according to American School & University's 28th annual Official Education Construction Report. The incidence of air conditioning and carpeting in educational facilities:

  • Elementary schools air-condition 90 percent of their new space and carpet 49 percent of their floors.

  • Middle schools air-condition 90 percent of their new space and carpet 52 percent of their floors.

  • High schools air-condition 75 percent of their new space and carpet 38 percent of their floors.

  • Colleges and universities air-condition 84 percent of their new space and carpet 48 percent of their floors.

Survey methodology

To arrive at results for the 28th annual Official Education Construction Report, a detailed questionnaire was mailed in November 2001 to chief business officers 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.

What schools are building

Elementary schools were the type of new facility most often constructed by K-12 institutions in 2001. The second most common building type — Other — most often was reported as a multigrade facility or gymnasium.

What colleges are building

The most common type of new facility constructed in 2001 by colleges and universities was classroom buildings. Residential facilities accounted for roughly one in every five new facilities.

The ultimate resource

As the bellwether report documenting education construction activity for the past 28 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.

How much does a new school cost?
(by region)
Region 1
(CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)Cost/Sq. Ft. $185 Cost/Student $27,150 Sq. Ft./Student 149 Median No. Pupils 600 Median Size (sq. ft.) 87,000 Total Cost ($000) $17, 964 Region 2
(NJ, NY)Cost/Sq. Ft. $213 Cost/Student $31,963 Sq. Ft./Student 152 Median No. Pupils 575 Median Size (sq. ft.) 45,000 Total Cost ($000) $19,382 Region 3
(DC, DE, MD, PA, VA, WV)Cost/Sq. Ft. $164 Cost/Student $27,970 Sq. Ft./Student 167 Median No. Pupils 600 Median Size (sq. ft.) 70,000 Total Cost ($000) $15,238 Region 4
(AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN)Cost/Sq. Ft. $103 Cost/Student $7,000 Sq. Ft./Student 45 Median No. Pupils 500 Median Size (sq. ft.) 71,000 Total Cost ($000) $10,767 Region 5
(IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI)Cost/Sq. Ft. $144 Cost/Student $17,083 Sq. Ft./Student 145 Median No. Pupils 700 Median Size (sq. ft.) 90,000 Total Cost ($000) $17,529 Region 6
(AR, LA, NM, OK, TX)Cost/Sq. Ft. $143 Cost/Student $11,143 Sq. Ft./Student 50 Median No. Pupils 650 Median Size (sq. ft.) 35,000 Total Cost ($000) $9,353 Region 7
(IA, KS, MO, NE)Cost/Sq. Ft. $111 Cost/Student $18,301 Sq. Ft./Student 149 Median No. Pupils 450 Median Size (sq. ft.) 54,500 Total Cost ($000) $6,267 Region 8
(AK, CO, ID, MT, ND, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY)Cost/Sq. Ft. $137 Cost/Student $15,559 Sq. Ft./Student 97 Median No. Pupils 650 Median Size (sq. ft.) 60,000 Total Cost ($000) $10,618 Region 9
(AZ, CA, HI, NV)Cost/Sq. Ft. $221 Cost/Student $10,019 Sq. Ft./Student 43 Median No. Pupils 500 Median Size (sq. ft.) 12,600 Total Cost ($000) $6,213 TABLE 10
Type of retrofits performed

When schools and colleges renovated facilities in 2001, these were the types of retrofits most often performed (by percentage of projects):

Schools Colleges ADA Compliance 39 49 Carpeting 44 52 Electric 57 61 Flooring 44 52 HVAC 57 62 Indoor Air Quality 24 33 Lighting 48 65 Painting/Interior Trim 49 64 Plumbing 45 52 Roofing 47 37 Security/Life Safety 29 43 Technology Infrastructure 33 40 Windows/Doors 44 47
About the Author

Joe Agron | Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher

Joe Agron is the editor-in-chief/associate publisher of American School & University magazine. Joe has overseen AS&U's editorial direction for more than 25 years, and has helped influence and shape national school infrastructure issues. He has been sought out for comments by publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News and CNN, and assisted with the introduction of the Education Infrastructure Act of 1994.

Joe also authors a number of industry-exclusive reports. His "Facilities Impact on Learning" series of special reports won national acclaim and helped bring the poor condition of the nation's schools to the attention of many in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Education and the White House.

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