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How Preconstruction Planning for K-12 Schools Saves Time and Money

School Preconstruction

School District leaders new to construction projects on their campus may not know all the steps and activities needed before construction can start. We share details of what to expect and who the shareholders should be to make a School District's project(s) happen.

The Start

In the State of Michigan, the school foundation allowance is intended for instruction and operations of a School District. Most of the time, significant facility needs are achieved through a bond. When K-12 School Leaders do reach a point where their District’s need for improvements is beyond what their operating budget can cover, they need to organize a team of professionals to set them up for building success. This team includes the Construction Manager (CM), an Architect/Engineer (AE), bond counsel, a Financial Advisor (FA), plus District staff, and community members. The team will help the District to create a list of needs and prioritize what is most important. The AE/CM team then assists the District to identify the full scope, budget, and financial resources for their needs. The team determines what will most likely be supported by constituents to improve learning instruction while being responsible with the school’s/constituent’s resources. The following are the activities that happen prior to the commencement of a school construction project, (a.k.a. preconstruction planning):

Pre-Bond Phase

Once school leaders have resolved it is necessary to move forward with a bond election, they enter into the “pre-bond” phase of their Project. An early decision is to decide if the bond election will be “State Qualified” or “Non-Qualified”. Non-qualified projects do not require Treasury application and approval.

If a state qualified bond is chosen, then a Pre-Qualifying Application (PQA) will have to be submitted and approved by the State of Michigan Department of Treasury. Team members will aid the school with securing a Treasury date. We typically suggest scheduling a Treasury appointment nine months (or no less than six months) prior to the intended election date. The goal with the Treasury date is to fit within regular Board of Education meeting dates so that special Board meetings do not need to be scheduled. The Architect and Construction Manager will then collaborate to provide preliminary schematics, scope of work, budgets, and timelines to complete construction. All of this is needed for the Treasury as well as securing a five-year enrollment projection.

Following approval from Treasury, with assistance from the team, the District will form a bond campaign committee of supporting businesses, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to organize their plan for a successful campaign. Marketing materials and informational materials are developed to explain the project to the voters. When we help with a bond campaign, we aid with committee meetings, guiding the action items, and designing and paying for marketing materials to communicate bond details and to work towards a successful election.

Preconstruction/Design/Estimating Phase

Once the bond has passed, the project building team will host an Initial Project Meeting where a milestone schedule for architectural design is established to meet the typical summer start date. Construction meetings are regularly scheduled normally every two weeks. During this preconstruction phase, a Construction Manager should be providing estimating, constructability evaluation, value engineering and strategizing bid packages.


What Does Constructability Mean?

The responsibility of the Architect is to create a plan that matches what the District needs, meets what the regulations/budget/schedule allow, and that satisfies constructability review provided by the Construction Manager. Constructability occurs as the plans are developed and the Construction Manager evaluates the plans for proper real-world application by our experts. They are considering how efficiently and easily a structure can be built and how to make it even more efficient construction-wise and budget-wise.

Value Engineering

What Does Value Engineering Mean?

As we assist with estimating the design at various stages of development to ensure it is still within the budget, we also provide value engineering, a.k.a suggestions of alternate materials or applications that cost less, are longer lasting, or are better value than those included in the plans based on our experience. We are also ensuring that we are using project contractors in a manner to avoid excess costs, i.e., re-mobilizing unnecessarily.

Bid Phase

Bid Packaging & Scopes of Work

It is important to take advantage of bidding efficiencies by breaking them into packages across District buildings or to include more contractors to spread work among local businesses depending on the goals of the District. Wolgast analyzes individual projects for schedule, scope, and the current regional construction market to find the most effective way to present the projects to bid. Ongoing costs for the District will be a consideration as well. For instance, there may be value in providing District-wide packaging to obtain identical equipment throughout the District in the areas of HVAC controls, technology, or security.

We will then gain interest in the project by contacting our resources, sending notification to bidders, and ensuring the plans are in Plan Rooms around the state. We send reminders to plan holders about bid dates and gauge their continued interest (and that the local bidders are involved). We then interview the low bidders to determine if they are qualified to do the work and make our recommendations to the owner. We strive for competition among our resources and beyond to secure the best value for our clients.

In Conclusion

There is significant activity happening prior to construction on K-12 school projects, all in the best interest of the District. This planning helps to achieve the goals of the District at a great value. It all is aiming to make construction run smoothly within tight deadlines and match the budget set forth by the millage parameters. A District will know exactly what they are getting during construction with the transparency needed to effectively communicate with their constituents.