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Welcome back to Episode 6 of The Perlo Podcast! Host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction, is joined by Perlo’s expert team in education settings: Drew Carter, Senior Project Manager; Stephen Alger, Senior Project Manager; and John Tompkins, Project Superintendent. In today’s episode, we’ll being going over K-12 projects and what makes them so unique.

Elissa Looney
Podcast Host & Director of Strategic Initiatives
Drew Carter
Senior Project Manager
Stephen Alger
Senior Project Manager
John Tompkins
Project Superintendent

What are Some of the Factors That Go Into Planning Summer Projects?

Education projects often take place in the summer, when students are no longer in school. During the shortened summer construction season, we often see remodel projects that include anything from re-roofing upgrades and siding repairs to a “fluff and buff” on interior finishes. A lot of the time, these are projects that can’t be done while the campus is occupied when students are in school.

Drew notes that the biggest consideration when defining the scope and timeline to complete a project over the summer is, “Do we have enough time to actually do the work on the plans?” He remarks that although there is a lot that can get done in the summer months, it comes down getting on the campus early to look at the existing conditions and ensuring the construction documents are the same as what is actually on the ground.

John agrees, and adds, “The sooner you get into the building and get things opened up, the sooner you can get the District involved to figure out next steps.” This concept is something that the team learned first-hand, as John reminisces on one example where project teams opened a wall on a school project and discovered significant siding and structural issues that equated to about $100,000 worth of extra work.

Another option for project teams is to get into the building during a spring break or Christmas break period, which allows teams an early start to what they can tackle in terms of existing conditions, purchasing materials, getting a plan in place, and knowing who to contact. According to Stephen, the real key is what you can get done ahead of time, as “one week in advance is massive for a summer project when it is only 10 or 12 weeks long.”

” The safety part is really the toughest aspect on an occupied site when trying to make sure it accommodates the school and allows them to be operational.”

Construction Strategies When Spaces are Occupied

Elissa kicks off this topic by asking the team what changes in our strategies when a project can’t fit into a summer time frame and you must remodel a campus over the course of a school year. According to John, the biggest thing that changes is safety. “We know how to keep our workers safe, and we take it all seriously, but when it comes to having kids in your work area, it takes it to a whole other level,” he remarks. In one recent Perlo project, project teams put up barricades to cover demolition and used a material called ‘core ply’. Teachers ended up making murals on the material and, closer to the removal, Stephen came up with the idea of letting the kids in each class draw on it, as well. The goal for this innovative idea was to make the construction less intimidating for the students while still keeping them safe.

“The safety part is really the toughest aspect on an occupied site when trying to make sure it accommodates the school and allows them to be operational. The communication with the school to explain what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, what we need from them, and what they need from us is critical and is a challenge because of how many stakeholders we have,” explains Stephen.

With constantly changing expectations from the District, the general contractor, the school, the principal, and the facilities, there is always a constant struggle to find out who makes the final decisions.

What Makes K-12 Construction Different?

School buildings are constantly getting more sophisticated and complex. Each school has different bond objectives and requirements that come from funding sources, such as energy efficient or smart buildings, so there are many different systems in place that have to be cohesive. Elissa notes that it seems as though the districts have been working hard to standardize their processes for construction so that technology is centralized and processes are made more streamlined for future remodels.

Many schools are older buildings, so there are typically add-ons and renovations taking place. However, these are usually only done every 20 or 30 years, rather than more frequently. This means that improvements often haven’t been done for the duration of that time, and many facets of the building may be out of date or obsolete.

Building Schools to Stand the Test of Time

Schools must think about quality, as systems and materials must last 20 to 30 years. As a result, there is a bit more money spent upfront to make sure that the materials going into the buildings are high-quality, or else they won’t stand the test of hundreds of students every day. The goal is to make these buildings as flexible as possible, including taking innovative routes to make schools more secure and safe in the case of an unauthorized intruder.

Hard Bidding vs. Negotiating on K-12 Projects

At Perlo, w enjoy and encourage the CM/GC process. It allows for a stronger team aspect where everyone involved in the process is on board and there is ample time to look at everything upfront to make sure all facets of the project are correct.
From a school or community’s perspective, there are some advantages to a hard bid if it is a simple project. However, in the case of occupied schools, the CM/GC process has many more advantages, including:

  • Teams have the time to meet with the school to understand what their needs and challenges are.
  • There is an added benefit of project teams being able to do value engineering upfront, so the school doesn’t get blindsided by anything during construction.
  • There ends up being extra time and money to do more of what the stakeholders really want to do, such as painting the ceilings or adding tracks.

According to Drew, the communication piece is the biggest difference between a hard bid and a CM/GC process. If the team is involved early on and are attending coordination meetings with the users, design team, and facility maintenance, it is beneficial to hear what people’s needs are and what’s important to the different stakeholders to ensure the end result works for everyone and that project teams can deliver a high-quality project on time. If a CM/GC model is decided on and the contractor is brought on early, they are able to give advice on how to get the best value out of a project.

What You Need to Know About the Education Space

“These are always complicated projects. One of the items that is unique about schools is that often times there is a lot of emotions with the projects. Communities have ties to these buildings,” Drew states.

Drew also notes that these are complex projects with a lot of stakeholders. Overall, it can be more of a juggling act compared to a typical project. With a school, you’re working for the students, the staff, the custodial service, the District, and all of these different stakeholders that have ties to that building. It’s a constant juggle between making sure that everyone is heard but still being decisive and moving forward to get the project done.

Final Thoughts

Every school project is unique, with a different “recipe” for each. As focal points of the community, project teams must take innovative routes in order to deliver each project on time and on budget. Perlo is proud to contribute to our communities through our schools and understand the ever-evolving processes that make the end result so special.

We’re near the end of 2021, and it’s time to look back at what our construction teams have accomplished this year. We have completed work in a variety of market sectors, including education, industrial, high-tech, tenant improvements, emergency repairs, and more.

Today we’re looking back at a few of our education projects. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, special care goes into education projects to ensure the safety of students and staff, quality of materials and respect for public funding. Our teams are proud to have delivered each of these buildings, whether new or renovated, for our local communities. 

Marrion Elementary School

Completed in July, this brand new, 60,000 SF ground-up elementary school was a new prototype for the Evergreen School District and includes both one and two-story structures. The new building replaced the former Marrion Elementary School on the same site. Included in the construction is an open-to-structure commons, media center, gymnasium, outdoor play area, basketball court and access-controlled main entrance.

Built to be an open-concept school, Marrion Elementary provides its students and faculty with features such as movable partition walls between classrooms instead of hard-walls, radiant floor heating in the kindergarten rooms as well as extensive sound-absorbing materials throughout.

Perlo’s crews self-performed a variety of elements, including:

  • Concrete
  • Wood-framing
  • Doors, frames and hardware
  • Miscellaneous accessories

In addition to structural wood framing, our crews also utilized cross-laminated plywood to construct a beautiful and functional ‘Learning Stair’ in the lobby for impromptu learning opportunities. During preconstruction, the project team completed BIM coordination with the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection trades to identify any conflicts with the building structure and resolve them. This process helped streamline construction and prevent delays during onsite construction.   

Of the team, Senior Project Manager Drew Carter says,

“George, Nick, Matt and the Perlo foremen did a really great job of completing a fast-tracked project in spite of tough environmental conditions and built it on-schedule, with a high-quality delivery and significant attention to detail. There was a willingness on everyone’s part to roll-up their sleeves, jump in and solve problems and now it’s one of the district’s nicest buildings.”

Perlo Team

Drew Carter | Senior Project Manager

Matt Miller | Project Engineer

George Trice | Superintendent

Derek Diaz | Superintendent

Nick Butler | Superintendent

Darrell March | Superintendent

Cy Whitmore | Foreman

McKayla Marshall | APM

Evelyn Moran | Admin Assistant

W. Verne McKinney Elementary School

This elementary school renovation and expansion in Hillsboro, Oregon included a new gymnasium addition, seismic upgrades, ADA improvements, and upgrading and replacing finishes and systems throughout the school campus. The project schedule was split into two categories: the gymnasium addition, and the interior renovation work. Starting in October of 2020, the team began the gymnasium addition. Simultaneously, they completed exploratory demolition work to confirm the work scope required for the existing building renovations. At that time, most students were still engaged in distance learning, though staff was occupying the space.

The exploratory demolition uncovered additional work scopes, which led District decision makers and our teams to begin off-hours construction work on the existing school for the remainder the year. This early work allowed the project teams to add significant length to the front side of the project schedule without delaying the final completion date of August 2021.

The Perlo work crews self-performed the following scopes:

  • Demolition
  • Miscellaneous accessories installation, including tack boards, white boards, and corner guards
  • Doors/frames/hardware installation
  • Dryrot repairs
  • Seismic upgrades

The project was located in a residential area, so our teams spent time ensuring the neighbors were minimally impacted by our work. These efforts include minimizing noise during off-hours, routing traffic appropriately, and keeping dust contained.

Of the project, Superintendent John Tompkins says

“I always enjoy giving back to communities. That’s the reason I like working on school projects. This community, in particular, seemed extremely grateful that we were there. There was also a good connection between the principal and our construction team.  They can lean on us and we’re always there to help.”

Perlo Team

Stephen Alger | Project Manager

John Tompkins | Superintendent

Graig Marshall | Foreman

McKayla Marshall | APM

Knight Elementary School Renovations

This approximately 60,000 SF renovation of an existing elementary school In Canby, Oregon included re-roofing, new mechanical units, lighting and finish upgrades throughout. In addition, work included upgrading the front entry vestibule to improve access and security. All construction work was completed during the summer of 2021 while school was out, requiring up-front planning to ensure the full scope could be completed on time.

The largest scope item included the re-roofing and mechanical work. With three distinct roofing types,  including SBS built-up roofing, asphalt shingles and a PVC membrane at the barrel structure on the gymnasium.  Two separate roofing subcontractors were procured to complete this work, with assistance on structural framing, dry rot repairs and seismic strapping from Perlo crews.

Perlo teams self-performed the following scopes:

  • Selective demolition
  • Wood framing
  • Doors/frames/hardware installation
  • Toilet accessories removal and replacement installation
  • Seismic bracing and framing
  • Miscellaneous steel installation

Project manager Adam Smelley said,

“I always enjoy giving back to communities. That’s the reason I like working on school projects. As with any re-roof on an older building, we found some surprises. When we removed the existing standing seam roof, for instance, it had a layer of old shingle roofing underneath. We expected some dryrot, but not an added layer of roofing materials.  But on buildings that old, you never know what you might find.”   

Our project teams wholeheartedly enjoyed working with the District teams. Superintendent Kyncade Hardy stated that “The whole district was great to work with. They were quick to respond and made smart decisions, and were just good, common-sense people to work with. I would absolutely work with them again.”

Perlo Team

Adam Smelley | Project Manager

Kyncade Hardy | Superintendent

Nathan Wright | Foreman

Crystal Bentley | APM

Concordia University Nursing School

This higher education project included a new and improved learning environment for a local nursing school with an 18,000 square foot expansion to their original 6,000sf space. The project included many modifications to better fit the school’s needs. Construction was completed while the space was occupied, so our work was phased to accommodate the students and staff in the area. With work beginning in November of 2020, our teams were faced with the added challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presented. Most of the building inspections and project meetings were held via remote platforms such as Zoom and Teams. Additionally, the ownership teams are not local to our area, and we met them in person only a few times over the course of construction.

To modify and maximize the space, previously under-utilized areas were transformed into open study areas, private testing rooms, a clinical skills lab and simulation rooms. In the simulation rooms, future healthcare workers practice their craft under the close watch of instructors in nearby viewing rooms.

As virtual learning was a key need for Concordia, the space was also outfitted to allow for online learning. Work on the Concordia Nursing School project was completed on time in April of 2021. 

Superintendent Kory Stark noted that,

“The onsite crews and subcontractors were really excited about building the nursing stations, as the materials were top-of-the-line, and a lot of detail went into the training rooms to accommodate the headwalls. It was like we were building out actual hospital rooms, and that takes a lot of coordination and precision to do correctly.” 

Perlo Team

Erich Schmidt | Project Manager

Kory Stark | Superintendent

Crystal Bentley | APM

BASE CTE Renovation

This project included relocating and updating existing classrooms, shop spaces and science labs within an existing building in Beaverton, Oregon. BASE CTE is the Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering (BASE) Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which: “engage every student in high-quality, rigorous, and relevant classes, designed to help students turn their passions into paychecks and their dreams into careers. CTE programs partner with local businesses and industry to create opportunities that promote creativity, innovation, and leadership, which are relevant to the job markets of today.”

The project consisted of the reconfiguration of an existing school to better suit their classroom size and teaching needs. Spaces included a large chemistry lab, wood shop, and added classrooms, as well as relocating their engineering and maker space, bio-lab and installation of new computer labs, and motion lab equipment. The wood shop included a complete dust collection system, and the team also installed a small cabinet-style paint booth. New HVAC systems and LED lighting were also installed in the renovated spaces.

The schedule for construction was extremely tight, with a completion date that was dictated by the grant funding for the work. Preliminary site investigations began during Spring Break, with some minor work completed during the night shift between Spring and Summer Break.

Perlo teams self-performed the following scopes:

  • Concrete pour-back
  • Equipment, tool and furniture relocation and installation

Project manager Stephen Alger noted that,

“the engineering teacher who was receiving the new wood shop was ecstatic to be able to show his students the mechanical side of the classroom, including the dust collection system, air compressors, and CNC machine.  Though he talked of retirement, he said he was going to keep working for several more years because the new space is so amazing. I really enjoyed seeing the staff so excited for the space.”   

Project team members embraced the challenge of verifying that all stakeholders had input on the room and equipment layouts. With anchorage required for many pieces, these details needed to be thought out and dialed in early in the planning process.

The project was completed on time in August of 2021, meeting the deadline for the grant funding and completing in time for students to utilize the space for the 2021-2022 school year.

Perlo Team

Stephen Alger | Project Manager

Steve Dusenberry | Superintendent

Kathy Ohannessian | APM

Final Thoughts

Perlo has been pleased to be involved with so many public projects this year.  The ability to contribute to our communities through our schools is rewarding for us and our teams. Stay tuned for next week, when we look back at more of our completed in 2021 projects!