Safety, cleanliness and extensive planning go into every construction project, but these elements are amplified when it comes to constructing and renovating our community’s schools. Particularly when work is taking place on occupied campuses, a large part of managing construction in education projects depends on teamwork, transparent and clear communications, and the implementation of significant safety measures.
In this article, we’ll explore what makes construction in education settings unique and sometimes challenging, and what can be done to overcome these concerns to successfully deliver each project.
1. Safety of Staff and Students
Safety of the students and staff on project jobsites is the ultimate priority for construction teams. Extensive planning goes into making sure protection is in place during all work activities, in addition to when the jobsite is unoccupied. Particular to education projects or those where children and youth are nearby, teams must consider and eliminate attractive nuisances. An attractive nuisance is anything on the project that is both dangerous and enticing to children. Examples include but are not limited to: heavy machinery, fence climbing, scaffolding, and construction materials or debris. Project signs (IE: No Trespassing) are not generally considered preventative measures.
To minimize these attractive nuisances, project teams must:
- Remove the hazard(s)
- Discard construction debris on a daily, if not hourly, basis
- Secure and obscure the hazard(s)
- Lock heavy equipment doors and/or remove keys
- Remove, store out of reach, or secure ladders
- Provide locked enclosures around scaffolding/stair towers
- Provide a fenced storage area for stored construction materials
- Ensure fencing includes driven posts to prevent displacement
- Consider opaque fence fabric along public areas
These measures are in addition to typical safety measures on any given jobsite. The proximity to the youth of our communities make these efforts that much more critical.
2. Planning for Traffic Flow and Logistics
All construction projects need to plan for the logistics of the site, as we discussed recently in our 9 Keys to Site Logistics in Construction article. Construction in education projects have additional factors that come into play due to the presence of public pedestrian and vehicle traffic, as well as large numbers of children and youth.
When evaluating the logistics of an education campus, project teams should consider:
- Traffic flow for student, staff and parent access
- Traffic flow for construction crew members, material and equipment deliveries
- Barricades between work and non-work zones and site security to prevent unauthorized access
- Emergency access routes and meeting areas for the school and the construction area
- Crane no-fly zones that prevent contact with students and staff in the event of a catastrophic equipment failure
- Temporary office and utility locations
The foremost priority in planning for site logistics is to maximize the safety of the students and staff at the school, and secondarily, to create an efficient construction workflow.
3. Extensive Communication
When it comes to construction, there is no such thing as communicating too much or too often. When operating near public spaces, the importance of clear communication cannot be understated. All planning for workflow, work scopes, and work schedules must be communicated clearly and often.
As we discussed in a previous article about K-12 construction, there are multiple stakeholders involved not only in decision making, but also in operating these facilities. Additionally, the presence of a significant number of the general public accessing these sites means that those who aren’t in project meetings must also clearly understand construction boundaries and routing.
Communication methods will involve a variety of tools:
- Owner, Architect, Contractor meetings, at least once weekly
- Regular updates to school users via newsletters and townhall meetings
- Proper site signage with clear boundaries and directions for traffic flow
- Site tours for students and staff to provide insights into the construction process
- Frequent social media updates
- Frequent communication and tracking of public permit requirements
With clarity for all who access the site, project stakeholders can be informed and stay safe for the duration of the work.
4. Quality Materials
Our educational facilities are subject to extensive use by children of all ages, as well as the public, and must stand up to the high traffic they experience. This means that the materials in these buildings must be able to withstand heavy use over long periods of time, and remain safe for use over time.
Some of the options for materials in schools may include:
Hollow-metal doors in lieu of Timely frames.
Hollow metal (HM) doors are installed during wall framing and are a single piece of steel that is difficult to damage more than superficially. As compared to door frames that can be installed after the wall is complete, HM frames are a wise choice for a long-lasting material.
Energy efficient lighting.
LED light fixtures require minimal maintenance over time, reducing the need for bulb changes by building engineers. Additionally, they’re more efficient than fluorescent fixtures, reducing energy consumption and cost.
Central system controls.
HVAC controls to allow the building to operate at a comfortable level and save energy in the process.
5. Respecting the Public’s Dollars
School projects are primarily funded by public tax dollars. As such, it’s imperative that the construction work is complete with cost efficiency in mind. A failure to do so betrays public trust and the dollars that all of us contribute to these projects.
A great general contractor will partner with the school district to find efficient means of completing work, being transparent with costs, and completing the appropriate amount of preconstruction planning to ensure a smooth project with minimal change orders.
Districts are also evaluating project delivery types to determine the best method to procure contractors for their work. In more recent years, many are leaning towards more collaborative project delivery models, such as the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) and even Integrated Project Deliveries. Many have found that the transparency and teamwork these methods offer lead to improved production, lower costs and more efficient schedules.
Construction in education settings is a critical service to our communities and must be carefully thought through. Here at Perlo, we enjoy finding optimal solutions to the challenges that education projects present. If you’d like to talk further with our teams about an upcoming project, contact us here.