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FAQ’s – Part 2

Last week’s blog post addressed the following frequently asked questions:

  • What is the impact of a building on education? (Click here to see the recent “Form Follows Function” presentation to the SBC by a group of resident educators)
  • How do hubs and common areas change teaching and learning?
  • Are we building an all-new school?
  • What do the cost estimates include?
  • How do our cost estimates compare to other schools?

With the recent discussion about school costs, here is some additional information:

What are construction vs total project costs?
Construction Costs = Materials + Labor utilized in the renovation/construction of a building.
Total Project Costs = Construction Costs + Architectural and Engineering Fees; other Professional Fees; Site Work; Temporary Facilities and Phasing; Fixtures, Furniture & Equipment (FF&E). This encompasses every aspect of the project.

How are cost estimates determined at this phase? We are currently in the first of 6 phases in the building process. At this preliminary concept stage, school construction costs are estimated in a straightforward way: the size of the building (square feet) multiplied by a cost estimate per square foot (cost/SF). For projects such as ours that include renovation, there are different costs/SF depending on whether a space is getting light, medium, or heavy renovation.
(Click here to see the different levels of renovation included in each of the six Lincoln School concepts.)
At this point in the project the following contingencies are included in the total project cost:

  • 12% escalation (to get us to the mid-point of construction sometime at the end of 2021)
  • 10% design and pricing contingencies (a “lack of crystal ball” buffer)
  • $1M for temporary classrooms and the work needed move students in and out
  • 24% soft costs (architectural, engineering fees; permits; furniture and equipment, etc.)

As the project goes through the next “schematic design” phase, the costs will become more precise, and the contingencies smaller.

How does this compare to similar projects? When benchmarking against other projects, it’s very important to look at when (and in which state) they were built. Construction costs have risen significantly over the past decade. Because of the information gathered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the per-square-foot costs to build schools in Massachusetts are well understood. Click on the image to explore the MSBA’s interactive graph of recent, current, and future projects. Remember – the graph shows construction costs, NOT total project costs. The projected range for FY2019 construction costs is $410-530/sf (with an outlier for an arts academy at $630/sf — overachievers!)

Why have costs risen so much? Construction costs are rising because we are fortunate to have a relatively healthy regional economy, which drives demand for new buildings. Increased demand for new construction in areas such as Kendall Square and the Seaport District, has driven up the rates for the limited resources for materials and labor in our area. Because of this, the costs we are showing for Lincoln School project (which will not start until Spring 2020), include a 5% annual escalation cost

Are the Lincoln cost estimates in line with other projects? Here is a table outlining the construction and total project costs. They are well within range of the projects shown on the graph above.

* In 2008, Lincoln passed the Town Facilities Energy Performance Standard.  In order to meet the goals of the standard, these concepts have the potential to made fully sustainable, or “net-zero.” To do so, the up-front total project costs change to: L2 @ $85M or $537/SF; L3 @ $94M or $569/SF; C   @ $97M or $634/SF.

While we do have some leeway on per-square-foot costs within a range, it’s very unlikely that we’ll find a way to build a school that’s substantially cheaper (on a per-square-foot basis) than any other area school built in the last 5 to 10 years. To see further history of MA school projects (including the Lincoln 2012 project), here is MSBA data prior to 2014, and for elementary and middle schools after 2014.

Why is the basic repair so much?
We have a school in dire need of repairs and systems overhauls.

  • Numerous studies over the past two decades have concluded that a single project is the fiscally responsible way to address all of the major systems (roof, windows, heat, plumbing, electrical, etc).
  • Because of the extensive repair work that needs to be done, the building must be brought up to current safety, security, and accessibility codes. To learn more about the current conditions, click here, and to see what is included in the scope of repair work, click here.
  • Auditorium, gyms, hallways: (click here to check out the education space program spreadsheet)
    • The auditorium (including stage, lecture hall, storage, etc), home of robust drama & music programs and Town Meeting, is about 9500SF
    • Two gyms: The Smith and Reed/Brooks gyms (with Smith stage, storage, etc.) are ~ 19,400SF
    • About 50,000SF (36%!) of the current school is dedicated to hallways.

And finally…Multi-board meeting, Monday April 30th, 6pm, Hartwell Pod B; next SBC meeting Wednesday, May 2nd, 7:00pm, Hartwell multipurpose room; + so many outreach sessions in May!


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