Planning for Summer Construction: How Schools Can Stay Cool During a Time Crunch

School’s Out, Work Begins

While students begin their countdown to summer vacation, school and facilities administrators are counting down to the summer construction season. Renovations, ADA upgrades, and safety improvements are often put on hold while students occupy learning and activity spaces, but preparations can and should begin before they leave. As soon as students are out of the halls and classrooms, projects can start. So how do schools make sure they are ready to begin work quickly once summer vacation arrives?

Many small to medium-sized summer projects, like parking lot repaving and cafeteria renovations, may be too large in scope for in-house staff, but not large enough to justify a complete design-bid-build traditional procurement process. Job Order Contracting (JOC) is an effective and flexible procurement method that allows school officials to complete a series of projects with a single competitively-bid contract, eliminating the need to design and bid each individual project. Instead, contractors bid an adjustment factor to be applied to a set of local, preset unit prices covering everything from concrete foundations to roofing and all construction tasks in between such as painting, door replacements, bathroom fixture updates, HVAC equipment replacements, and energy efficient lighting updates.

Depending on a school’s procurement options, the JOC contract is typically awarded to the lowest, responsive, responsible bidder. Once the contract is awarded, schools can ask the contractor to perform a series of projects. For each, the contractor is simply paid the preset unit prices multiplied by the quantity, which is in turn multiplied by the competitively bid adjustment factor.

To kick off a project, contractors and school officials meet at the job site to conduct a joint scope meeting, where the contractor can get an up-close, detailed look at all aspects of the job, ask questions, and provide value engineering suggestions. Thereafter, the parties prepare a detailed scope of work and the contractor prepares and submits for approval a price proposal based on the unit prices. This process has many benefits. First, the price is not dictated by when the project will start. Schools can identify projects in the spring and schedule the work to start the first day of summer vacation. In addition, the fixed-pricing gives schools more control over budgets and flexibility in determining priorities. Administrators can request pricing for a series of projects and decide which projects to complete to make the most of their budget. The process of pricing and approving work moves quickly and saves time and money.

Make the Case

According to Arizona State University’s Job Order Contracting Performance study, 91 percent of JOC projects were delivered on budget. Additionally, owners reported saving, on average, 24 percent in administrative costs compared with other methods. Owners most commonly mentioned procurement administrative time, project manager support time, design and drawing costs and decreased documentation demands as main contributing factors to the cost savings. Challenging budget constraints make it even more critical to utilize streamlined processes such as JOC to help control costs and maximize project budgets. JOC’s ability to significantly decrease procurement time, results in more projects completed within a set timeframe—like summer break.

The Parma City School District, in Ohio, identified four schools with failing roof systems in need of investigation and repair. The district also determined that these projects had to be completed over summer break. This time crunch meant they could not send projects out for bid in the traditional way. If they used the old methods, by the time contractors were ready to start construction, class would be back in session. To get the projects started quickly and finished in time for the school year, Parma City Schools accessed JOC through their local purchasing cooperative.

Three school roofs were inspected and pressure-washed before receiving two coatings of silicone. A fourth school had a different scope: It needed a completely new roof. The contractor installed a new Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) roof, with three layers of top coating, and removed and replaced all gutters and flashing.

Contractors wrapped up the job on Aug. 14, well in time for the school year, and received a 20-year warranty for all four roofs.

Dover Public Schools also identified projects for their summer break. With the goal of giving its students a more collegiate atmosphere, the school decided to tackle an outdated hallway that served as a common area and main thoroughfare. The joint scope meeting occurred on Apr. 23, while school was still in session, then construction kicked off on July 13. Over the following weeks, an existing wall was removed and replaced, and all ceiling and floor finishes were updated. The contractors finished work on Sept. 6, just in time to kick the new school year off with a new, modern look to welcome students.

Conclusion

Schools have unique scheduling demands when it comes to repair and renovation projects. JOC, with on-call contractors and pre-set pricing, is an ideal solution for meeting those demands. School administrators can use JOC to prioritize projects based on actual costs, not estimates, and meet tough deadlines. By using JOC to get a head start on repairs and renovations, schools can be ready to start construction when the last school bell rings.

About the Author

Paul Schreyer is the vice president of New York City Operations for Gordian. He joined Gordian in 1996 and is responsible for all clients and staff in New York City. Tasked with the day-to-day administration of all current client performance, Schreyer coordinates Gordian staff across the region to maximize efficiency and client satisfaction. Additionally, he carries out all business development and onboarding of new clients in New York City. Prior to joining Gordian, hel worked as an attorney in New York City with Postner & Rubin representing surety companies, owners, architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors. He also worked in the construction industry as a construction manager, an assistant site engineer, and a residential carpenter. He is a licensed attorney in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Credentials: Esq.

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