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All schools benefit from life cycle projects
All schools benefit from life cycle projects
Posted on 06/20/2018
All schools benefit from life cycle projects

When Puyallup High students returned from spring break last April they noticed something different in the hallways. New carpet was installed in the school’s main building while they were away. The classrooms are also scheduled for new carpet this summer.

Wildwood ElementaryAt another location, students at Wildwood Elementary may have noticed an easier path to the big toy during recess, as the school received a drainage makeover during the break. The underdrainage surrounding the area was improved to alleviate standing water.

These are examples of more than 100 life cycle improvement projects that have taken place in schools throughout the district in the past four years, financed with voter approved funds. The district generally refers to projects that replace or improve older existing systems as “life cycle” projects. These improvements provide a safe, secure, and healthy learning environment for more than 24,000 students and staff.

Strategic financial planning and efforts by the construction management team have enabled the projects to be completed years earlier than planned, with substantial cost savings to taxpayers. Originally scheduled to continue through 2021, the work will be nearly complete before school begins in the fall of 2018 — three years ahead of schedule.

The projects originated with the voter approved $46 million 2014 School Facility Improvements and Technology Upgrades Levy. The levy provided $40 million for systems improvement and life cycle replacement projects in schools districtwide. The remaining funds were dedicated to technology work.

In 2015 the remaining capital levy projects were rolled into the 2015 School Construction and Facility Improvements Bond in order to provide the funds earlier. This approach allowed the remaining life cycle work to be completed early. The district can then focus more time on the major bond project construction.

Executive Director of Capital Projects Gary Frentress said accelerating the project schedule is significant because it saves money by avoiding escalation costs, due in part to the economic climate. ”For example, on projects that require metal products now, prices have risen significantly in recent months,” says Frentress.

Cost savings were also realized by limiting use of contingencies built into the estimates, and finding more effective ways to complete projects than originally planned. Project managers are  assigned to assess the work and coordinate with the schools to make sure the work gets done in a timely and efficient manner. This collaboration often leads to better solutions at a lower cost.

“In a general sense, we came in under budget on a lot of the work we had planned. When you actually sit down to do the work you find better ways to do things—better ways are usually a cost savings,” says Frentress.

The life cycle projects are usually one-time expenses. They are critical to school building longevity. Some of the larger types of projects completed in recent years include:

  • replace aging and deteriorating roofs;
  • make building envelope and seismic improvements;
  • upgrades to heating, cooling, plumbing, lighting, and electrical systems;
  • flooring improvements and painting;
  • field improvement projects;
  • significant safety and security improvements:
    • Fire alarm panel upgrades;
    • Video access systems are installed in schools that allow staff to remotely control access to buildings;
    • Keyless door entries are installed in all schools and support buildings, allowing badge restricted access. A programmed card can be required to enter a building. This system is also more efficient in school lockdowns, as doors can be locked simultaneously.

Many of the projects are completed during the summer and other times when students are not in school, such as spring break, in order to minimize the impact to students and staff.  There are a few projects currently under design that may continue into 2019 before final completion.

“While the cost savings from this work is great, the real benefit is that all of the schools get to experience the improvements sooner,” says Frentress.

The Capital Projects department maintains a progress schedule. A complete list of the projects can be found on the Capital Projects web page.