On just about any list of needs for school building renovations and repairs, you'll find doors and windows.

The wear and tear from weather conditions, deterioration from constant use, and the damage inflicted from abuse and vandalism make it imperative that administrators keep a close eye on the condition of their doors and windows.

Officials should try to make sure the equipment they install is durable, complies with building codes and accessibility guidelines, conserves energy, provides the greatest possible security and, if possible, looks attractive. And, as with all school facilities projects, budget limitations loom over all the choices.

“Our doors take a beating,” says Dave Powell, facilities manager of the Helena (Mont.) School District. “And we spend a lot of money on replacing glass in windows. With budgets shrinking, we have to pay attention to the costs and the benefits.”

Broken glass is the most obvious damage a window can sustain, but many other flaws can plague window units. Wooden frames can rot from water damage, steel frames can rust, and paint can chip and peel. Over time, the seals on a window can develop leaks and gaps, and the heat gain and loss can put extra strain on a building's heating and cooling system.

“When we look to upgrade windows, we look at energy efficiency,” says Reg Martinson, director of facilities in the Evergreen (Wash.) School District. “The windows have low-e glazing.”

Daylight again

As part of recent retrofits in Evergreen, the district has reinstalled windows that had been covered up years ago to curtail energy costs. Officials want to bring more daylight to classrooms because studies have indicated that exposure to natural light can boost student performance.

“We had covered the top several panes in the classrooms,” says Martinson. “We now basically have put in sill-to-ceiling windows. By using low-e glass, we were able to gain energy efficiency even with the additional windows.”

With windows, facilities managers worry about elements from the outside getting in to a building. With doors, their worry is intruders from the outside. Institutions that are upgrading their doors often take the opportunity to bolster their security.

“Our strategy has been to restrict access to just the front door,” says Martinson. “We put the rest of the doors on an electronic system that can be opened by teachers who have proximity cards.”

For individual doors, schools try to choose ones durable enough to stand up to the burden placed on them daily by students and staff.

“We do a lot of preventive maintenance with our doors and hardware,” says Martinson.

For doors that haven't been replaced in many years, institutions may have to deal with changes in building codes and accessibility guidelines.

“For a lot of the doors we have replaced, we have had to bring them up to fire code,” says Powell. “You also have to make sure you're meeting the ADA requirements.”


NOTABLE

24

Percentage of public schools in 1999 that rated the condition of their exterior walls, finishes, windows and doors as inadequate.

33

Percentage of overcrowded public schools in 1999 that rated the condition of their exterior walls, finishes, windows and doors as inadequate.

13

Percentage of public schools in 1999 that said they had planned major repairs or renovations of their exterior walls, finishes, windows or doors in the next two years.

6

Percentage of public schools in 1999 that said they had planned replacement of their exterior walls, finishes, windows or doors in the next two years.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Condition of America's Public School Facilities: 1999