As Nat “King” Cole sang, “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer.” Children are cheering because school's out and lazy days are ahead. School personnel are cheering because long-awaited facility improvements can begin while they have some relaxing days off. And contractors are cheering because finally their work can begin.

Summer remodeling projects have increased in frequency and scope as aging schools require modernization and enhancements to address changing education trends, curricula, programs, technology and delivery.

Nationwide, the magnitude of school repairs and improvements is so great that many states have created special funding programs. In some cases, to qualify for funds, schools must meet criteria relating to facility size and age. An institution that needs to qualify for special funding programs may be required to develop a five- or 10-year facility plan.

Architects may need one year, depending on the number of buildings and extent of work, to complete a five- or 10-year facilities survey. Sometimes, these surveys expand to include educational enhancements, enrollment projections, major remodeling and additions. A planning process with staff and community can identify all issues and create ownership in the work.

Don't call an architect in February or March and expect construction to begin the day after school closes for the summer. Some may have had success with a short timeline, but that is not the norm. Three or four months to plan, design, prepare construction documents, bid, award construction contracts, order materials and equipment before construction is not adequate. Some considerations:

  • Begin the planning and design processes one year in advance.

  • Allow architects and engineers adequate time to design and review the modifications with institution and code officials — one to two months, depending on the complexity of the project.

  • Provide the necessary time to prepare accurate construction drawings and specifications — one to three months depending on the complexity of the project.

  • Receive bids in January or February — review and award.

  • Provide contractors time to prepare shop drawings, order and receive materials, which may take a minimum of three months, and create an efficient construction schedule.

Many architects and contractors work with several institutions simultaneously, which may increase the time needed to complete the work. If an area has many new schools under construction and some schools being remodeled — all specifying the same completion before the new school year begins — contractors, tradesmen and suppliers may be stretched thin, which may delay the project and increase costs.

Rydeen, FAIA, is an architect/facility planning specialist and former president of Armstrong, Torseth, Skold & Rydeen, Inc. (ATS&R), Minneapolis. He can be reached at Jrydeen@atsr.com.