Facility Planning: School Renewals

Source: James E. Rydeen, American School and University, June 1, 2008

1950s-’60s schools: Obsolescence or longevity?

Forty-three percent of existing public schools were built in the 1950s-’60s era. This era seems to have gained the reputation of cheap, energy-inefficient buildings that were not intended to last more than 30 years.

A study at one school district estimated it would cost $2.1 billion to fix its aging buildings. Many buildings were well-kept and clean, but their mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were old and inefficient; the food-service equipment needed replacing; and the facilities did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most of the buildings are only 30 to 50 years old and are showing signs of water damage, and wear and tear.

Experience has proven that public schools must be designed for long-term use — much longer than 30 years.

Many institutions keep up with most of their annual facility maintenance, but not with replacing major systems and equipment because annual budgets cannot cover the costs. Avoiding such dilemmas requires planning, scheduling and budgeting for the eventual upgrades.

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