Wolgast Blog

Tips to Pass a School Bond Election

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Sep 04, 2019 @ 01:25 PM

VoteI have found that there’s not a single formula to passing a school bond vote.  Every community is different in regard to their support of their school district, so each campaign needs to be tweaked and managed.  However, Wolgast's School Facility Specialists have discovered a couple of tactics over the years as former School Superintendents on how to give every bond campaign a better chance for success and offer their expertise as part of our Pre-Bond Services.

First, the most important aspect of a success­ful millage election is staff and community involvement in the planning process. With that said, the likelihood of the passage of a millage proposal is determined days and even months prior to the election.  The devel­opment of the bond proposal, the inclusion of groups that will be af­fected by it, along with the marketing plan and execution are all key ingredients that will help lead to a successful election.

Another key is to focus on the “yes” voters rather than spending your budget or energy on converting the “no” voters.  Then help the “yes” voters by reminding them of registration deadlines, and when and where to vote.

Sometimes Districts can qualify for state and federal funding programs to help supplement building projects.  When qualifying for the additional funding, School Districts were able to ask voters to approve smaller bond amounts while securing enough budget to complete their construction needs.  Bond elections pass as voters recognize the savings to their District’s general fund to help maintain safety and educational programs.

To find out more about the funding programs or to have a free seminar with our School Facility Consultants regarding “Steps for Planning a School Construction Project”, please contact Rich Ramsey at rramsey@wolgast.com.

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way, Financing Construction

Four Steps for School Boards to Plan a Construction Project

Posted by Cory Sursely on Thu, Aug 15, 2019 @ 08:00 AM

School Board MeetingSo, you’ve been elected to your District’s School Board and have four years (or so) to help make the best decisions for the students and staff. You likely anticipate facing many issues that’ll require research plus your life experience to decide what’s best for your School District. One of those issues could be the maintenance, remodel, rebuild or relocation of school buildings. Do you know where to start? Below, we explain the steps you should take to have a successful construction project.

Step One – Facility Study

You start with a Facility Study to gain information on what your District needs to repair or improve. More specifically, a Facility Study conducted by a team of a qualified Architect and Construction Manager who’ll help you identify and organize what is necessary to maintain or improve the quality of education you’re currently providing. The Architect and Construction Manager should have experience conducting Facility Studies, so ask for their resume. 

A Facility Study will provide you with information regarding maintenance issues, instructional enhancements, future space needs, safety issues, and technology requirements, to name a few. Future decisions will be made easier by acquiring information from the Facility Study that assists you in prioritizing the District's needs.

Step Two – Funding

Once your board determines which buildings need construction services, the Superintendent and School Board have to find a way to pay for the projects. Currently, there are a variety of federal and state programs to supplement your general fund. The state’s treasury website can offer a lot of information, but so can a meeting with Wolgast’s School Facility Consultants, who can guide you through the process and find the best option for your District.

Step Three – Bond Campaign

As we stated in our blog, “Tips for Passing a School Bond Election” there’s not one way to pass a bond election because each School District is different. There are, however, things that a school board and bond committee can do to help every bond campaign, such as getting staff and the community involved early in the campaign. Please see the referenced blog for more information.

Step Four – Construction

Typically, when you work with a Construction Manager on the pre-construction services listed in steps 1-3, you have an agreement to use them to oversee the construction of the project. They’re your advocate throughout the project from pre-construction through completion. Through weekly meetings and open communication, you, the Architect and the Construction Manager are a team that ensures the project gets done on-time and within budget.

We would be more than happy to present to your School Board our seminar on “Steps for Planning a School Construction Project”, please contact an Education Facility Consultant, Rich Ramsey, Michael Pung or Joe Powers at 800-956-4278 for more information.

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way, Financing Construction

4 Reasons Why the Entire Pre-Construction Phase Is Key to Project Success

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 @ 12:11 PM

Plans-&-HatFor both Design/Build and Construction Management delivery methods, the start of Pre-Construction Phase is Architectural Design and it’s a very exciting time for most building owners.  They love the ideas, options, and decorating aspects for their building.  And then, when drawings are done, the owner is eager to get to the other main event of Construction Phase.  But there is so much more happening during Design than they know and a lot more to be done before this Pre-Construction Phase, “Pre-Con”, is complete.  This is also when the contractor gets organized to save the most time and money during construction.   

So, what exactly happens during the entire Pre-Con that could make a difference to the cost or schedule? 

  1. When using Design/Build or Construction Management services, a contractor will work with the Architect at various stages of the Design, from conception through final design, to evaluate the drawings for constructability. Through their experience, project managers and estimators will review the plans to mentally walk through the construction methods and also to monitor that it’s being designed per the specified budget. There may be an instance when the project manager is able to see that something drawn doesn’t translate to the construction process.  By working with the architect or engineer, they can collaborate to work through the means and methods.  This saves time and money for the client, keeping the construction schedule on track.

  2. Speaking of the schedule and sequencing, there are a lot of moving parts that need to happen in a certain order. The ceiling can’t be installed before the lights, otherwise there will be a lot of rework. So the project manager charts through the schedule by working backward from the agreed upon completion date.  Also, long lead items (materials that take a longer time to arrive on site) can be factored in the calculations and ordered as early as possible.

  3. Meanwhile, estimators are lining up the pool of qualified subcontractors that will bid. The more bidders there are, the more competitive pricing can be achieved. We’re able to do this best through adequate bidding time for subs to submit their quotes and detailed scope of work descriptions

  4. Also during this phase, the Contractor orders materials, acquires permits, and prepares for safety measures so that the project can start on time and keep everyone on-site safe.

It’s important to note projects completed by General Construction delivery method typically don’t allow the ability for constructability review or the adequate time to line up as many competitive bidders. 

Final thought, Pre-Construction Phase is critical to project success, so construction can start without costly delays and building owners can get in the building sooner. Wolgast’s Pre-Construction tasks are systemized, so these key items are completed consistently and guided by our best practices developed over 70+ years.  We have offices in Saginaw, Alpena, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo to provide commercial construction services, quickly, efficiently, and with the most value.  Call 800-WOLGAST to meet about your construction plans.


Other blog titles that may interest you:

Sharing Budget Streamlines Pre-Construction
Ample Estimating Time Can Lower Price of Construction
Safety on Site - What It Can Mean for Your Construction Project

Tags: Design/Build, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way, Construction Safety, Scheduling, Design, Good for Business

Construction of New Tech High Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on Thu, Apr 04, 2019 @ 08:16 AM

Meridian-Schools_newtech.jpgThe New Tech Network is designed to target disinterested students, while still reaching those who are already college bound. And it is working because their new report, "The Power of Us: New Tech Network School and Student Success 2018", shows that New Tech High School students are 5% more likely to go onto college compared to the national average.  And students in their program have been evaluated to have 42% more critical thinking skills compared to private schools over a four-year average, as measured by CWRA+ (The College and Work Readiness Assessment).

The New Tech Curriculum is fairly new as it only started in the mid 90’s, but it already has proven results.  On their website, www.newtechnetwork.org, they state, “NTN schools consistently outperform national comparison groups on measures of higher order thinking skills, high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates”.  Each student is provided with a computer and the necessary tools to complete “project-based learning” as a group.  In this type of environment, students learn open collaboration and problem solving skills.  The program goal is “to enable students to gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life, college and the careers of tomorrow”.

At the time of publishing this blog, only ten schools in Michigan had incorporated the New Tech curriculum.  Wolgast has gained experience with constructing New Tech High Schools over the past few years.  We have provided Construction Management services for remodeling Meridian New Tech High School in Sanford, Michigan.  They became one of the earliest schools in Michigan to adopt the New Tech High School curriculum for their freshman class in 2010. Then in 2016, they hired Wolgast again to complete the necessary renovations to the existing high school to allow for the extensive wiring, networking and group spaces required for the technically focused program. The curriculum stayed with those that started it as freshmen in 2010 and then extended to all following classes.  Since 2010, we have also completed more renovations to make room for the addition of students and their space and technological needs, including updates to science labs and media centers.  Meridian is focused on getting their students "Career Ready. College Bound" according to their website. They have also converted their Junior High and Elementary schools into the New Tech Network.

The difference with remodeling or constructing a New Tech school stems from each space needing to be adaptable for multiple group work stations for a variety of situations.  A higher level of coordination is the key for the Construction Manager to oversee a smooth project and account for the necessary flexibility plus technical and data accommodations.

If you’re considering adopting this curriculum for your school, you should contact the New Tech Network; however, if you need a Construction Manager to complete the renovation to your school, call Wolgast Corporation who can apply their best practices to your project.

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way

What to Do with an Old School Pool?

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Mar 06, 2019 @ 08:25 AM

PoolBlog.jpgSchool Districts with older pools that have floated, no longer pass inspection, or pools that are simply underutilized, we have an answer to your dilemma. Other School Districts who have faced this problem just closed the door to their pool room, others use the pool shell to store old desks, chairs, athletic equipment, or general storage, etc., but this is obviously not the most efficient use of space. Plus there is still additional expense of insurance coverage and for the heating costs of the large area.

So why do they keep the unused pool shell? Because the cost to update for current regulations is typically too much for schools that are already financially strapped. When you consider the expense of demolishing the concrete around the pool to gain access to cracked tubes, digging deeper and wider to comply with new regulations (in some circumstances), then rebuilding or resurfacing the pool walls/floor, it could reach $1M to get it functioning again. Plus, the shrinking of some Districts or the lower interest in swimming can make it less appealing to keep up with maintenance costs. So what’s a School District to do?

In the last few years, we have remodeled pool areas for a handful of School Districts. At Northview Public Schools, we converted their existing pool into a fully functional community fitness center including a 3-lane walking/jogging track.

Northview had several issues with their existing pool. The ceilings and lighting needed updating; the bleachers needed to be replaced; the diving well was not deep enough; there were not enough lanes; and it was costly to maintain. As a part of their 2011 Bond Planning, the District sought voter approval to build a new Natatorium that would include a new swimming pool and convert the existing pool space into a fitness center that the community would be able to utilize.  The Community supported the proposal and the project began with infilling the existing pool; laying down athletic sports flooring; adding new fitness equipment; replacing existing windows with new, more efficient windows; and later completing the 3-lane suspended walking / jogging track.  Then a new 13-lane competition pool was completed with enough pool depth to support diving and a shallow area that is used by the Community Swim Group.

At Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools, the District decided that they no longer needed the pool, but could use room for an auxiliary gym instead. This would have required an addition to their school to make room if they hadn’t decided to modify their pool area as an alternative. We also infilled the pool and created a solid level surface with a rubber gym floor to morph the room into their needed gym space. Without the pool, the district is now able to hold practice at reasonable hours for all sports, they’ve eliminated the additional maintenance, HVAC, and insurance cost also.

Similarly, at Montrose Public Schools, we converted their pool into a needed auxiliary gymnasium space with a wood gym floor. Other schools have been able to convert their old pools into dry storage space.

If your School District has an underutilized pool or one in a state of disrepair, this may be the solution for you and as experienced Construction Managers of old school pool conversions, we are the team for you to contact! Please call 800-965-4278 (800-WOLGAST) to discuss your options.

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Risk Management

Dos and Don'ts of School Bond Campaign Materials

Posted by Cory Sursely on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 @ 08:00 AM

For more than 20 years we’ve been helping schools to pass their bond elections, and going back further than that, our Education Facility Specialists are former School Superintendents who have worked on their own campaigns while leading their respective Districts.  We have a lot of experience and want to help you know what works and what doesn’t when you’re creating your school bond campaign materials.

The significance of your bond communication materials is to get accurate voting information to supporters.  It’s important to include the date and times of the vote and locations of precincts.  Most schools also include reminders of voter registration dates, tax change charts and descriptions of school improvements, however just reminding supporters to vote is the key to this part of the campaign without being polarizing to the “no” or “undecided” voters. 

Sometimes using graphics can be a double-edged sword.  For instance, showing disappointed faces or the BondBrochure.jpgproblems with the existing school may make supporters feel more compelled to vote, however, opponents or undecided voters may feel that it’s emotional propaganda and stir them to turn against the goals of the District.  It’s better to stick to the facts and break down how minimally the tax increase will change, if that’s an option.  Using neutral graphics of pie charts, graphs, blue prints, or your mascot may be better choices.  What you can include depends on how the informational brochures are funded.

Other schools fill in a tri-fold brochure with the list of projects that will be completed if the bond passes, and/or the verbiage of the ballot language.  This is all good content as long as you also ask the recipient to vote and remind them of the date, time and location.  You want to get all of your supporters to the voting booth on the right day because every single one may be necessary to get the bond passed.

With Wolgast as your construction manager, our bond campaign experts will help guide you through the pre-bond phase and share our experience on how to pass a school bond.  Please contact Rich Ramsey, Mike Pung or Joe Powers for more information, 800-WOLGAST.

 

Tags: Schools, Construction Management

The History of Wolgast’s Construction Management Division

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 @ 08:05 AM

AtlantaExperts claim that a form of Construction Management (CM) construction delivery was used in ancient times as far back as the pyramids.  However, according to Construction Management Association of America, CM became known as a distinctive construction delivery option in the 1960s1.  The need for a new construction delivery method at that time was due to more “sophisticated” systems being designed for large, complicated buildings and stricter regulations.  It was a growth time for the HVAC industry with the introduction of air conditioning and computerized control systems2.  More complex applications increased the role of the contractor to be more involved with the “specification of equipment and parts”.  There eventually was a shortage of HVAC installers and with the increased desire for air conditioning, shoddy applications led to many problems.  A problem which was well suited for CM advocacy between the Designer and the Contractor.

Wolgast Corporation originated in 1948 as G. H. Wolgast Masonry by Gerald Wolgast, a Masonry Contractor, and then expanded to a General Contractor (GC) soon after.  The company remained a GC for twenty years until Gerald and his sons were the first to add Design/Build services as an option to deliver complicated projects more efficiently.  This method was great for buildings with a smaller square footage and shorter durations to build and worked well in many applications for another twenty-five years.  At that time, ever the progressive contractor, Wolgast added CM Services to enter the education sector, officially.  The new service groomed Wolgast to quickly become a top advocate for our school clients who had complicated systems, a long construction duration, and lots of construction activities to plan simultaneously.  A team of Owners Representative, Architect and Construction Manager created the strong leadership necessary for large, complex projects guaranteeing that critical elements of design, cost, time, and quality would come together to deliver a project that the owner wanted and needed.

Since 1996, Wolgast’s CM Division has completed more than $2 billion of in-place construction just for school clients.  We now have three offices dedicated to CM Services and have worked with almost 150 of the 450 school districts within Michigan, plus a few in Ohio.  Our staff is top-notch and our field managers are on our work sites 100% of the time.  He or she is there to monitor the day-to-day activity and to help school officials arrange schedules, so that school activities can carry-on uninterrupted.  This is only part of the reason why 80% of our clients are repeat customers.

1https://www.healthdesign.org/sites/default/files/an_owners_guide_to_construction_management.pdf, preface, page 1, reprinted with the permission of Construction Management Association of America, Inc.

2 https://www.contractingbusiness.com/archive/1960s-incredible-growth-amid-chaos, 3/10/09

CM Services the Wolgast Way!

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way

Use CM When Your Client List Is Full of Building Contractors

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Mar 06, 2017 @ 09:56 AM
Uncommon (and Common) Reasons to Use Construction Management

What is CM Delivery?

Subs-1.jpgOne of our Construction Management (CM) clients recently stated that starting a large construction project is similar to drinking from a fire hose.  He has appreciated relying on us to help him through the process.  If you don’t know, CM is a construction delivery method where an owner hires both the Architect and Contractor on the team before the design process begins.  The Owner, the Architect, and the CM work together to identify the scope of the project, estimate the budget, and determine the schedule.  During the Design Phase, the Architect is responsible for creating the design based on the scope, and the CM estimates the budget needed for constructing it and coordinates the schedule.  During the Construction Phase, the CM finds the subcontractors and oversees construction through the Warranty Phase; the Architect offers checks and balances to ensure that their design is executed accurately and that schedules and budgets are met.  This method is typically suited for most large projects that either span more than a year, involve more than one building, or both.  It is also suitable for other types of projects in instances described below.

Benefits of Using CM

Common benefits of CM include the use of wide spread resources/contacts, vetted construction experience, and scheduling/coordination abilities.  A CM isn’t necessary to keep large projects on track, but having the support, construction knowledge, and established relationships with subcontractors helps a large project run smoothly and feel less like “drinking from a fire hose”.  There are also uncommon benefits of using CM services.  For business owners whose clientele includes members of the construction industry (i.e. churches, banks, auto dealers, membership organizations, etc.), they now face becoming the customer to several of their standing clients who may be expecting a returned “favor”.  A CM is able to break down work scopes to include more opportunities for subcontractors and in turn involve more of their clientele to keep them happy, or help the Owner narrow down a tough decision when needed.  Finally, the CM approach offers an “open book” relationship in which fees or costs associated with the project are known and directly shared with the owner, and the CM’s fee is fixed.

 

Wolgast’s CM Department was established in 1996 and we’re systemized to provide efficient services to focus on construction while you focus on your business.  We’ve been responsible for more than $2 Billion worth of in-place construction for a third of the school districts in the state.  We’ve also been the CM for hotels, manufacturing operations, colleges, medical facilities, financial institutions, entertainment establishments and municipal projects.  Contact Steve Salyers, VP Construction Management, to see if CM is the right fit for your upcoming project at 800-WOLGAST.  According to Steve, our CM team is “the Owner’s professional representative who maximizes the value of each dollar the Owner spends.”

Inquire Here

Also Read: How Economies of Scale Works in Construction and The Inside Scoop on the Construction Manager at Risk Delivery Method

Tags: Construction Management, Good for Business

How Technology Updates Change Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

SecureEntry.jpgSchool Districts are facing pressure to incorporate technology into their curriculum to compete with other institutions who have already adopted 21st Century and New Tech programs. However, miles of wiring, hardware, software, white boards, wireless projectors and hand held devices aren’t the only technological concerns of modern schools.

Building efficiency, automation and security also play a role in technological updates. With the additional cost of keeping up with continual software updates and hardware maintenance, saving money through energy efficiency and Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (M/E/P) monitoring can help off-set these expenses. Through building automation, all of your systems can communicate with each other and through computer monitoring you can scrutinize that your HVAC systems run more efficiently and manage energy usage to reduce costs. Also, installing LED lighting will save money and improve the student’s learning environment. Ensuring that all of these systems work together and don't have to be retroactively forced to communicate takes planning and design prior to installation.  Far too many times this is an afterthought that costs more money, but if done correctly it can save money on the project.  Furthermore, when your systems work together through building automation, they become more efficient, building occupants’ comfort can be better controlled and maintenance services moderated. Additionally, your maintenance staff will be notified immediately of system issues, so that incidences can be managed before they become a costly problem.

Probably a top priority for all schools has become their building security to make their campus safe and secure for teachers and students. We recently worked with a school to improve their security measures. Like most, they wanted, “full, unfettered control of the door” without making it feel like a prison for students. School Districts more commonly face issues with custody cases or split families and even angry boyfriends who enter the building to get in contact or even remove a student. These are the more common situations that Districts have faced in the past and are trying to control.

Most of the security updates that we incorporate include a secure entry area through double doors or office passageway, but it also needs timed door locks, cameras, and intercom systems. All these updates require hard wiring and the ability to communicate with the centralized monitoring system (same as your HVAC system).

Schools can incorporate modern technology changes that will save them money, improve the indoor environment, and provide reliable control of who is in their building by teaming with an Architect and Construction Manager (CM) who are experienced with pre-planning your systems so they work together and who have a better than average school bond passage success rate, like CM, Wolgast Corporation. Call us to discuss your building goals at 800-WOLGAST.

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Tags: Professional General Contractor, Schools, Construction Management

The Inside Scoop on Construction Manager at Risk Delivery Method

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 @ 10:17 AM

Steel-Erection.jpgBy hiring a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) you’re getting a construction consultant on your team who handles all aspects of your building from design through warranty for a guaranteed maximum price. The CMAR oversees your project and can even hire the architect on your behalf, working with them to see that your design goals are recognized within the allotted budget. Then they complete all the pre-construction activities and hire the contractors as if it were the CMAR’s own project. The CMAR oversees the construction of the building through completion and any warranty issues.

Typically, a CMAR is most suitable for large, complex projects that may include multiple buildings or a year plus duration to construct. Clients that use this method of construction will be able to focus on their business while the undertaking of building their substantial building is professionally managed by construction experts.

Below is a list of five discoveries you’ll learn from working with a CMAR:

  • Constructability and application reviews will help mold your building design for efficiency, provide better opportunity for a reduction in change orders, likely reduce cost of construction activities, and save time on the schedule.
  • Selection of prime contractors based on value rather than low bid will provide a better quality building with less rework and or possibility of lawsuits. This is another means to save on the budget and time.
  • Your scope doesn’t have to be complete for construction to start. With the contractor being completely familiar with the project goals, site work and in some cases foundation work can start before the plans are complete.
  • CMAR is not always the least expensive delivery method due to the complexity, more risk being transfered to the construction manager, and (in some instances) working with an incomplete scope of work. However, if it was easy you wouldn’t need their expertise to complete the project. You likely will still be saving money over alternative methods of construction because of complications that can arise otherwise.
  • If they weren’t already, your CM is going to be overly diligent in monitoring the budget and schedule because if anything is out of line, it will go against their predetermined profit for the project.

Due to the nature of this construction delivery, it is ordinary for a relationship of trust to develop among the team. The CMAR will treat the project as their own and make decisions that will result in the best quality for the budget and schedule duration providing a superior building as a result. For more information regarding Wolgast’s CMAR service, please call us at 800-WOLGAST.

Inquire Here

Tags: Construction Management, Good for Business, Risk Management