Wolgast Blog

Tips to Pass a School Bond Election

Posted by Cory Sursely on 9/4/2019

vote-1319435_1920We 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 supportive voters rather than spending your budget or energy on converting the opposed voters.  Then help the supporters 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 please call 800-WOLGAST.

 

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

Four Steps for School Boards to Plan a Construction Project

Posted by Cory Sursely on 8/15/2019

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.

 

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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 4/16/2019

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

What to Do with an Old School Pool?

Posted by Cory Sursely on 3/6/2019

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.

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Risk Management

Dos and Don'ts of School Bond Campaign Materials

Posted by Cory Sursely on 2/14/2019

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.

BondBrochure.jpgThe 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 problems 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.

 

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management

The History of Wolgast’s Construction Management Division

Posted by Cory Sursely on 2/13/2019

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 3/6/2017
Uncommon (and Common) Reasons to Use Construction Management

SubsOne 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.”

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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

The Inside Scoop on Construction Manager at Risk Delivery Method

Posted by Cory Sursely on 2/24/2016

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.

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Tags: Construction Management, Good for Business, Risk Management

What Security & Safety Mean for Today’s Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on 9/30/2015

When preparing for school construction projects, school leaders, construction managers and Three-Children-in-Hard-Hatsarchitects/engineers have big jobs in protecting kids; not only during the construction, but well after.

Not long ago, at a planning meeting for a bond election (and the associated ballot language), the terms safety & security were hot topics. The school board was seeking a way to state that they were improving security, but they wanted to make sure that the community knew they didn’t mean scanners and cameras to monitor the student body. They feared that parents would feel they were implying that the students were out of control and that there was a different kind of problem. What the board was asking to improve was a means to monitor the visitors coming into the building, increased visibility of who is in the building and that their parking/drop-off and playground areas are planned for safety. After much deliberation on the terms "safety" and "security", they were able to craft the language to clearly state what they meant.

We recently completed construction at Northview Public Schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan and they, along with Tower Pinkster Architects, designed a state-of-the-art school with increased security in mind. The design included adding a secure entry vestibule at the main entrance of the school. This is a double door entry system where once you enter the building you have to then enter the office prior to having access to the rest of the building. This is the only entry point of access to the building. Another design element addressing security is a more open floor plan with shorter lockers allowing clear visibility throughout the corridors.

Another hot safety/security topic is parking and student drop-off. With the ever increasing number of parents driving their children to school, we’ve seen a sizeable increase in traffic. The increase can lead to congestion and late, impatient drivers fighting for space with busses, which is unsafe for drivers as well as students who have to walk through the car/bus traffic. To address this issue, architects are now incorporating drop-off areas for parents separate from busses with one-way entry and exits into their design. This helps to eliminate the congestion so traffic can move smoother and kids aren’t darting between busses and cars.

The ever popular playground, one of the favorite places of every elementary schooler, is another safety concern. There are many safety requirements that need to be met including enough activity centers based on the age group and number of students. At Riverview Elementary & Brookside Elementary in Big Rapids, Michigan, the playground experts and engineers, Virdis Design, designed concrete curbs surrounding the play pad areas with ADA compliant sidewalk access, along with an under drain system complete with play safety surface. The under drain stone was 4” topped with 12” of play safety surface such as wood chips, which is more economical and doesn’t get stuck in tennis shoes like the rubber material does. Additionally, we were required to include a minimum 6’ fall zone surrounding the equipment should there be any trip and falls. Fall zones are determined by the installed equipment.

The best starting point for addressing security and safety concerns in schools is a facility study. A study determines what the District’s needs are in terms of security & safety (as well as a plethora of other items) which helps school leaders to prioritize the areas for improvements prior to taking it to a bond vote.

Furthermore on the safety topic, your construction manager is involved with all matters above, but they have additional safety procedures to keep in mind during construction. Keeping workers safe and school staff, students and visitors separate from construction activity, as well as monitoring who is on site to follow school security guidelines. Wolgast does this by coordinating with our safety committee, following our safety systems (i.e. having a safety plan and appropriate safety equipment on site), and conducting random safety inspections. We also require all contractors to have photo ID badges while on site, so they can easily be identified as part of our team.

Knowledge of threats to schools and its occupants increases the planning for security and safety. Therefore, school boards, architects/engineers, and construction managers continue to make improvements to create schools that are safer for everyone. To start your facility study, please contact Rich Ramsey or Tom Watson at Wolgast today - 800-WOLGAST.

 

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Construction Safety

Educational Enhancement the Wolgast Way

Posted by Cory Sursely on 3/4/2015
Educational Enhancement

As we hear more and more about STEM education and how important it is to expose your students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math as fields of study, Wolgast offers programs to introduce construction practices to your students during our construction projects at your school.  We call it Educational Enhancement and it has the flexibility to be tailored to your students in many different scenarios.

Our School Facilities Specialists and Field Managers work with your Curriculum Director to create a unique experience for your students, either as a class in a group setting, as individuals in work study, or who as hired summer interns.  Classroom groups are able to visit the site and have an educational opportunity appropriate to their age group, to showcase construction as a profession and how their current studies apply to real world scenarios. Conversely, in the past, we have taken on senior level students who are interested in construction or a related industry as a profession and provided independent study or summer internships.

This is part of our School Construction Management services at no additional charge.  We feel that it's a great benefit for our school clients and also a great opportunity for the future of the construction industry.  Likewise, our Field Managers are happy to show-off to the kids what we’re doing and how it relates to their STEM studies.

Additionally, our Construction Management Department is significantly experienced in K-12 school construction.  By significantly specialized, I mean we’ve done over $2 Billion of in-place construction for K-12 schools throughout Michigan.  We know school construction and can teach your students real world experience on a building that is near and dear to them.

See an example of a program we developed for Northview Schools and one of their students who was interested in architecture as a profession.

 

Example of Educational Enhancement

 

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way