Wolgast Blog

Set Your School to “Snow Day” with the Push of a Button

Posted by Cory Sursely on Mon, Sep 23, 2019 @ 02:00 PM

phonepress3-1School Districts waste energy when building systems run while school isn’t in session, and face additional security threats, too.  The good news is that schools are estimated to be able to save considerable energy costs by adding building system controls and sensors for real-time control.  By automating school buildings with sensors and smart controls, the EPA says “schools and school districts can lower their operating costs by up to 30%.  Existing schools can save 25% of operating costs by implementing some basic efficiency measures, occupant education, and engagement programs.”1 Additionally, installing integrating security systems to ensure all doors are locked and surveillance or movement sensors are operating after hours provides peace of mind when no one is in the building.

Building automation can be integrated into new and existing buildings to control all systems from your laptop or a smartphone.  This is known as the Internet of Things (IoT), and allows for continual monitoring and alerts to be sent to facility managers if there’s a problem.  HVAC, lighting, CO2, water pressure, and access can all be monitored and adjusted or programmed as the usage of the building changes at varying times of day.

Besides the cost saving benefits of being automated and having the controls at your fingertips, per say, is that when schools have a Snow Day, those in charge of the building can press a “Snow Day” button on their phone or laptop and go into a mode that will lessen lighting, heat and even lock the access doors within the building from the comfort of their home, or where ever they are.  Additionally, sensors can notify you if there’s movement within the building for safety reasons.

Commercial Contractor, Wolgast Corporation, is able to work with School Districts throughout Michigan, where Snow Days and Freezing Days have been calling off school plenty the past few years.  This alone could save significantly on Schools’ energy costs.  Additionally, we are Consumers Energy and DTE Trade Allies, helping School Districts with electric and gas efficiency.  Consumers Energy offers incentives for those who reduce their usage and our Project Managers help their school clients to acquire those incentives through proper paper work.

Honeywell, an Energy Management Company, works with businesses and schools to measure their energy usage, configure alarms and notifications based on preset thresholds, incorporate the IoT, and provide access control and surveillance (among many other things).  In their news article, “Back to School : How School Buildings Can Positively Impact Student Achievement”, Honeywell features their work helping “schools enable more comfortable and productive environment through innovative energy solutions, which have resulted in approximately $270 Million of guaranteed savings for K-12 Schools in the U.S. and Canada since 2013,” a three year duration at the time of the article.Through their technology, Wolgast can integrate the functions necessary to control a building’s systems in real-time, and even create the “Snow Day” setting for your facility manager to easily maintain efficiency and safety when there’s no one in the building.  As well as stay on top of the controls year round from their computer.

Please contact us to find out more information about this opportunity – 800-WOLGAST.

1 United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Appendix A: Model Program for the State School Environmental Health Guidelines”.  https://www.epa.gov/schools/appendix-model-program-state-school-environmental-health-guidelines

2 Timmerman, Jessie. “Back to School: How School Buildings Can Positively Impact Student Achievement.” Honeywell, 29 Aug. 2016, https://www.honeywell.com/en-us/newsroom/news/2016/08/back-to-school-how-school-buildings-can-positively-impact-student-achievement

 

Tags: Schools, Energy Savings

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

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

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

What Security & Safety Mean for Today’s Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 @ 10:16 AM

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

School Bond Loan Fund Reform

Posted by Cory Sursely on Thu, Apr 02, 2015 @ 04:21 PM

forest-hills-interiorDue to School Bond Loan Fund Reform, a lock-out has been set that will prevent School Districts from borrowing a new bond issue from the School Bond Loan Fund, which is the typical way they get the funds to pay for updates and remodeling of their buildings. This lock-out isn’t set to expire until June 30, 2016 at the earliest. Another set-back to the program is that there’s a minimum (7 mill) total debt that must be levied in order to participate. This is a requirement for the School Loan Revolving Fund (SLRF).

In the meantime, what are School Districts who need improvements or updates at their facilities to do? If you’re one of the Districts who needs their HVAC updated to save money with a more energy efficient system, have safety concerns, or continue to lose students to Districts who have made improvements for a 21st Century Learning curriculum, you should know that you have funding alternatives to make improvements a reality.

Non-Qualified Bond Programs

The non-qualified loan program allows Districts to seek funding without having to go through the application process of the Michigan State Treasury Department.

o   The loan is subject to approval by the community; same as with a Qualified Bond.

o   Must meet the State Credit Rating (AA2/AA-) with their own District rating; would not be able to utilize the State’s Credit Rating.

o   A non-qualified loan does not count toward the 7 mill minimum for the SLRF.

o   The total non-qualified debt cannot exceed 15% of the District SEV.

o   Project would still need to be put out for competitive bidding

o   Project does NOT have prevailing wage requirements

o   Districts have the option to pursue funding and not wait for the School Bond Loan Fund Cap to be lifted

 

Wolgast has been helping Districts with funding with non-qualified loan programs for over 5 years. We will work closely with you to guide you through the process of securing a non-qualified loan.

Contact us at Wolgast to find out the benefits of looking into a non-qualified loan for improving your schools.

 

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Financing Construction