Just thinking about a facility expansion or remodeling of some kind? It’s common for school leaders to wait to engage an architect until they have begun to formalize their ideas, vision or plans. We’ve seen the best results when leaders reach out to us at the first thought of a potential facility expansion for dialogue and a tour.
What’s most interesting is that often the project becomes different than they initially thought. Why? Here are a few examples of projects where the final solution changed significantly from what school leaders initially thought.
- Sometimes problems are not problems at all.
The fix may be easy. One school engaged us for a classroom addition. Through our space utilization assessment, we discovered that we could realign some of the interior walls to add the needed classrooms without doing an addition. The result was the ability to more quickly achieve the desired outcomes and for a far lower price tag.As a school space strategist, it’s my job to not only bring design expertise and experience working with a variety of schools, but to also ask questions to understand the underlying need. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes unveils new options and opportunities.
- A fix can quickly become far more complicated than expected.
In a recent example, a school wanted to turn a gym into an auditorium. While the facility had the space, making the change would require significant changes to the exits, doors and corridors since the project also triggered both compliance with current building code and the higher occupancy of an auditorium over a gymnasium. Creating the desired sloped floor was also costly. The end result was adding an auditorium at lower cost and converting the gymnasium space to flexible space for Special Education.Detailed understanding of the building code and experience with what’s currently working in other E-12 schools are essential when school leaders begin considering a facility change. As trained problem solvers, it’s rewarding to make even the most complicated plans feel easy for school leaders.
- Problems can be symptoms of something else.
In one recent case, a school approached us asking about adding a set of classrooms because it took students too long to walk from one set of classrooms to another. In addition to providing a plan to add the classrooms requested (and abandon the “distant” classrooms), we also shared a second option of adding a central stairwell that would solve the traffic challenge and allow the school to keep using the classrooms that once felt too far away. The benefit of the second option was a savings of over $2 million.As a school partner, we take the time to fully understand the issue, identify paths to resolve it and then let the district decide how to proceed.
At IIW Minnesota, we believe that the first meeting is so important that we provide it for free, with no strings. We want schools to start their project right, so they are best positioned for success.