Specialty: Educational facility design
Tom Bates said the steep hike in construction costs has strongly affected his clients, but it’s also forced his company into more creative ways of designing. So have the two recent industry trends of sustainable construction, and the idea of the school as a learning-driven center, rather than a teacher-driven center.
“What we’ve had to do is be more creative and be more thoughtful about how we integrate sustainable design features into our buildings,” said Bates, managing principal at BLRB Architects. Most of the firm’s projects are schools.
Less is more
In an attempt to squeeze as much in for as little possible, local features, such as daylight and natural ventilation, are being optimized in BLRB’s designs.
This exemplifies the firms’ shift in design through recent years to the idea that less is more. Costs are also cut by leaving roof structures and concrete floors exposed, instead of finishing them.
That attitude also helps school clients who passed their bonds two to three years ago, before the increase in construction costs began. For those clients, there is little, or no money left.
“The challenge is how to provide the very much needed facilities those districts require and still deliver it in the limited resources we have,” Bates said. “We have to be a lot more thoughtful and strategic over where we spend money.”
To do that, BLRB is concentrating on designing cost-effectively and meeting programmatic regulations with less square footage. This means designing multi-function and multi-use spaces, and creating new styles of implementation.
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