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School Construction 2003

August 21, 2003

Better buildings can boost savings down the road

  • State colleges poised to reap long-term benefits from new capital spending budget
    McGranahan Architects

    Automotive Education and Training Center, Clover Park Technical College
    Photo by Matt Todd Photography
    Clover Park Technical College’s $12 million Automotive Education and Training Center was designed for long-term flexibility, including spaces that can be easily remodeled as needs change. Energy-saving features including natural lighting and ventilation will save utility costs.

    The Washington state 2003-05 capital budget included a record $380 million in new appropriations for community and technical colleges to address critical building needs stemming from aging and/or inadequate facilities. Another $750 million in additional capital funding will be available through the Gardner-Evans higher education construction account over the next six years.

    While the 2003-05 operating budget totals over $1 billion and includes increased funding in several areas, the overall budget received cuts totaling $51.5 million.

    In order to compensate for most of these cuts, the Legislature gave the state Board for Community and Technical Colleges authorization to raise tuition by 7 percent. This comes on top of increases totaling more than 18 percent in the previous two years, and another 7 percent increase authorized for 2004-05.

    As we approach 2008 and the graduation of the largest high school class our state has experienced, the issues of continually increasing tuition and providing adequate operational funding will increase in importance. How can the recent record funding for capital projects contribute to a long term operational solution?

    The state’s community and technical college system is now embarking on an exciting yet challenging two-year budget cycle that should pay dividends well into the future.

    While facing challenges with the operating budget and a substantial tuition increase, colleges have the ability to address current and future facility needs in ways that maximize building efficiency, enhance the educational experience and effectiveness for students, and expand the range of programs offered through community partnerships.

    More efficiency

    Most buildings on community and technical college campuses were designed and built more than 30 years ago, and many are reaching the end of their effective life span.

    Newer buildings can make better use of natural resources and reduce maintenance costs with systems that are more efficient. Flexibility and adaptability are built into contemporary designs to reduce the need for reconfiguration over the life of the building as educational pedagogy evolves.

    A recent project, the Automotive Education and Training Center for Clover Park Technical College, is a model for the kind of long-term thinking required. The 85,000-square-foot complex was designed by McGranahan Architects with input from automotive faculty, advisory committee members and representatives of the automotive industry.

    The building is organized in two distinct wings, one for auto tech programs such as engine and chassis repair, and one for auto finish courses such as body work or upholstery. For long-term flexibility, the design employs long span structures and zoned ventilation to provide enclosure to spaces that can be easily remodeled in the future without affecting the major infrastructure of the building.

    Throughout the complex there is an emphasis on natural light and airiness. Training areas are visible through plentiful areas of glazing to let in daylight and to view learning activities in the labs. The largest spaces in the building can be naturally ventilated with glass-paned rolling doors that also provide access to service drive-up and to the outdoor automobile display areas in the central courtyard.

    Community and technical college building projects will generally be designed to meet the LEED silver certification standard, in accordance with Gov. Gary Locke’s executive order requiring sustainable design principles be applied.

    Productive learning

    Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins point out in their book “Natural Capitalism” that “typical American offices spend about 100 times as much per square foot for people (payroll, benefits, employer taxes and individual equipment) as for energy. If labor productivity goes up just 1 percent, that will produce the same bottom-line benefit as eliminating the entire energy bill.”

    Though educational facilities operate differently than office buildings, similar benefits can be achieved. Like business work environments that are becoming more collaborative and flexible to achieve greater performance, education facilities are changing too.

    Trends in education are moving toward more self-directed learning, more collaborative activities among students, connections with community businesses and institutions located offsite, and a greater percentage of students learning through online resources brought to distance-learning facilities on campus or to students studying away from the college campus.

    Building designs more often include a greater variety of spaces recognizing that learning happens through a variety of interactions in a variety of settings. Educational effectiveness is improved by providing for all of these modes of learning. Instructors spend less time talking in front of groups of students and more time facilitating the learning process of students in more personal ways.

    Community and technical colleges are building closer relationships with businesses and cultural institutions. Buildings on their campuses are contributing to a greater presence in their communities as hosts to partnerships.

    Doug Benoit, instructional dean with Clover Park Technical College, said the new Automotive Education and Training Center “will increase our opportunities for collaborating with vehicle manufacturers and to the businesses and industries related to the automotive industry for the benefit of our students.”

    The college has formed a cooperative agreement with the new LeMay automobile museum in Tacoma to provide restoration services on historic automobiles from the nation’s largest private car collection. Ford Motor Co. is partnering to train entry-level technicians for Ford dealerships. Ford provides vehicles for students to train on, curriculum instructional aids, and works with CPTC to train faculty and staff.

    The school has similar agreements with vendors to hold training seminars and workshops.

    “It’s really raised the level of pride and performance for the faculty, staff and students,” said Benoit.

    CPTC allows vendors to use the facility, and in turn, they train the faculty and staff. The facility attracts higher-caliber students to train, and allows the college to send more qualified graduates into the workforce.

    Design solutions

    Can colleges save enough money through new and improved buildings to offset 7 percent increases in tuition?

    That is hard to know, and building operations are only part of the solution.

    Well-considered designs reduce the cost of operation compared to antiquated and cheaply built facilities that exist on many community and technical college campuses. Well-considered designs contribute to more-effective education by providing a greater variety of learning venues. Well-considered designs draw community contributions and business partnerships that cannot be measured just in dollars.

    A synergy of these strategies should be implemented in future projects. Though capital projects and operations are budgeted separately by the Legislature, with record levels of funding for new and renovated facilities we have the opportunity to contribute to operational funding solutions for years to come.

    Marc C. Gleason is principal of design with McGranahan Architects. He encourages the firm’s clients to think beyond conventional solutions in educational facility design.

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