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August 1, 2019

Tacoma takes a chance on progressive design-build

  • An elementary school project tests the alternative delivery method in an effort to control costs and meet design and inclusion goals.
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    School districts face many challenges today. Escalating material prices, outdated budgets, tariffs and a competitive bid climate challenge the traditional delivery of new and renovated educational facilities.

    When Boze Elementary School needed replacing, Tacoma Public Schools chose an innovative, non-traditional method to meet these challenges head-on: progressive design-build.

    The replacement of Boze marks the first time in Washington that a district has used progressive design-build to deliver a K-12 school.

    Tacoma Public Schools officials knew they would need a cohesive team to mitigate risks and guide the replacement of Boze to a successful conclusion with this new delivery method.

    The team of Korsmo Construction and BCRA were selected for their strength in design-build experience. Together with Tacoma Public Schools, the progressive design-build team focused on meeting program needs and design goals — all while maximizing the budget and meeting a rigorous inclusion target.

    Image provided by BCRA [enlarge]
    Students and staff will move into the new Boze Elementary School in September 2020.

    Meeting district needs

    With progressive design-build, collaborative decision-making happens early and often. With designers and contractors in alignment prior to solicitation, Tacoma Public Schools joined a cooperative team where everyone was an engaged participant in a process dedicated to a value-rich outcome.

    Using design-build best practices, Korsmo-BCRA and Tacoma Public Schools were able to expedite decision making and work through Boze’s challenges together.

    Early partnering allowed the progressive design-build team to create project efficiencies that saved time and maximized every program dollar for the district. Early agreements on which spaces and features were priorities for the owner helped control costs throughout design and construction without sacrificing program needs — a key to defining project success.

    Tacoma Public Schools was also committed to investing in the local community by providing opportunities to disadvantaged and local businesses. The district worked closely with Korsmo to promote and secure inclusion goals of 30% local, 10% minority-owned, 6% women-owned, and 5% small business.

    The project has doubled its local inclusion goal and its goal for minority-owned business involvement. As the project continues these numbers will continue to rise, proving to districts around the state that this type of outreach is attainable.

    Photo provided by Skytech Aerial Photo [enlarge]
    Early collaboration allowed the team to agree on which spaces and features were priorities, saving time and money for the school district.

    Students and community

    Boze Elementary School functions both as a school and community hub that provides a meeting place and social and wellness services to many residents of Tacoma’s Eastside. Understanding these unique needs was critical to make design and construction decisions based on value to the overall program rather than their cost.

    The collaborative nature of progressive design-build allowed the team to work with community partners such as the WIC program and the Technology Access Foundation to prioritize programming spaces, such as a family liaison office and a community meeting room with a separate entrance.

    The city of Tacoma is also noticing the success of Boze.

    “A new school only happens in a community once every couple decades, if you’re lucky, and we’ve been given the opportunity to reconstruct Boze Elementary and invest in the Eastside of Tacoma,” said City Councilmember Catherine Ushka. “The Korsmo-BCRA team made sure the reconstruction of Boze Elementary was done right. They bent over backwards to work with the community to ensure this wasn’t just a beautiful school, but also a beautiful space for the community. The team went to great lengths to listen to and partner with the community and found ways to solve challenges like moving the community garden that is important to the neighborhood.”

    Achieving success

    Thanks to the inherent collaboration found with progressive design-build, the new Boze Elementary School broke ground with an in-budget guaranteed maximum price. The project included its full program scope, record-setting diversity participation and community support.

    The key to our success? A team committed to continuous collaboration, meaningful engagement with the project’s stakeholders, and creative progressive design-build solutions. This approach has ensured the new Boze Elementary is not just a school, but a space to serve its community for decades.

    Heather Hocklander is an associate principal and education market lead at BCRA, a design firm with offices in Seattle and Tacoma.

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