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K-12 School Construction Trends



Although there have been enrollment dips, and birth rates are down, the impetus to create state of the art, and healthy school buildings for the next generation remains strong. Billions of dollars are committed to schools across the country. Read on for insights on the trends informing construction of K-12 schools. HVAC? Of course….


Positive and Uplifting

Public school buildings generally trace their origins back to the 1950s, making most prime for robust renovation or completely new construction. As Marty Burger, CEO for American Constructors, puts it, there’s a big overall push for healthy k-12 schools, and this phrase incorporates goals like “positive and uplifting,” “safe and secure,” and “clean and comfortable”:



  • American Constructors has seen “healthiness” for schools expand beyond air quality or the ease of cleaning interior surfaces. In this post-Covid era, “healthy” and “wellness” are intersecting expectations that, for many school districts, encompass the physical and mental wellbeing of students and teachers, greater access to outdoor spaces for play and learning, and the school’s connection to its community as a hub and resource.




  • “Healthy schools are now discussed more holistically,” says Paul Aplikowski…with Wold Architects and Engineers…. “A student’s mental health has become a big topic. There’s also greater emphasis on communities and collaboration.”




  • “Healthy” is now “a more encompassing idea,” says Todd Ferking…for DLR Group. He points to an influential book, “Healthy Buildings: How indoor spaces drive performance,”…which connects the amount of outdoor air coming into a room with cognition levels….“Making schools healthier requires a holistic approach that challenges some of the code minimums,” says Ferking.



HVAC At The Center

What the concept of “healthy” translates to, tangibly, in the design and construction of schools, of course has lots to do with HVAC systems and sustainability, as well as increased access to the outdoors. Bradley Sherburne, with CetraRuddy Architecture in New York observes that healthy schools rest on three legs: “wellness, as it relates to a building’s programming and circulation; air quality, ventilation, and lighting; and sustainability that focuses on the building’s envelope and energy sourcing.” Of course climate factors into decision making, and adds to the challenge of critical HVAC work in schools:


The healthiness of elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools…starts with letting more outdoor air into the building. Burger of American Constructors says that HVAC systems have become “the single biggest factor” affecting a school’s healthiness over the last 10 years. He notes, though, that in Texas, an air-conditioned school can vary by as much as 5% humidity, so getting the right balance of outdoor air coming into the building can be tricky. 


Go Time? 

In addition to the promise of plenty of work for builders across the country, attention to the state of schools brings other good news for the construction field, given the current labor shortage: making space for more vocational training is part of the plan for many high schools, as districts work to better incorporate industry certifications and apprenticeships into education.


Ready to dig into the future? Chances are good that school districts near you have lots of work and initiatives underway that might be up your alley–as a potential source of both new contracts and your up and coming labor force. As you think forward, don’t forget, Colonial Surety is here to help you build the capacity to do more. Receive Free Business Credit Scores instantly, just for submitting this easy, speedy Pre-Qual for a surety line of credit in writing. 


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