Vocal Point: Maintenance on buildings would save district money


Over the past six months I took the opportunity to attend four of the East Valley School District re-visioning/bond meetings held at four different (two elementary, middle and high) school buildings. I have children that attend EVSD and I own property in the district. I’ve been involved in publicly funded new construction and rehabilitation of commercial buildings for over 10 years as a development consultant, project manager and sustainable building adviser.

There are two key points that I would like to make:

(1) The first point I would like to make regards the EVSD bond proposal, the tremendous economic benefit to the community of $33.75 million in construction projects and the multiplier effect it will have in our local economy. A $33.75 million bond investment in our school buildings will have a multiplier effect of 2.5 times or $84 million of economic benefit to our community. Leveraged state dollars will bring an additional $32.5 million in state construction funds from Olympia to East Valley, which will have a multiplier effect of $80 million of economic impact to our community – for a combined total of $164 million.

Publicly funded construction projects provide multiplying economic benefit to local business and encourage the hiring of local professionals, contractors and suppliers. Publicly funded projects create livable (prevailing rate) wage construction jobs, one of the hardest-hit sectors of our economy. In addition to training opportunities in energy efficiency and green building science, local service and retail business will also benefit from increased traffic in the area. The rehabilitation of the district’s buildings is a viable economic stimulus package over the next two to three years and beyond with actual return on investment for local business, work force, property owners and taxpayers. Well-regarded schools increase property values, encourage business investment and job creation, and serve as the cornerstone of vibrant communities.

(2) The second point I would like to make regards the need for the district to right-size the school buildings to match the users’ (students, teachers and administration) needs, improve building and mechanical systems, and gain operating and maintenance efficiencies. It has been my experience that it is never cost-effective to continue to operate unoccupied space, which is the case in our schools today. Right-sizing building function and operations will yield efficiencies, thereby reducing operating and maintenance cost for years to come. Building and mechanical systems improvements are essential investments to extending a building’s useful life to avoid demolition and replacement. The availability and use of green building products, principles and practices can significantly extend buildings’ useful life and lower operating cost, with minimal or no additional cost over conventional building methods.

I have learned that building operating and maintenance costs are approximately 85 percent of a building’s total life cycle cost over 40 years, while the initial construction costs account for only 15 percent of the total life cycle cost. Efficient buildings use 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than conventionally constructed buildings, significantly reducing utility costs. Some larger buildings save, on average, $100,000 per year on operating costs, and even more as utility costs continue to rise.

Buildings and mechanical systems that have operated beyond their intended and useful life pose health and safety risks. Unforeseen and unexpected repairs on worn-out buildings and mechanical systems will consume operating budgets as severity and frequency of repairs may cause additional damage to the buildings, further increasing repair costs with no lasting benefit.

Spokane Public Schools has passed similar bonds, received state funds and is currently in the process of upgrading its school buildings, a wise investment indeed.

Richard J. Rodarte can be reached by email at rjrodarte@yahoo.com.

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