Eight Things to consider before renovating your school

By Michel Lebel

Allen & Hoshall has a long history providing planning, design, and construction services for the educational facilities. An example of our experience includes the ongoing DeSoto County Schools Program which has consisted of more than $240,000,000 worth of construction over the past twenty years. Our staff have extensive experience and understand renovations can be cumbersome. In our experience planning and phasing is the key to a successful project. Here are a few things to consider before you consider renovating:

  1. Did you know the Department of Justice requires all public facilities must allocate 20% of a voluntary renovation budget towards ADA upgrades? Typical items include site access, ramps, clearances, hand rails, fixtures, etc.
  2. While there are many code exceptions for existing items during a renovation, all new construction work has to meet the local adopted building code. Many states require a state Fire Marshal review of the existing facility to locate any potential life safety issues that may need to be evaluated. This follows the home camera system installation due to health and safely regulations which have to be met.
  3. If your facility was originally constructed before the 1990’s there’s a good possibility that the building could have asbestos or lead containing materials. Common materials include flooring tile, adhesive, caulking, glazing, insulation and more. There are specific laws dealing with the abatement of asbestos so before starting any renovation it would be wise to have a professional asbestos survey carried out to identify these materials and locations.
  4. Depending on your location and local adopted codes, you may be required to install more efficient lighting and controls when replacing light fixtures. Newer controls use occupancy and daylight sensors to adjust lighting output throughout the day. This is one requirement of the 2010 ASHRAE 90.1 which has been adopted statewide in Mississippi for public buildings.
  5. There are state laws that regulate how architects and engineers are able to solicit, advertise, and provide fees for upcoming projects. Having someone familiar with these laws will help avoid confusion and help level the process for selecting architects and engineers for your project.
  6. Before doing any roof repairs or maintenance always check the existing roof warranty. If the roof is still under warranty, usually there are procedures to follow for repairs, maintenance, and usage to ensure the warranty isn’t voided. If the warranty is unclear, give the installer or manufacturer a call for clarification.
  7. Depending on your existing building type and size, certain materials may not be allowed as part of your renovation. These materials are typically related to the ability to spread flames or smoke. Some of the most commonly overlooked items include curtain fabric, finish materials, and wood paneling/ framing. Check with your local fire marshal or hire a professional to identify any existing prohibited materials.
  8. Check with your existing property insurance provider. Some providers, like FM Global, have their own requirements that may go beyond what the minimal code requires. It always a good idea to get them involved before, during, and after a renovation. They’ll need to determine if your renovation could change your current rates and provide additional coverage for the project during and after construction.

Product Innovation

Product Innovation can play a key role in making your renovations make sense. Below are a few ideas that we can assist in evaluating to see if any of these are right for your facility.

  • Consider a utility distribution system for your kitchen to allow for easy and affordable equipment replacement and reconfiguration.
  • Consider polished concrete flooring or Luxury Vinyl Tile in lieu of VCT to eliminate costly waxing maintenance.
  • Consider LED lighting upgrades with occupancy and daylight sensor controls to help reduce energy costs.
  • Try VRF technology for heating and cooling which utilizes refrigerant lines in lieu of ductwork when the existing space above the ceiling is very tight.


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