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The Unique Challenges of School Construction

Our nation’s schools, colleges, and universities are in woeful need of repairs and updates. According to a report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the condition of nearly a quarter of all U.S. public schools is below fair. Private and public school construction projects can be a lucrative opportunity for contractors and construction companies; however, rising costs and shifting priorities can make working on these projects a challenge. 

Below, a Jacksonville construction lawyer with Cotney Construction Law discusses the unique challenges that contractors will face while working on school construction projects. Hopefully, with a little insight, you’ll be able to overcome these challenges, win your next bid, and prove successful in this competitive sector of the industry. 

Rising Costs 

It’s no secret that costs are rising across the industry, and school construction is no exception. An in-depth look at construction costs per square foot in the U.S. reveals that the cost of K-12 and higher education construction varies wildly by region. For example, construction companies in Los Angeles, CA, can expect higher education construction to cost as much as $739 per square foot, while higher education construction in Miami and Orlando cost as much as $495 and $497, respectively. Although Jacksonville and other Florida cities are experiencing lower costs, contractors in the region can expect the cost of school construction to continue its dramatic rise. 

Related: Rising Costs in the Construction Industry

Although rising costs can be contributed to labor and material costs, there are a couple of other reasons that are unique to K-12 and higher education construction: 

An Increased Focus on Science and Technology

Just like construction companies vying to fill skilled positions, colleges are vying to enroll students. This includes adding state-of-the-art facilities like recreation centers and science buildings. Although the rising cost of school construction is comparable to the rest of the industry, these additions are what can really drive costs up on these projects. Overall, the focus is on improving the student experience. In this regard, some K-12 projects can rival higher education projects in cost. 

Related: Are Change Orders Costing Your Business Time and Money? 

An Increased Focus on Safety 

In part, the rising cost of school construction is being influenced by a need to protect students. In particular, this movement is spurred by numerous deadly school shootings that have impacted students, families, and our nation as a whole. Construction companies are being called upon to design and build schools and additions that offer a safe place for students to learn without making them feel like they’re in a prison. 

Related: 2020 Construction Industry Trends to Look Out For

These changes can be large, such as designing administrative offices to be at the front entrance of a school instead of at its center. Of note, there is a push for incorporating sturdy glass walls that provide teachers with an unobstructed view of hallways. Construction companies should expect the above safety features to add up to one and a half percent to the total cost of a project. Although proper administrative protocol will never be replaced, construction companies are doing their part in keeping the next generation of students safe. 

Industry-Wide Challenges 

Although K-12 and higher education construction present unique challenges, construction companies must also contend with issues that emerge on all construction projects, issues like labor and material costs that are only continuing to rise. These issues are only compounded on public projects where construction companies must contend with extra rules and regulations. Under these circumstances, disputes, delays, and bankruptcy become commonplace. 

Related: The Challenges of Owning a Construction Business 

Whenever taking on a niche like school construction, we recommend that contractors and construction companies partner with experienced Jacksonville construction lawyers. At Cotney Construction Law, our team has the resources to represent your company whether it’s working on a public K-12 project or a private higher education project. We can help your company circumvent many of the challenges that it will surely face, such as retrieving delayed payments, remaining compliant with state and federal law, and settling disputes in a timely manner. For legal representation that can protect your company on private and public school projects, partner with a Jacksonville construction attorney from Cotney Construction Law. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Jacksonville construction attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.