Building Value in Education

School budgets are tight and school districts and designers must focus on value—balancing capital first cost requirements with long-term operating costs, intangible costs, and enduring value. It is therefore critical to consider the full building cost.

Considering Environment

While energy efficiency is central to satisfying environmental goals, productivity costs considering staff salaries, benefits, and absenteeism are over 100 times larger than energy costs. This is without placing any value on student productivity or learning effectiveness in school or community impact from student absenteeism. As a result, a design decision that harms the indoor environmental quality (IEQ), functionality, or occupant health by even a small fraction of a percent will offset any small energy savings by much larger negative impacts and increased costs in the full use of the building. For these reasons, it is no surprise school design teams necessarily focus on a high-quality environment in terms of daylighting, views, acoustics, and thermal comfort for both students and staff.

Finally, there are several other considerations that affect both direct and indirect value.

Use-of-Space Cost Benefits

The combination of sunshades together with structural windows with high performance thermal barriers and glazing allows wide spans for daylight and views while maintaining thermal comfort and glare control adjacent to the windows. This increases the usable space along the perimeter of the room, allows for flexible furniture layouts, and can even allow cost reductions from the elimination of perimeter heating.

Total construction costs for schools can range from approximately $150 to over $500 per square foot based on region and school building type.

For a two-story building with total window perimeter length of 3000 ft, gaining just 1 foot of extra usable space around the perimeter can add up to $450,000-$1,250,000 of additional value. Alternatively, gaining the extra foot of usable space adds the equivalent value of $30-100 per square foot of glazing for a 5 ft tall window, justifying higher performance systems.

Economic Considerations 

The superior durability of aluminum products not only ensures long-lasting performance but also extends the replacement timeframe and lowers the full life cycle cost.

The window and glazing area is an important aspect of building value, where the economic value of views—using high-performance windows—is correlated with increased building valuation "...and rental/lease rates where applicable."

Cost Effective Customization

Architects can realize their aesthetic vision with customized designs in a cost-effective manner.

Aluminum extrusions offer significant advantages in both the cost and the lead-time of tooling design and manufacture as compared to vinyl extrusion, fiberglass pultrusion, injection molding, die casting, and other processes. In real terms, this means the architect can refine or customize their choice for profile shape, finish, and color for windows, doors, curtain wall, and sunshades.

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