Cost of proposed Middle School

There has been a lot of discussion about the cost of the proposed Milford Middle School and how that cost estimate increased from 2015 to now. Here is a look at these numbers in detail.

Background

The district has been working with SHP architects and Turner Construction to develop basic estimates for our building needs. It may seem unusual that we do not have a specific plan before running the bond – the exact design of the building, exact location on the MHS/MJHS campus – but this is common when building a large project such as this. We cannot bid out the job until the bond passes, and soil/other tests must be done before confirming exact plans.

However, both SHP and Turner have worked on many commercial and school building projects, so their estimates are based on extensive experience and expertise. The estimates are also in line with other school construction projects in the area.

Cost of Plans

In 2016, SHP presented the board with estimates developed by OFCC in late 2015/early 2016 for a 135,000 square foot junior high (grades 7-8), abating and demo for the current junior high, and site circulation/parking changes to make the campus more efficient. Cost for these three items was based on 2015 costs and the estimate was $36 million, or $267/square foot.

In late 2018/early 2019, SHP/Turner provided estimates they developed for a 200,000 square foot middle school (grades 6-7-8), abate/demo, and site circulation/parking changes. Cost estimate is $70.5 million, or $352/square foot.

Specifics of Cost Changes

As you can see above, cost estimates increased from $36 million in 2015/16 to $70.5 million today. This change can be explained by several factors: 1) inflation; 2) cost increases expected in OFCC numbers based on historical experience; and 3) additional square feet to house another grade.

Inflation

First, let’s consider inflation. While inflation may be relatively low for general consumer items, it has been high and steady in the construction industry. Construction inflation between 2015 and now has been an average of 5%/year (per Turner Construction and government sources). Adjusting $36 million by an average of 5% annually for 4 years (2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19) results in a new cost for the previously-estimated junior high of $43.8 million. This includes 135,000 square feet to serve two grades; abate/demo the old building; and site circulation/parking changes for the campus.

If you divide the $43.8 million by 135,000 square feet, this is a cost/square foot of $324.

Cost Increases

However, when we built the Charles L. Seiplet and Boyd E. Smith elementary schools a few years ago, we found that OFCC cost factors were off by almost 10%. In fact, the district had to supplement the $25 million from OFCC with $2.4 million (+9.6%) to complete the project correctly.

When you adjust the $43.8 million upward 9.6%, that number becomes $48 million, or $355/square foot.

Additional Square Feet

The original estimate for a junior high was for 135,000 square feet to serve two grades (7-8). This is 67,500 square feet per grade.

Now that we are adding sixth grade and building a middle school, we of course need more room for those students. Adding another 67,500 square feet to the 135,000 square foot junior high results in a middle school of 200,000 square feet.

The estimate for this size building, from Turner/SHP, was $70.5 million, or $352/square foot. This is very close to the $355/square foot that the original estimate becomes when inflation and cost increases are factored in. This is also in line with other construction projects of this scope.

Summary

This table summarizes each of the steps described above:

Building Square Feet Cost Estimate $/Sq Ft
2015 MJHS Grades 7-8, abate/demo old building, new site circulation/parking 135,000 $36.0 million $267
2019 MJHS Grades 7-8, abate/demo old building, new site circulation/parking: inflation of 5% each year for 4 years 135,000 $43.8 million $324
Cost increase: 9.6% on $43.8 million 135,000 $  4.2 million $ 31
TOTAL for 2019 MJHS Grades 7-8 135,000 $48.0 million $355
       
2019 MMS Grades 6-7-8, abate/demo old building, new site circulation/parking 200,000 $70.5 million $352

 

What Happens Next?

If the bond issue passes in May, the district will proceed with securing bids, choosing contractors, and locking in prices as soon as possible. At this point, we will be able to conduct the soil and other tests to confirm the specific design and location of the buildings on the MHS/MJHS campus … which will then be on its way to becoming the MHS/MMS campus.

If we are able to save on the project overall, funds will be used for further renovations in the high school.

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