Today's high school construction more customized than text book

Published: Sunday, Jan. 22 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

"Each wing houses certain subjects that coordinate well together," he said. Older buildings were built to fit the size of the student body, but layout wasn't as instrumental. "It was just kind of cobbled together. (Today) here's a lot more focus on how the facility can enhance education."

In Davis, newer high schools are arranged in "academic houses" with courses grouped together according to what careers or degrees students hope to acquire after high school.

"We have schools within a school," Turner said.

Of course, today's buildings have many more electrical outlets and wiring and cables throughout to keep up with the demands of new technology. Even so, one change Turner anticipates to see in the next 10 years is computer labs shrinking and becoming obsolete. With computers in nearly every classroom and a shift to personal electronic devices like laptops and tablets, rows of monitors and towers will be phased out, he said, and students will take their technology with them.

Cost Savings

Building experts say building costs have remained pretty steady over the decades when inflation is factored in. But in some cases, districts are opting to spend money now in order to save it later.

Horsley said Olympus has invested in a state of the art energy efficient lighting system. LED light bulbs will be installed throughout the building, and will only need to be replaced every 15 to 20 years.

"The savings will be dramatic. … We will be able to pay off the up front costs within a few years," he said. "This is what statistics have shown us."

Granger's new mechanical systems and a focus on bringing natural light into the building are expected to decrease utility costs by 20 to 30 percent.

Other major cost savings are achieved by choosing when and where to build. Horsley said Granite saved an estimated $20 million to $30 million by choosing to rebuild Granger and Olympus on land the district already owned while school remained in session. It would have cost about $3 to $4 million per school to farm students out to other facilities, and several million dollars more to buy new land. With those cost cutting efforts, the rebuilding price tag for each school is about $70 million.

"That's required some creative planning and architecture," Horsley said. "But in the end it saves us a tremendous amount of money."

E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com Twitter: mollyfarmer

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