Falcon STEAM project overcomes inflationary challenges

Representing the culmination of two years of building plan studies involving engineers, Tomorrow River School District (TRSD) administration, and the TRSD Board of Education, the Falcon STEAM renovation and construction project is now well underway, despite an unprecedented inflationary period across the United States. Inflation has had especially profound impacts on construction costs.

These steep spikes in inflation, coinciding almost precisely with the April 2022 referendum vote and continuing into 2023, caused project bids to come in more than $3 million more than the estimates provided by Hoffman Planning, Design, and Construction, Inc. The estimates were just that, of course, estimates based on all of Hoffman’s experience with many projects like Falcon STEAM over the years and all of the available information at that time. The project was then sent out to bid in late December of 2022, and bids came in on January 19, 2023, almost a full year after the referendum project plan was being shared to district residents and nine months after the April 2022 vote.

As soon as bids were received, the Hoffman team collaborated with the District to compile a list of value engineering ideas that ended up with options totaling a bit more than $5 million against the $3.3 million that exceeded estimates. Hoffman’s Matt McGregor said, “Value engineering is an exercise we go through where we identify and analyze different components of the additions and renovations where we can make adjustments to reduce project costs.”

That list was broken down into two categories, one consisting of minimal scope impact items and the other containing scope impact items. The minimal scope impact items were put together to help reduce the plan without having major educational impact. The scope impact items would be much more difficult to cut and needed additional conversation. Throughout this value engineering process and the entire design phase of the project, the District’s goal has been to maximize educational scope as much as possible. This has been a point of emphasis in all of the District’s surveys and public forums conducted with District residents in the lead-up to the April 2022 referendum.

All of the minimal scope impact items were approved for elimination by the TRSD Board of Education. This reduced the $3.3 million overage by $2.3 million. From there, the Hoffman team, TRSD Board, and District administrators studied the options available in the Scope Impact items category and made another $1 million in more difficult changes to the original plan. Those items included elimination of a commercial kitchen in the family and consumer science renovation ($219,375), elimination of high school math renovation ($41,600), elimination of elementary school library renovation ($318,000), reduce elementary school music renovation ($24,250), eliminate elementary school occupational therapy/physical therapy room renovations ($42,150), adjust STEAM entrance/stair ceiling and lighting ($24,000), eliminate furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) budget ($100,000), and reduce contingency from $1.5 million to $1.25 million ($250,000). All of these items combined totaled $1,019,375.00 and brought the plan to budget.

TRSD Administrator Mike Richie said, “I’m proud of our team for being able to overcome this hurdle that was placed in front of us. We all hoped for a better outcome on bids, but we knew that, given the inflationary pressures, this was a distinct possibility. Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction have been true professionals and have worked every step of the way with our board and admin team to ensure a great outcome for our students, faculty, and the Tomorrow River community.”

The official Falcon STEAM groundbreaking ceremony was held May 30. All phases of the entire project are scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2024 school year.

Here are the minimal scope impact items and scope impact items that were eliminated from the Falcon STEAM project to bring the costs back into line with the original estimates.

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