Costs compared for Wa-Hi, state construction

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Wa-Hi Bond Cost Breakdown

Overall cost: $10.2 million

Construction costs

Site construction cost: $500,520

New science building: $6,700,000

Existing systems interface: $62,500

2 percent construction cost increase (assuming winter 2015 bid): $145,260

Total: $7,408,280

Project costs

8.9 percent Washington state sales tax: $659,337

Project development (architect fees, permitting, furniture and equipment, etc): $2,148,401

Total: $2,807,738

WALLA WALLA — The science building Walla Walla School District is proposing to build at Walla Walla High School would cost about 9 percent more than average school construction across Washington state between 2012 and 2014, according to district estimates and information from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The School District has put a 15-year, $10.2 million bond before voters on the April 22 special election ballot to fund construction of the 25,000-square-foot building, which would house 10 science classrooms.

The bond, which would need a 60 percent supermajority to pass, would add about 30 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value — about $60 per year for a $200,000 home — to district residents’ property tax bills.

Ranging from completely new high schools hundreds of thousands of square feet in size to small additions on elementary schools, the 21 different projects that began construction in 2012-13 across Washington state cost on average $265.61 per square foot in today’s dollars, according to data from OSPI. That assumes a 3.5 percent increase in construction costs since last year.

According to estimates from the district’s architectural firm, BLRB Architects of Tacoma, the science facility proposed for the northwest corner of Wa-Hi’s campus, including a new parking lot, would cost approximately $290.52 per square foot. Both figures are construction costs only — not including project development costs, land acquisition or sales tax.

“This square-foot cost is approximately 8-10 percent higher than the statewide average due primarily to the complexity and increased infrastructure of a stand-alone science facility, as well as systems integration with the existing facilities,” said Greg McCracken, the office manager of BLRB’s Spokane branch, in an email.

That extra money pays for additional infrastructure not needed in general purpose classrooms like extra utilities, up-rated ventilation systems and furniture finishings which can withstand more wear-and-tear.

The project is also made more expensive on a per-square-foot basis thanks to its relatively small size, meaning the site improvement costs are spread out over a smaller amount of square feet.

By comparison, the 37,000-square-foot Southeast Area Technical Skills Center, which is being built on the Walla Walla Community College campus and is due to be completed this spring, cost approximately $227 per square foot.

But Sergio Hernandez, a School District administrator on special assignment who is helping to facilitate construction of SEA-TECH, said the two projects are not comparable because SEA-TECH has fewer but larger classrooms.

“When you start looking space by space — you look at the number of classrooms and the numbers of walls,” Hernandez said. “Big open spaces can cost a little less than when you’re trying to put in science labs.”

The new Wa-Hi science facility would not be eligible for state matching dollars, as it is not replacing the current science building, which the district hopes to modernize in a later bond proposal.

Although the district is projected to lose a portion of its enrollment to the under-construction College Place High School — Wa-Hi is currently serving 368 College Place students — district officials said the school must still grow in overall size as its current classrooms are too small and it would like to eliminate the 16 temporary classrooms on campus.

For more information about the district’s bond proposal, visit wwps.org/wahi-bond-2014.

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