Schools are institutions of learning where our youth spend a majority of their life. As such, it should be a place of utmost safety and relative comfort, free of distractions and anything that might inhibit the propagation of knowledge.
Unlike regular commercial or office buildings, the repair and maintenance of school buildings is a more challenging and more complicated task. A gauntlet of strict safety regulations have to be followed, considerably more than the regulations, regarding the construction involved in conventional buildings.
It’s common for repair work and construction to last for several months. This raises the problems of doing the work while classes are ongoing. Issues on noise and health safety have to be resolved by the contractor chosen for the task.
For older school facilities, there is a question of whether to restore or renovate the existing infrastructure or demolish and start from scratch. Obviously, because of budget constraints, the latter is the least common option in these slow economic times. Quite a few school districts are even holding off renovation for as long as they can due to lack of funding. However, technological advances, programs mandated by the government and conditions that put health and safety at risk are making structural improvements in our schools an immediate necessity.
Unlike the sturdier schools that were constructed before the 50s, school buildings that were built circa 60-70s are made of flimsier materials which don’t last very long and have to be replaced. These types of schools are prime candidates for a major structural overhaul lest they become hazards to the students.
Without a doubt, safety issues such as lack of ventilation, lighting, wiring, mold and mildew need to be solved immediately through renovation. Inadequate ventilation can cause serious health problems especially during flu season. Most old schools relied on windows for their ventilation and closing them during winter will of course, trap viruses and airborne bacteria.
When it comes to lighting, renovation can actually be good for the school’s budget in the long run. Aside from speeding up the learning process, proper lighting with the use of modern and energy-efficient bulbs can significantly cut costs substantially.
Most old buildings lack electrical integration and more often than not, teachers and students have to rely on extension cords and messy wires for audio-visual aids and other learning tools that need electricity. Modern teaching methods nowadays are more technical and rely heavily on the use of multimedia as a medium of teaching and for research. Obviously, computers and networking devices like modems and routers, cables and the like have to be installed neatly without ruining the aesthetics of the classroom. Aesthetics may play a minor factor in deciding to renovate a school or not, but it does have significant effects on the mood of students and faculty. Although a bright, cheerful atmosphere may be against conventional ideas for a place of study, a less dull and gloomy building will no doubt have positive effects. Moreover, it is believed that people who are happy with their place of study and work become more productive and attain better results.
Another characteristic of outdated buildings are hazardous materials such as lead paint, the use of asbestos for insulation and similar things that don’t meet today’s safety regulations for schools.
An often overlooked aspect when it comes to school repair or renovation, as with any other construction work on buildings, is the necessity to set aside some funds to prepare for anything that might come up. Contingency funds come in handy when there are unexpected things stemming from inaccurate building plans which are common for old structures.