Construction costs have risen dramatically, along with everything else in recent years, so taking on a historic renovation is tough for some school districts.
A historic renovation typically costs 10-20 percent more than revamping a non-historic building, says Fred Stephens, director of facilities at Seattle Public Schools. Organizations cannot build to the extent they did in years past, due to those escalating costs. So school districts trying to modernize historic facilities are faced with a high price tag.
“When they add to the historic renovations, that limits the buying power of our money even further,” Stephens says.
But elevated construction costs did not stop Seattle Public Schools from renovating Madison Middle School — a City of Seattle Designated Landmark — as part of its Building Excellence Program. Because Madison was built in 1925 and featured characteristics of that era, the city designated it as a landmark. The city has a mandated process for all landmark buildings, which creates more complex planning for the district and the city.
“We work in conjunction with the city through a 12-month negotiation with (the landmark board) as to what parts of the landmark are truly important to maintain and what parts can be removed,” says Don Gillmore, Building Excellence construction manager.
The district preserved the historic lobby and the building’s exterior. The construction team even had the school’s 80-year-old, double-hung windows refurbished and re-installed during the renovation.
The district did specify certain sustainable features in Madison, including a ground-source heat pump system and daylighting features, but the balance of modern and historic makes this facility unique to the district.
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