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Skyrocketing Building Material Costs Threaten School Upgrades


By Dan Hounsell Educational Facilities
old school

Public funding for institutional and commercial facilities is complex in many ways, and facility managers in K-12 schools have wrestled with aging facilities and deferred maintenance for decades. They have dealt with a host of roadblocks over the years, and now many are dealing with the issue of skyrocketing prices for construction materials.

Consider the case of Rhode Island. In 2017, a blue-ribbon commission recommended updating Rhode Island public schools and replacing some existing structures, according to GoLocalProv. The cost on the low side to update the schools to a standard of clean, safe and comfortable was about $3 billion dollars.

In 2018, then-Governor Gina Raimondo called on residents to invest $1 billion over the next five years to fix public schools. Cost estimates were based on forecasts that replacing a high school would cost $90 million. The actual cost was $189.5 million.

One problem: Prices for steel and lumber have exploded, driving up the costs for other school rehab and construction projects. The cost of lumber has jumped approximately 200 percent in the past year, and steel prices have increased 75 percent over the past year.

Dan Hounsell is Senior Editor, Facility Market.

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