Project Approach when Developing an Educational Capital Improvement Project

Article | 04.13.2021

When developing an educational capital improvement project, the approach or method to delivering the project will play a significant role in its success. Wightman's experience successfully delivering educational projects stems from creating a proven project approach framework from which to work. We have developed our project approach for educational projects based on our clients' feedback and adaptability to the changing education environment.  Through a six-step process, Wightman can collect data, engage the appropriate constituents, design space that supports and promote teaching and learning, and procure construction services through a qualification-based bidding and award process. The end results reflect the clients' vision starting on the first day of school. 

Getting organization is the critical first step that provides the entire project team with confidence as we determine what roles each team member plays and begin collecting data that will inform informed decisions. As part of the organizational activities, we will facilitate a Roles, Goals, and Controls (RGC) workshop where we, including the client, articulate the project's mission and vision; in other words, what problem are we trying to solve. Also, we collectively outline who is providing input, what does input mean, who is making decisions, what information is required to make decisions, the schedule, and the communication lines for sharing project information.

Next, through a series of engagement exercises, the team listens and works with stakeholders to understand and clarify the project goals. The project goals provide the team and stakeholders a benchmark upon which to measure the project's development. This second step builds a platform for the team and stakeholders to become informed and understand the project values and define success.

Then, we work together, interacting in design meetings to develop concept plans for the project. The project goals set through community engagement and data collection inform the design concepts. Additionally, cost estimating occurs to confirm the design is within the established budget determined by the client. The third step of planning includes a check-in point where we all ensure that the final design concept aligns with the project goals and is within the project boundaries. This process intends to make sure the owner, end-user, and all user groups have achieved what they want from the design. The conceptual drawings developed at this stage are formatted so that all stakeholders can clearly understand what the final design is.

After the conceptual design is endorsed, the team develops the drawings for construction documents and a design value matrix. Construction documents' development meets the project goals and documents how to construct the project. The product of a construction cost estimate from these documents before bidding helps ensure the work scope is within the established budget. The Design Value Matrix is a tool we use to help clients determine how to spend their project budget and what components they value the most. For example, a client may value energy efficiency more than ethics; therefore, they choose to pay more for a high-efficiency air-handling system and less on exterior appearance. Conducting is exercised ensures including the highest value items in the design by differentiating the difference between 'value' and 'cost.' That is, 'value' is what you get, and 'cost' is what you pay.

Following that, the procurement phase includes the bidding and award of the project. The construction bids are received and evaluated for completeness and alignment with the construction documents. After careful vetting, we recommend to the client which contractor to award the project. The contractor's obligation includes delivering the project as documented, meeting the project goals within the established schedule for the approved budget amount.

Once the contractor is selected, we work with the team to ensure construction execution occurs promptly, allowing project close-out and move-in to take place smoothly. The construction administration phase holds both the design and construction teams working together, meeting regularly, resolving issues proactively, and ensuring the execution of the client's project vision as envisioned.

As the project construction nears completion, the design and construction teams perform a final walk-through of the project to confirm the meeting or exceeding the project goals and that the first day of school is a success for all involved stakeholders. When teachers and students experience the first day of school, the client and Wightman want them to be proud of their learning environment that enhances the teaching and learning experience.

Wightman takes pride in supporting school districts in developing projects from inception to education. Maintaining an informed team, practicing transparency, and proactively approaching the project are ways we accomplish school projects. Our team is here to help you and guide you through the process of reaching your goals.