With 2014 well underway, Craig Uhlenbrauck, vice president of educational and commercial for Miron Construction Co., Inc., provides a look back at the educational construction industry and provides a glimpse into trends that can be expected this year.
What trends have you seen in educational construction in 2013-14?
The pace of educational construction really picked up toward the end of 2013 and into 2014. With the economy continuing to improve, districts are moving forward with master planning and assessments of their existing buildings. Many districts have issues with aging buildings that need to be addressed and current budgets that do not allow for large capital maintenance projects. There will be numerous school referendums on the ballots throughout the State of Wisconsin in April and November of 2014.
Every district’s needs are different but many of their potential projects will involve energy efficiency improvements such as HVAC systems, windows and roofs. There has also been a big push to address security in schools given the events seen at a national level over the past few years. Many school districts are evaluating all schools within their district to create secure entrance concepts through additions, renovations, or card access and cameras.
What are some educational projects Miron has completed in 2013, and what are some we can look forward to seeing completed in 2014?
A couple of notable K-12 educational projects Miron completed in 2013 include Jefferson High School in Jefferson, Wis., and Oaklawn Elementary School in Oshkosh, Wis. Two that we’re currently working on are Lake Mills Elementary School in Lake Mills, Wis., and North Greenville Elementary School in Greenville, Wis. We also broke ground on the Menasha High School addition and renovation project this month.
In the higher education market, this past year we’ve worked on multiple projects associated with the successful Fox Valley Technical College referendum. Some highlights include the Health Simulation and Technology Center and the Agricultural Center expansion, both of which were completed in 2013; the Student Success Center and the Public Safety Training Center which will be completed in 2014.
Are there any trends you see on the horizon for 2014?
Energy efficiency and sustainability have become a must. Community members want school districts to be good stewards of their tax dollars and it’s becoming the rule rather than the exception. Features like geothermal heating and cooling systems, daylighting, recycled building materials and exterior sun shelves to avoid heat gain are all being incorporated into new and remodeled school construction.
Lastly, project-based collaborative learning spaces (21st Century Learning) are a growing trend in the industry. Instead of the traditional lecture-oriented room, these classrooms emphasize collaboration and group learning. They include the use of flexible furniture that can be easily navigated and accommodate various sizes of work groups, student work surfaces for assembling projects and mobile instructor stations.