Most masonry manufacturers guarantee their products for 50 years of more. Yes, your community wants beautiful schools. And, naturally, they want them to be safe. But, ultimately, your constituents want to know that they are getting all this at a good value; that you are using their money to build a future for the entire community, not just a disposable structure to serve current needs.
Our country was founded on this very desire for permanence in building practices. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson articulated this ideal eloquently, saying,
“A country whose buildings are of wood can never increase in its improvements to any considerable degree… Whereas when buildings are of durable materials every new edifice is an actual and permanent acquisition to the state, adding to its value as well as its ornament.”
Long term, solid value case studies.
Dallas-area Mansfield ISD, one of the fastest growing districts in the state. It chose to build virtually all of its 20+ new schools using masonry construction. Some might look at the magnitude of that building project and wonder why they would opt for what is perceived as a more expensive construction method. A Dallas Morning News article featuring a school-by-school comparison of new facilities built in the Dallas area during the same period included found that Mansfield High School, built entirely of Brick Veneer/Reinforced Concrete Block, to be the least expensive of the four schools reviewed. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the district now has a school that will perform optimally for 60+ years with minimal maintenance and no unscheduled repair costs to the district.
Rick Cash, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Operations explains, “The longevity and life of the building is extended by using masonry products. There’s not much more up-front costs, and certainly, over the years, it’s saved us money.”
Bill Plummer who retired as Aldine ISD’s Deputy Superintendent for Operations in 2002, says that in his 35 years with Aldine ISD, he learned that “masonry buildings are ageless,” noting the district’s 60-year-old masonry built schools perform as well as the brand new ones. His only caveat? “Choose your colors carefully!” This is particularly true on the decorative and structural indoor surfaces. Add terrazzo tile on your floors and the ceramic block on your walls and your decisions will be with you a lifetime. Make sure you like them!
Mr. Plummer has some wise words of advice for those building during the current economic realities, “Pass on the fluff in your budget – things that add to the cost, but not to the value and integrity of the building.” To accomplish this, he suggests getting your full design team involved in the task to provide a complete evaluation of your building. He adds, “MEP is a great place to start. We can almost always find something to eliminate there that doesn’t affect the integrity of the building. Those systems are going to need repair, no matter what. If you build your schools right, you can avoid unnecessary repairs on the actual structure of your building.”
We would also suggest taking advantage of the current economy. Tomball Memorial High School, Tomball ISD is currently under construction using predominately steel stud and drywall systems at a cost of $168 per square foot. Ella High School, Aldine ISD was bid in December 2009 using predominately masonry wall systems and glazed tile at a cost of $126 per square foot. The initial cost savings with the superior wall system are dramatic and the historically low maintenance cost of masonry is well known. Canton ISD Superintendent Larry Davis proudly boasts that students have a hard time vandalizing the masonry structure of his schools. Mr. Cash agrees, commenting, “Children are not destructive by nature, but if there is something that can be messed or broken, it’ll happen. With masonry construction, we do away with a lot of the vandalism.” Mr. Plummer asserts that “masonry just will not wear out.” He cited the fact that students can’t knock holes in it or cause any permanent damage by marking it up as examples of masonry’s ability to withstand the wear and tear necessary for a school environment.
Masonry Wall Systems are Green.
It’s key to remember that masonry products are not merely decorative and structural materials, but Green materials too! A natural insulator, masonry’s ability to absorb and release thermal energy over an extended period makes it an ideal choice for reducing peak energy loads. According to the Institute for Sustainable Energy, simply by incorporating high-mass masonry wall systems, cooling loads can be reduced and HVAC equipment can be downsized, translating into cost savings for the district.
In addition to Optimization of Energy Performance, masonry materials can also effectively contribute “points” to your schools constructed under the LEED Certification program in other ways including:
- Construction Waste Management,
- Resource Reuse,
- Local/Regional Materials and
- Recycled Content.
But the value of masonry construction goes well beyond the LEED points it can contribute to your project, masonry’s low maintenance and repair expense, and masonry’s ability to lower energy costs by reducing energy demands during peak-use hours.
Masonry construction creates beautiful, safe, secure and healthy learning environments for students, teachers and for our communities that will last long into the future. With masonry, you actually are building the future.
That’s peace of mind worth investing in.