HISD Aims to Use Fewer T-Buildings During 2012 Bond Construction

Temporary buildings are being removed at McReynolds Middle School.

For many schools built under HISD’s 2007 bond program, temporary buildings used for storage and instruction space were part of the construction process.

Now, as the district moves forward with the $1.89 billion 2012 bond program, HISD officials are looking at ways to minimize the use of T-buildings to maximize the amount of money available for new facilities.

“We’re looking strategically at the overall program and scheduling of projects,” said Dan Bankhead, HISD’s general manager of Facilities Design. “We have to be able to think about what we can do to minimize the use of T-buildings.”

The rationale is economic. Depending on location and fees, it costs the district on average $100,000 to own or lease a temporary building during the construction of a new facility, not including maintenance. That money typically comes out of the school’s building budget. So any dollars spent on T-buildings means a smaller budget for the permanent facility.

HISD planners are hoping to phase construction of the 40 schools being built or renovated so that T-buildings are used judiciously. Many parents are already wondering where their students will attend classes during the one to two years it takes to build a new school.

The answer is complex and will vary from campus to campus. In some cases, administrators may consider “flipping” the building, leaving students in the old campus until the new building is complete. Another option would be to build the new campus in phases, moving the students into the facility as each portion or wing is completed.

Another option would be to use swing space by placing students into facilities that are unused or underutilized while their campus is being rebuilt.

“This is a low-cost alternative to setting up T-buildings,” Bankhead said.

Any decisions that are made will be with the help of the Project Advisory Teams, taking into consideration budget and resources.

“The Project Advisory Team will be involved in every aspect and will be provided an analysis for every decision that needs to be made,” said Sue Robertson, HISD’s general manager of Facilities Planning. “They will be fully informed of the opportunity cost of every decision; the more money we spend on locating T-buildings, the less money we have to construct a building.”

Overall, the district is making strides in limiting the use of T-buildings. HISD currently owns about 1,200 temporary buildings, down from the 1,700 owned in 2010.

The construction of a new school can be stressful, but Peck Elementary School Principal Carlotta Brown said good communication can help minimize any problems. When HISD began construction on the new Peck Elementary under the 2007 bond program, her campus was relocated to nearby McArthur Elementary School until the building was finished.

There, she used 12 T-buildings for classroom space but worked with the McArthur staff to use the school’s cafeteria and classrooms.

“You have to have a vision and you need to plan,” Brown said. “Everybody needs to be involved and be a stakeholder and take ownership of the decision.”