From: Larry Simms Sent: Friday, June 14, 2013 1:14 PM

To: '' Subject: high school construction

Thanks for spending time recently with ________ & me to discuss construction plans.
Sam Schneider has shared the construction cost estimates which were used to prepare the bond
calculations, & they confirm my suspicions that the cost of certain non-functional elements of the
present design—both to build, & to operate—are obscure, & may be very high. The District would
certainly benefit from value engineering in certain areas.
I told you I would not make aesthetic judgments at this stage, & will offer no opinions on whether or not
particular design features are attractive. I do, however, share ________’s concern that: A] nothing
about the face of the new building communicates anything unique to Riverhead; B] it appears to be a
cookie-cutter approach, with the same flying buttresses, signage, & random geometric shapes of glass
used on other area schools.
The fact that the new entry has no special meaning for our community—no raison d’être—was what 1

led me to consider its cost. While I’ve performed no detailed analysis, my experience in commercial &
institutional construction tells me that a substantial chunk of the high school’s renovation budget is tied
up in these details, the sole purpose of which is to make a statement. I’m hardly opposed to such a
statement, & believe that when you spend $30 million, you should have something to “show” for it…but
this begs the question: “Could we make an equally effective, but less costly, statement?” Of course,
this would also be an opportunity to make one actually tailored to the Riverhead community.
The “new main addition” is budgeted to cost $12M, or nearly 40% of the high school project. That
budget was determined by a simple calculation using 2 factors: square footage, & a $315 per s.f.
average cost. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, & in experienced hands, it can provide
excellent guidance. However, when it comes time to actually build, it doesn’t allow for fully informed
decisions, & certainly not for value engineering.
As a thought experiment, visualize the floor plan of the main addition, as designed. Now imagine
continuing the façade used on the bulk of the building around the entry, wrapping it around the lobby &
stairwells. You’d eliminate the buttresses, the glass curtainwall, & half the signage. You’d sharply
reduce the size & cost of HVAC gear required to condition the solarium space, & slash operating costs
by eliminating most of the heat gain on south & west exposures. In terms of function, the addition & its
various spaces would be unchanged.
Or, come at it from another direction: what would you say if your professionals told you that, with no
changes to the program, you could free up $1-2 million from your budget to spend on the rear entrance
& other features & amenities? Would that be worth exploring?
I can’t, of course, promise specific numbers, as I don’t have relevant details. And I’ll concede that it’s
possible—though highly unlikely—that the floor of the entry will be a massive heat sink employing a
phase-change substrate, with sensors & controls capable of retrieving excess heat on cold days &
circulating it throughout the new addition to reduce operating costs there. Wondrous things are
possible…but I don’t believe any such technologies are planned.
What I’m willing to wager is that no one has run the numbers to be able to tell you, or anyone on
the school board, just how costly some of these design features are.
In the end, I keep coming back to: “Only what’s needed. Nothing more.” From a form-follows-function
standpoint, that’s not what we’re looking at. I leave it to ________ to figure out the best & most cost-
effective way to make an enhanced, Riverhead-centric statement on a simpler façade. My focus is on
reducing both construction & operating costs without any functional compromises. This deserves
Given where the project stands, what I suggest is that you discuss with the architect & CM the inclusion
of certain alternates in the bid documents. Ultimately, that’s the only way to compare how much plans
& features really cost, & most contractors—even on government projects—are practiced & creative in
suggesting ways for their clients to do more with less. [Yes—I have experience bidding alternates &
implementing change orders on federal & state projects, including with DOE.]
I’d be happy to discuss any of this in more detail, & to assist in communicating concerns & ideas to the
design/CM team, if you like. Let me know how I can help.

Thanks—Larry Simms

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