A Guide for School Districts – COVID-19: Construction Planning for the Future

October 2020

As districts begin to plan for construction in 2021 and beyond, administrators are probably ruminating new factors brought about by COVID-19. ICI’s Director of K-12 Education, Terry Fielden, addresses three top-of-mind questions he has recently received from clients:

Now that the 2020 summer construction cycle has ended, what are the lessons learned?

From a construction delivery standpoint, there were several supply chain disruptions to casework and major pieces of mechanical equipment. The pandemic presented a steep learning curve. Going forward, we would expect this to be less of a factor as we have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission. From a safety standpoint, the ICI Team found that enforcement of PPE on job sites and monitoring job site workers was paramount. We did not experience a transmission on a school site from worker to worker. Any exposures occurred in a secondhand nature.

What is the most critical building improvement administrators need to be thinking about going forward?
HVAC systems will be the major factor in maintaining healthy indoor environments. The unit ventilator on the outer wall of classrooms remains the most common mechanical system to deliver tempered air because it is the most cost effective. These units provide air circulation and do not provide sufficient fresh air. Districts will need to plan on replacing these units soon.

How should a district implement the planning process for this critical building improvement?

The district needs to be educating board members on the importance of renewing/replacing HVAC systems. This preliminary step is necessary to ensure resources are set aside for these HVAC upgrades. These improvements must be given top priority over the traditional “we can make it work” mindset. We live in a time where clean and healthy indoor air quality is no longer a “bonus.” It is a health-sustaining necessity. Educators know how to change the paradigm.