Maintenace & Operations Buildings

Spectacular? not particularly. Important? No doubt. Maintenance and operations (M&O) buildings of various sizes and types are workplaces for key K-12 district workers. Inevitably, those buildings must be renovated and new ones constructed. What are some districts encountering en route to making the M&O buildings they need?

The Mercer Island School District, near Seattle, had a number of factors to consider when it replaced its M&O facilities in 2009. The experience there speaks to the use of modular buildings, and configurations for such facilities generally that are not just workshops, garages or warehouses, but also office command centers.

Mercer Island superintendent, Dr. Gary Plano, describes the impetus for the Mercer Island project: “The previous building was an old modular building and was in need of updating. When the district and the local Boys and Girls Club partnered to provide a youth center on the district campus and partially on the footprint of the old building, the existing maintenance, operations and transportation (MOT) building was demolished, and the new MOT building was relocated to a more suitable location closer to the district’s buses.”

Plano reports that the district went with a $385,000 modular building in 2009; William Scotsman (WS) was the supplier, Bayley Construction the general contractor. The 2,498-square-foot building was fabricated offsite and delivered in four sections. While fabrication was underway, contractors started on the site itself. According to WS, the site, a green, sloping spot with large trees, was challenging. “A 240-ton crane and a rolling system were needed to position the building sections on the slope without damaging the site’s trees. As exacting as that process was, most of the work had already been done — since Bayley had built the foundation, and WS showed up with sections of a building about 95-percent completed, including cabinets, some finishes and roughed-in details for installing cables and devices.”

M&O staff at the school district of Oswego, Ill., knew a new building was needed and built a detailed case. Bill Baumann, the district’s director of Buildings and Grounds, shared the M&O department’s new building proposal to the school board. “The existing conditions of the current facility are substandard and too small to accommodate all staff and equipment, such as tractors, mowers, trucks, plows and supplies,” the document stated. Other nagging problems included a leaking roof and the effects of dust and temperature variations on computers. Additional key points included: higher prices for supplies because of a lack of storage, shorter life spans for vehicles parked outside, and rising costs for more frequent and extensive maintenance work.

The school board acted. Now on the docket is a new 12,693-square-foot, $2.2-million M&O building of brick and block, along with a site for the building and renovations of old facilities with the start of construction set for this summer. The facility will also use LED (light-emitting diode) lighting and be a district testing ground for a variable refrigerant volume HVAC system for its offices. “This type of system is new to our district and our building will serve as a pilot site. If it works well and provides the energy savings we hope to realize, it may be considered in the office area, and possibly classrooms,” Baumann reports.

Every district has its own particular M&O needs. In the case of the Wiseburn School District in southern California, meeting those needs meant a new building in 2010 to replace a maintenance, grounds and warehouse building dating from the 1960s, explains Bill Denney, the district’s M&O manager. The new facility is a pre-fabricated steel building erected on site. It was a step up for the district. Denney says that there is “heating and air conditioning in two rooms and the lounge. Additionally, individual rooms were designed for different trades, i.e. plumbing, electrical and mechanical. Staff members each have their own space, with the lounge large enough for all of us to meet. There is much-needed storage space provided by a loft built above the lower rooms.”

Denney continues, “Electrical and data are fed from a new middle school, making the systems much faster and more efficient.” There is another innovation: Denney adds that “the building has 26 skylights, allowing natural light on 
most days, saving energy. All of the interior and exterior lighting has photo sensors, or is timed.”

Another M&O facility added an innovative feature, this time in a renovation project: Fraser Public Schools north of Detroit, through a donation from local businesses, turned about half of its M&O building’s roof into a green roof in 2007. The $60,000 feature, which is designed to cut cooling and heating costs, has 3,000 square feet of sedum planters interspersed with walkways, and a rooftop deck. According to Sheryl Lamphier, a district administrative assistant, middle school students and teachers climb a metal stairway to the roof for lessons on plant growth and sustainability.

Thus, some districts are forging ahead on building projects with a range of functions and capabilities to help M&O professionals meet changing contingencies in their districts. Spectacular? Not particularly. Important? No doubt.
Scott Berman is a Denmark-based freelance writer with experience in educational topics.

About the Author

Scott Berman is a freelance writer with experience in educational topics.