Efficient Program Management Drives $267 Million Goose Creek CISD Makeover

By J.P. Grom

A new student drop off area creates a welcoming entry environment to the new Alamo Elementary School in Baytown.
A new student drop off area creates a welcoming entry environment to the new Alamo Elementary School in Baytown.

BAYTOWN, Texas — Headquartered in Baytown is one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas — the Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District (GCCISD). Driven by multi-billion dollar expansions at petrochemical companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, this property-wealthy district is projecting more than 4,500 new students over the next decade, according to a demographic study. To accommodate this growth, forward-thinking area residents, business and industry representatives, community leaders and district personnel passed a $267 million bond in May 2013, following many months of work.

The bond program, one of the largest in Texas, touches every facility within the district’s inventory. It adds several new facilities, including three new elementary schools with room for 850 students each, a new transportation center, a data technology center and an agricultural science building. The bond package also includes additions to four facilities, renovation of STEM labs in five schools and security upgrades. In addition, the bond package will also enable GCCISD to accomplish its goal of retiring $52 million in deferred maintenance.

To manage such a large and complex program, GCCISD in January 2014 selected Houston-headquartered Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN) as the program manager. Complicating the challenge was the fact that LAN was hired late in the program after some of the major projects were already underway. Facing possible budget and schedule concerns, the district tasked LAN with maintaining control by managing every aspect from the beginning to the end.

Multi-Step Process

To tackle this challenge, LAN came up with an efficient multi-step action plan that emphasized three critical components — budget, schedule and quality — during each step. The multi-step process included:

Discovery: The first step was to determine all the commitments made by the district to the community. The project team thoroughly examined the matrix of projects developed by the district as part of the bond package as well as the funding available to do the work and the schedule for each project.

A student learning center features a mix of traditional book-based learning and digital computer-based learning.Photo Credit (All): LAN
A student learning center features a mix of traditional book-based learning and digital computer-based learning.
Photo Credit (All): LAN

After reviewing the information, the team determined if the commitments could be feasibly accomplished in the timeframe promised. Was there a need to redefine or curtail expectations based on the present state of the programming? If so, what action steps and adjustments should be made quickly in the beginning so the program could move forward smoothly?

Every decision was viewed through the lens of long-range value to the district. The team also examined various methods and sequences to accomplish the different projects in the fastest and most efficient manner possible. This helped the project team to reshape the district’s commitments in a way that balanced the community needs to the funding available.

Prioritization: The program’s size and schedule required managing multiple projects concurrently. To manage all the projects in an efficient and cost-effective manner, prioritization was critical. Working with GCCISD, LAN developed a priority list of projects and balanced the needs of new construction against the need to correct deferred maintenance. The priority projects were developed using an exhaustive list of criteria such as budget, schedule, contractor capacity, life safety, security, risk mitigation etc.

Based on this prioritization, logical work packages were then assembled that minimized classroom disruption and maximized the value of the money spent on each project. For example, summer projects were assembled in chunks so they would be rapidly executed in a short window of time when schools were not in session. During this phase, LAN also assisted with the solicitation and selection of the design team members. As many as 10 designers were selected for different projects.

Execution: Next, working with the designers, the project team started immediately executing the bond program’s higher priority projects. While design was underway, LAN also evaluated the appropriate procurement method that would enable the completion of the project on budget and schedule.

Three delivery methods were chosen as the best options for this program: Construction manager at-risk, competitive sealed proposal and job order contracting. The project team then bid these projects in such a way that the contracting community would be able to accomplish the work without feeling overwhelmed.

During design and construction, the project team also used its value engineering expertise and opened a dialogue between the various architects and contractors to locate possible cost savings without sacrificing the overall look of the building or diminishing the quality of construction. The team also performed rigorous, continuous quality control on every project — from scrutinizing the recommendations of architects and engineers to focusing on cost control and change requests during construction. Through monitoring of change proposal requests and owner scope management, the project team was able to find millions of dollars in savings and added value. These savings were then used for deferred maintenance and lower priority projects.

To read about the program’s unique challenges and the bond program’s current progress, look for Part II of this article in the Oct. 12 web edition of School Construction News.

J.P. Grom, AIA, is a vice president and team leader at Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc., a planning, engineering and program management firm. He can be reached at JPGrom@lan-inc.com.