Education, Local News

H-F board considering cost reductions to proposed science wing

The District 233 Finance Committee is considering its options for reducing costs on the proposed science wing on the South Building at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

The proposed addition was first presented to the board in spring 2022. During spring and summer, construction costs skyrocketed and were impacted by supply chain issues. By February 2023, estimated costs for the new science wing had risen sharply. 

The board asked architects from DLA Architects to suggest how costs could be reduced. They offered several proposals at the Finance Committee’s meeting Tuesday, April 25.

“We want to keep the reason for the project intact,” said Superintendent Scott Wakeley.

The school board borrowed $20 million for this project and the updated culinary kitchens in the North Building, but the latest estimates have the costs ballooning to $25.7 million. The science building will be classified a “green building” by generating its own energy through solar and geothermal. 

The district has applied for a $2 million Illinois Clean Energy Grant. The addition will be classified a Net Zero building, one of only a handful of such projects in Illinois, and will be awarded the $2 million grant after the building has been open for about a year and all systems are working as expected.

The grant will help reduce the cost, but the building is still expected to be $3 million over budget. The architects reviewed plans and presented alternatives. The board can decide if it wants to keep those alternatives in the project or decide they are ways to reduce the costs.

If all the alternate options are accepted, the approximate cost of the science wing drops to $19.08 million. The options are: eliminating renovations of space in B-building that is now occupied by science labs; reducing the renovation work in G-building where the science wing will connect to the South Building; shifting paving of an existing parking lot near the site to a maintenance budget item in the regular budget cycle; reducing the outdoor garden scope.

Ed Wright of DLA said he has been offering the plans to several contractors for review, and they have told him the $25 million estimate is accurate. He expects to let bids in two weeks when the district will see actual construction numbers.

Wright said DLA needs to put additional language into the bids, especially relating to the quality control for the Net Zero part of the work. Despite being a few weeks behind on getting bids, Wright said he believes the project will still be on track with construction starting in September. The culinary work would start in January 2024.

The board is expected to approve the construction contract at its July 18 meeting.

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