Four ways to stretch your school construction dollar


According to the 15th Annual School Construction Report, the mean price per sq. ft. of new high school construction currently underway nationwide is $203.13, and the mean size is 250,000 sq. ft. That puts the mean price tag for a new high school at around $51 million.

Most of these schools will include large spaces dedicated to specialized activities, like cafeterias, gymnasiums and auditoriums. Many may include other common areas like multi-purpose rooms as well. Given the generally large footprints and specialized equipment contained within these rooms, these are often some of the most expensive spaces in a new school building. And yet, due to their specialized uses, they can be some of the least utilized.

An interesting trend in school design and construction is the movement towards creating multi-use flexibility in these large common spaces, with the intent of increasing the utilization these dedicated spaces and reducing the overall footprint of the school, thereby decreasing construction costs. Many of our dealers have partnered with architects to find creative solutions to this challenge – here are four of the most common and cost-effective solutions:

Combining a Multi-Purpose Room and Auditorium: The Multi-torium

Reynoldsburg HS Multi-toriumClick to enlarge photo
Reynoldsburg HS Multi-toriumClick to enlarge photo
Reynoldsburg HS Multi-toriumClick to enlarge photo

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A terrific example of multi-use space flexibility, Reynoldsburg High School in Reynoldsburg, OH relied on our local expert, Farnham Equipment Company to create a space that could be used for a variety of events, large and small. Using a blend of our MAXAM+ Telecopic Platforms, Metro Chairs and a Hussey Seatway traveling telescopic platform, Farnham created a space that will accommodate everything from cheerleader practice or a small chorus practice to a full scale band concert or drama performance.

Combining a Cafeteria and Auditorium: The Cafetorium

Whitmore Lake HS CafetoriumClick to enlarge photo
Whitmore Lake HS CafetoriumClick to enlarge photo
Whitmore Lake HS CafetoriumClick to enlarge photo

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An integrated solution developed for Whitmore Lake, MI High School by our dealer, Architectural Systems Group. A 500-seat cafeteria abuts a 173-fixed Quattro seat performance theatre. A MAXAM+ Reverse Fold telescopic platform with Metro seats creates a wall-to wall divider between the spaces in the closed position, and when deployed it opens into the cafeteria, adding 459 seats to the performance space and creating a 632 seat performing arts theater. The smaller performance venue provides the intimate space preferred for teaching and small performances, while the open cafeteria space space is used daily for everything from lunch to dance classes. And the combined venue is used for large school performances and community events – a truly flexible space that increases use and the cost-effectiveness of the design.

Combining a Classroom and Auditorium: The Exploratorium

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Click to enlarge photo
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When Eckles Architecture designed Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in Gibsonia, PA, they included a large interactive learning space called "The Learning Tree" that was designed as an education auditorium for a wide variety of learning experiences. With a flat floor design and the inclusion of  three sections of MAXAM+ Telescopic platform with Metro chairs, the solution developed by our local dealer, C.M Eichenlaub Co., is highly configurable and ADA friendly since no ramps are required. Carpeted decks add desired acousitcal and aesthetic qualities, and the individual seating sections can be configured to acommodate any class size. And when fully deployed, the space becaomes a large performing arts or community event space.

Combining a Gymnasium and Auditorium: The Gymatorium

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Lonoke High School in Lonoke, AR had a predicament that’s becoming more and more common these days - they had surpassed the needed seating capacity in their auditorium where all of their plays and performances were held. Unfortunately, due to fiscal constraints expanding or building a new auditorium wasn't an option. Hussey Seating dealer Terry Greene of School & Office Products of Arkansas was already working with Lonoke’s architect on specifying new gymnasium bleachers when he heard about their auditorium problem. Terry proposed that they combine multiple Concertina Stage units to create a large portable performance stage in their gymnasium – a venue that can comfortably seat 3,000+ – and accomplished it at a fraction of the cost of new auditorium space.

These are just a few of the examples of how designing flexible, multi-use space can improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of new school construction. If you're an architect or designer working in the education and would like to learn more, click here to request our AIA CE Lunch n' Learn presentation, "Best Practices in Layout Trends for Seating", or simply contact you local Hussey Seating expert.

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