The NYS Clean-Green Schools Initiative Creates Questions and Opportunities for K12 Schools

By Michael Ginalski

At Welliver, we are working with a number of school districts, both large and small across the Southern Tier, on the planning and implementation of various projects including Energy Performance Contracts (EPC) that will help to move schools to a more healthy, cost effective environment. Districts are working diligently to create healthier, cleaner, and ‘greener’ environments for students, faculty, and employees while utilizing the latest technologies to decrease costs and maximize savings.

Currently, Welliver is working in several districts to address this. In the Elmira Heights Central School District, we are assisting with the installation of LED lighting and controls along with climate control which will save that district $50,456 annually. At Corning-Painted Post, the district is midway through an $88M project in which $8M of state-of-the-art controls, mechanical system replacements, energy metering reporting applications, climate control, and lighting will begin to transform CPP into a much more energy efficient school district.

At the forefront of helping school districts become “greener”, New York State has taken a dramatic step through the creation of the Clean-Green initiative. This will advance clean energy and energy solutions to improve indoor air quality and reduce emissions for more than 600 under resourced public schools across the state. Districts can apply for this funding immediately and are encouraged to do so but there is more to come in the next fiscal year which will affect every district in the state. As a Construction Manager, Welliver is working with architects and vendors across the state in preparation for this influx of funds. In the past two years we have become very proficient in assisting districts who are utilizing outside funding sources because many districts are applying multiple federal stimulus funds designed for this purpose. For instance, we have worked closely with the Elmira City School District in expanding their capital project to begin to utilize these funds for construction. This new funding will provide the same incentive to districts to address the physical climate of their buildings.

In November 2022, New York State voters will be asked to vote on the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. If approved, the Bond Act funding will allow the program to serve more than 1,000 under resourced public schools and benefit nearly one million students, driving significant infrastructure upgrades such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar, green roofs, and indoor air quality and ventilation. New York State has over 4,000 public K-12 schools and 2,500 of these schools are located in a disadvantaged community or high needs area. Schools and districts interested in the program should visit the NYSERDA website at

This funding creates wonderful opportunities for districts, all of whom want to create a healthier environment for students and communities they serve. However, Superintendents and School Boards that we are working with are abuzz with the mandate which came out of the new state budget requiring that all new school bus purchases be zero emissions by 2027 and all school buses on the road be zero emission by 2035. While the state is also providing funding for this ambitious initiative and allowing districts to lease or finance zero emission buses for 12 years, the $500M provided by the Bond Act is a drop in the proverbial bucket needed to provide all districts the money to not only purchase the vehicles but the infrastructure to support charging and maintaining a 100% electric fleet.

So many questions remain, as this technology is relatively new. For instance, this could be a very heavy lift for our rural school districts. Most rural districts cover a broad area with challenging terrain and many questions remain as to how this will work in districts which cover many square miles. How many miles will a “charge” last? What does this mean for sports trips? How will these vehicles perform on hills? How can we add charging stations on postage stamp size transportation centers? The list of questions is far and long. The electrical infrastructure alone needed to support this initiative will dramatically affect districts and their transportation centers. At Welliver, we are working behind the scenes gathering the information to work with our clients in preparation for this ambitious initiative. This is just the latest thing keeping Superintendents awake at night, mainly because of those unanswered questions and future facilities projects in the pre-referendum stage currently needing to address the electric busing initiative in some manner. We are doing our part to be ahead of the curve at Welliver providing our clients the guidance necessary to begin laying the groundwork to meet this mandate.

Mike joined Welliver as our K12 Communication Liaison after 33 years working in the K12 education sector. He brings a comprehensive understanding and direct exposure to all of the issues facing public education today. In his 13 years as the Superintendent in Corning-Painted Post (CPP) Area School District, Mike led the district through four successful referendums which led to $260M in new construction from 2010-2020. Mike bridges the gap between Welliver’s construction management teams and K12 school district superintendents, school boards, and facility directors. He provides expertise and guidance, as well as helps districts carry out capital improvement initiatives involving pre-referendum voting, budget management, community outreach, and buildings and grounds personnel. Mike can be reached at [email protected].

Keeping a Project on Track – Crunching the Numbers

By Daniel A. Traina, EIT

Anyone working in the construction industry or who has been given the responsibility to facilitate a construction project, has experienced a great deal of volatility and extreme price increases in the last two years. More recently, in the past six months, this trend has continued and in some areas even become worse. Some material prices have escalated so quickly that many projects have gone from being on budget at concept or schematic design to being significantly over budget by the time design is complete and the project is ready to go to bid.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Producer Price Index for the prior one year period ending April 2022, producer prices for goods have increased by 16.3% (citation:  As a theoretical example using this 16.3% to put things into perspective imagine a $10,000,000 cost of construction project. The material component may be about half, or $5,000,000. So if this job is first budgeted at concept in April 2021 it would have experienced an $815,000 ($5,000,000 x 16.3%) increase in material only by the time it is ready to go out to bid. It is not uncommon for the design process to take a year (or more) from concept to the time of bidding.

These issues are difficult to navigate, even for experienced teams of construction professionals. One tool which can help to get a project back on track is the process of Value Engineering. A project team needs to collectively consider all aspects of the job and discuss all savings possibilities. This process should start with brainstorming. An idea should not be withheld or not shared for fear that another team member won’t agree with said idea. By withholding ideas some of the best savings opportunities may never be considered. A proper Value Engineering process allows the owner the opportunity to decline any given idea. In order to make an informed decision the owner should be provided with a rough idea of cost savings and any comments on impacts from the design team. Every project is unique; here is a brief list of possible items to start with the next time cost savings must be studied.

  1. Can an alternate structural system be used for either the substructure or superstructure?
  2. Can the level of finish be reduced in certain areas of the building?
  3. Are there product substitutions which are more economical?
  4. Can an alternate mechanical system be substituted?
  5. Are there alternate means of construction which could save construction time, and therefore reduce general conditions costs?

Welliver has successfully used this Value Engineering process on a number of projects in the area to help bring over budget projects back on track. Post bid I have personally gone through an extensive Value Engineering exercise on four larger projects ($10,000,000+). In one case the list of value ideas was over 100 items long and in all cases construction costs were reduced by between 10 and 15%.

Another proactive approach to protect a project’s budget is to build an appropriate escalation factor into the estimate right from the start (most often concept or program estimate). This has always been a standard practice but carefully adhering to this practice is more important now than ever. Early in a project there may be temptation by the team to cut back on markups such as escalation in order to progress a project and make financial numbers work, but given recent market conditions this approach is dangerous and may create an impossible project down the road.

Feel free to reach out to myself or any of your existing Welliver contacts for assistance with pre-construction cost estimating on your next project. Engagement early on has the biggest potential for positive impact on your project.

Dan brings more than 10 years of construction experience, an extensive cost database, and current bid market trends to every pre-construction estimate and competitive project bid. He has an impressive background in engineering and design, which he draws from when performing cost analyses, unit pricing, value engineering, and constructability reviews. Experienced working with numerous state-of-the-art technical software programs, Dan provides accurate and realistic project estimation, a proven value to his client’s decision making process. As Lead Estimator for Welliver, Dan leads the execution and delivery of estimating services for a substantial number of highly complex and significant projects for clients representing a broad range of market sectors including higher education, industrial, healthcare, and commercial/residential. Dan can be reached at [email protected].