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K-12 Building Condition Survey – They say timing is everything.

by Ron Gillespie

As you are aware, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) requires all public school districts and Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in New York to complete a Building Condition Survey (BCS) for occupied public school buildings every five years. In late 2019, changes in the New York State Education Law were enacted which alters the five year cycle schedule for school districts to conduct these surveys. After years of lobbying by the New York State School Facilities Association, this was a welcome change.

So what’s in it for you? I believe that this change will benefit school districts as well as A/E firms, construction management firms, and contractors across the state. How? Previously, all school districts across the state had to complete their BCS in the same year. This created a heavy demand on the availability of A/E and construction management firms. By staggering the years that districts are required to complete their BCS, it will relieve the surge that we have seen every five years with districts all trying to file in a timely manner. It also reduces the demand for qualified A/E firms and construction management professionals to complete the testing and inspections needed to provide a comprehensive report.

The BCS is the primary instrument school districts use to develop capital project plans, identify scope, as well as prioritize needed work to develop capital schedules and budgets. When all 700+ school districts are required to complete the BCS in the same year, this creates a peak in capital project planning and design across the state that in turn generates an influx of projects being submitted to the State Education Department (SED) for review and approval. This results in bottlenecks and delays for districts receiving building permits.

The BCS acts as a “report card for facilities.”

A team consisting of at least one licensed engineer or registered architect will visually inspect all occupied school buildings to assess the current conditions of the space, major building infrastructure, and grading condition. They are looking for evidence of structural failure, deterioration, and probable useful life as well as need for maintenance and replacement. Your survey results will include opinions on the building’s condition, advice on any critical or future repairs, and the consequences of non-repair.

The purpose of a BCS is to properly plan and prioritize capital improvement projects. New York State refers to the BCS when planning for building aid reimbursement to school districts. With Welliver on your BCS team, we can provide a 360-degree view of the data. Real-time analysis can be performed incorporating the current climate, a district’s future goals, estimated cost to replace/repair, potential return on investment, and feasibility. Our depth of knowledge includes cost estimating, NYSERDA funding opportunities, capital project schedule development, constructability reviews, and MEP analysis and life cycle costing.

School districts to get relief 

Under the new schedule, districts must conduct Building Condition Surveys (BCS) on a staggered schedule as assigned by the Commissioner in calendar years 2020 through 2024, and every five years on that same five-year cycle thereafter. You should experience a positive impact in that this should create more favorable bid environments and less workforce shortages, enabling more projects to be completed on time. Spreading the schedule over a five-year cycle should also create a smoother flow for the capital project process resulting in better project review turn arounds and more favorable bid results for districts across the state.

Where does your district fit in to this new schedule?

And if it’s not in the next couple of years what other requirements do you need to complete in the interim? Answers to these questions and many other pertinent details can be found on the New York State Education Department website at: www.nysed.gov. From the home page click on the “school business” tab and then select “facilities planning” from the dropdown menu. About a third of the way down this page you will find the heading BUILDING CONDITION SURVEY AND VISUAL INSPECTION, click on the highlighted “webpage” link and you will find detailed information on the assignment lists that tells you which year your district is required to complete the BCS as well as interim visual inspections that may be required, BCS detailed instructions, a sample BCS document, and a pretty comprehensive FAQ section.

Ron brings a significant depth of knowledge and experience conducting Building Condition Surveys, assessing results, and implementing capital improvement projects. He is the former Director of School Facilities and Operations for the Corning-Painted Post Central School District. Ron cultivated a 36-year career managing all facilities and grounds, maintenance, and capital projects for the district. Ron joins the Welliver team as K-12 Project Liaison. His focus is on assisting school districts with capital planning and project execution. Ron can be reached at rgillespie@buildwelliver.com.