Construction Costs for Watertown’s School Building Projects Up Several Million Dollars

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The latest cost estimates for the renovation/rebuilding of Watertown’s three elementary schools are up several million since the last estimate presented to the School Building Committee.

On Wednesday night, the project manager and architect presented their latest, best estimate of how much it will cost to renovate and rebuild Hosmer, Lowell and Cunniff elementary schools.

The cost of the construction would be $122 million ($56.5 million for Hosmer, $31.67 million for Cunniff and $33.8 million for Lowell) and the additional costs would bring the total up to an estimated $153 million, said Project Manager Shane Nolan of Daedalus Projects. This is an increase of about $5.8 million from the estimate presented in August.

About $1 million of the cost increase in the construction budget comes from a change to the project scope to include replacement of all existing windows and doors at Lowell and Cunniff, said architect Scott Dunlap of Ai3 Architects. The previous proposal called for only a limited number of windows to be replaced.

“We had a chance to go out and look in more detail at all the windows,” Dunlap said. “At Lowell, with a lot of the single and double hung windows, a lot of the seals are failing — about 20 percent. It’s clear if we did not replace them, over the next 10 years you’d be replacing them anyway. At Cunniff, the same thing is true.”

Another $1 million is budgeted for the replacement of classroom cabinets in the areas being renovated, Dunlap said.

The project also includes $2 million for security, data infrastructure, and technology, Dunlap said, which was not included in the last estimate.

Some of the costs increases come in the area of administration costs, with $700,000 more added for insurance, Nolan said, because insurers do not allow contractors to carry insurance on major renovation projects. Other increases include permitting, the cost of consultants, and an increase in the cost of the project contingency. Nolan said the contingency is based on 6.5 percent of the total construction cost.

Money has also be added for asbestos abatement and for examining areas before demolition, Dunlap said. In particular, there are areas of the existing Hosmer classroom wing (due to be completely torn down) that may contain asbestos but have never been examined because they are enclosed.

One thing the budget estimate did not include was the cost of having the projects certified as meeting LEED green and sustainable standards. Dunlap said. Nolan estimates having the buildings certified as LEED would increase the cost by $3-$4 million combined.

Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said one of the biggest benefits of being LEED certified is making sure that the equipment is working as it should be.

Dunlap said that can be taken care of in other ways.

“We recommend a commissioning agent be involved in the project, no matter how green you want it to be,” Dunlap said. “They would follow up on training and continuing operation of system after the building occupied, typically 12 months, to make sure you get through all the seasons with the systems.”

Nolan said the commissioning agent should be hired as the project moves into the design development phase.

Resident Ann Marie Cloonan wondered if the cost of snow removal during construction was accounted for in the estimate. Dunlap said the cost for removing snow from the area inside the construction area would fall to the contractor, while snow in the school area or on the streets around it  would be paid for by the Town.

The School Building Committee will meet next on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. at Hosmer School, where plans for renovation/reconstruction of the school will be discussed.

3 thoughts on “Construction Costs for Watertown’s School Building Projects Up Several Million Dollars

  1. Who is the fiscal over-site of these projects?
    Seems that there are many questionable items such as the Leeds expense that are not trivial and are also an extravagance that is unnecessary.
    I would like there to be a point person who looks into line items on behalf of the tax payers. A contractor who is working for the town if you will.

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