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School districts are often faced with difficult decisions that are not only time sensitive but also a matter of maximizing tax dollars with tight budgets. With ramifications far-reaching, the Wake County Public School System had a big decision to make for Stough Elementary School: demo the building and rebuild it, renovate and add to it, or renovate and add to it by changing the layout.

School district leaders leaned on the JE Dunn Charlotte team and Lens™ platform to guide their decision using cost history and real-time design options, but what neither party realized was that the breadth of the technology and preconstruction knowledge would aid in decision-making as well save the project altogether.

At design kick-off, the team used one com­ponent of Lens to show the client the cost of each option. Using the vital cost history and flexibility provided by the platform to help with high-level estimates—but with full detail backup—allowed the client to weigh each option to determine which was the best path forward. Lens allowed the team to price the project three different ways with real-time pricing and design implications. All three pricing options along with construc­tability pros and cons were presented to the client and design team for discussion. After weighing each scenario, the district decided to move forward with the complete tear down and new construct option, as it proved it would provide the best value.

A Project in Jeopardy

As the design progressed into the Schematic Design (SD) phase and the program became more developed, it became apparent that the budget was in jeopardy. The SD estimate was over budget less than one week away from a “Go / No-Go” meeting with the school board, putting the entire project at risk. With the deadline looming, JE Dunn and the design team got to work figuring out how  to reduce cost and still maintain the client’s required program.

Working side by side with designers from architecture, interiors, and planning firm LS3P, the team worked tirelessly over the next five days amending the design and construction approach to work toward the budget. LS3P would work on the model during the day and publish a revised model to JE Dunn in the afternoon or evening. JE Dunn would work through the night and into the morning utilizing Lens to integrate the architect’s model with the estimate for Revit-based takeoff and Lens for detailed estimating to produce a revised estimate in less than 24 hours. We would evaluate the progress made and then get back to the drawing board again the same day. “Working in conjunction with JE Dunn, the design team was able to make quick edits to the Revit model so JE Dunn could then utilize the model to turn around accurate and detailed estimates. As opposed to 2-D takeoffs, Lens utilizes real building materials and components, in the Revit model, for a high degree of accuracy,” said Mary Brehler, LS3P project manager. “By modeling several options, the program could quickly provide quantity comparisons on items such as material, buildings systems, and structural systems. This was critical to the budget and the schedule because it allowed the team to make early design decisions based on factual data and present it to the school systems for review.”

Refining the Estimate

After four iterations of Designer Revit update by day and JE Dunn estimate update by night, the goal was achieved prior to the client’s board meeting. “We basically had seven days to rework the estimate that would typically take two months,” said JE Dunn’s Preconstruction Services Director Mike Hughes. “The coordination between the teams and leveraging our technology not only drastically reduced the time to turn around a new estimate, but they also delivered an estimate and budget that was in line with the owner’s intent. The 30 years of data housed in Lens allows for educated decision-making and transparency, in turn fostering innovation and creating the accountability and trust that ultimately saved the project.”

Less than a year into preconstruction, the project was paused for 18 months due to the construction of other schools in the district and logistics of shifting students from each school. When preconstruction resumed, the budget stayed in line with hard-fought SD estimate through the completion of the project. The 100% Construction Design esti­mate provided to the client by JE Dunn with minimal trade partner input ended up being within .5% of the final GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) that was based on “rip and read” publicly opened trade partner quotes.

In a construction climate that challenges teams to build faster while staying on budget, the accuracy and real-time information Lens provides is unmatched. Thanks to leveraging all Lens has to offer, Stough Elementary went from a project in jeopardy to completed in a shortened schedule with pinpoint accuracy in pricing. “The technology served as a great tool in the design process,” said Brehler. “At the very early stages of schematic design, the program allowed us to quickly evaluate different building systems and materials for cost comparisons. The fact that Lens allowed the designer and CM to work in conjunction with each other by integrating with Revit was critical to the overall success of the estimate and, ultimately, the completed project.”