Build It (Cost-Effectively) and They Will Come

Whether you’re a parent diligently saving for your children’s education or a recent graduate saddled with student loans, mounting tuition costs hit home for many Americans.

In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition at four-year public institutions has doubled between 1989 and 2016—even adjusted for inflation. In the face of static wage growth, it’s little wonder this topic has been under such intense scrutiny.

So what’s driving the surge? Analysts cite a host of factors from reduced state funding to lack of federal regulation. But perhaps nothing changed the educational landscape more than enhanced demand, which transformed colleges into market-driven businesses. Enrollment in American postsecondary institutions increased 23 percent between 1995 and 2005 and is expected to grow another 15 percent from 2014 to 2025.

To compete in this new climate, top-tier universities seeking top-tier students recognized that their campuses needed to be as attractive as their curriculums. A race to build five-star amenities ensued, only compounding the problem. 

As the #5 educational builder in the U.S., Balfour Beatty understands universities’ need to balance construction costs with recruitment efforts. From the onset, we work to define value for our higher education clients, thereby maximizing dollars spent on elements that best enhance the student experience. 

Due to the recent escalation in materials and skilled labor prices, that effort should begin as soon as possible after the passage of bonds. By helping owners drive design decisions early, our teams effectively reduce the hefty price tags that can accompany even short delays in construction starts. With higher education projects typically bid under more collaborate design-build or CM at-Risk contracts, our teams can give owners and designers more of the two most important factors in project outcomes: time and money

One key cost-saving method is achieved through the utilization of Set-Based Design, which keeps design options flexible for as long as possible during the development process. This allows our teams to test and recommend the most energy-efficient HVAC system designs for buildings’ full lifecycles—an expenditure that often exceeds the upfront costs of construction.

Productivity-enhancing technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM) and lean construction practices including virtual mock-ups and off-site manufacturing are important tools our teams harness to reduce costly re-work and drive accelerated schedules. In addition to reducing tangible waste—which experts estimate comprises approximately 30% of total project costs—Balfour Beatty adds value by improving the building experience for our trade partners.

And speaking of trade partners, in today’s highly competitive marketplace, relationships matter. A lot. Since Balfour Beatty is also one of the nation’s top K-12 builders, the depth of our relationships allows us to partner with the best trades for a more competitive price. Trades want to work with innovative general contractors that create cultures in which their people can achieve a better work life balance. 

Amenities like recreation centers with climbing walls and condo-like residence halls may seem extravagant, but they play an important role in integrating the academic with the social—a trend mirrored in corporate real estate. Balfour Beatty understands that while bricks and mortar don’t make a school, they can help create what students of today most crave out of their educations: community.