Cost Savings: How Does WCSD “Value-Engineer” Construction?

We are always looking to build schools more efficiently and cost-effectively. Depoali Middle School is one school that we are often asked about in this context of expensive schools. This is the newest school in the District, and it cost less per square foot than almost any other middle school (link to analysis). It was built with energy efficiency in mind, and is actually the second least-expensive middle school in the District in energy costs per square foot. It has the smallest footprint of any middle school for that many students – a design that means we can build middle schools on smaller plots of land to save on the purchase price. It is also a beautiful school, and one that serves the community and the neighborhood in ways that other schools do not. There are also small cost savings that we learned from building Depoali that we would employ in the designs of future schools.


No matter what, schools are expensive projects. They are in constant use by between 600 students (elementary schools) to over 2,000 students (high schools) per day, and therefore require a certain level of durability. Washoe County School District’s building costs are in line with other districts in the western United States. We’re more expensive than some areas: for instance, we are in a seismic zone that requires higher building standards, and in an area where we must engineer and build for snow loads on the roof – issues that increase our building costs.


It is true that there are ways that we could cut short-term costs in building schools, however, shortcuts now would end up costing more money later. Less sturdy materials will wear out more quickly and need replacing sooner, costing more money in the long run. Energy efficient products like higher quality windows and insulation may cost more up front, but pay for themselves in utility savings over time.