Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on April 21, 2021
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 5, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports investments in public school construction, maintenance, modernization, and upgrades to address safety and resiliency to all hazards. ASCE also believes that the U.S. Department of Education should coordinate with state agencies and local school districts to obtain and publish nationwide statistics on current condition of school infrastructure at regular intervals.
School planning, design, construction, and operation must include resiliency and sustainability. These considerations should be supplemented by research and development of construction methods and design to meet the rapidly changing teaching environment including safety, information technology, energy efficiency, sustainability, and remote teaching. The nation’s engineering community needs to be included as an active partner in these efforts.
Governments are encouraged to explore alternative financing including lease financing, and public-private partnerships which can provide a combination of financing/ownership/use arrangements to facilitate school construction. ASCE also supports federal programs to reduce school bond interest rates. Additionally, ASCE believes school districts should:
- Focus on Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) principles in the planning and design processes to evaluate the total cost of projects.
- Design new campuses for the lowest net present value cost that includes lifecycle operations and maintenance (O&M) in addition to capital construction.
- Implement building condition assessment of existing school infrastructure.
- Budget for the total cost of ownership and train facilities staff to implement these policies.
- Develop capital planning frameworks that can be nimble and responsive to changing technologies and demographics, to optimize learning environments, and consider the holistic needs of the community.
- Adopt regular, comprehensive major maintenance, renewal, and construction programs, and implement preventive maintenance programs to extend the life of school facilities.
Public schools are critical elements of our nation's infrastructure. A nationwide effort needs to be initiated to anticipate and improve adaptability of the nation’s existing and future school infrastructure, including regular maintenance, as well as targeted rehabilitation and upgrades. The federal government has not fully assessed the condition of America’s schools since 1999, when it estimated that $127 billion was needed to bring facilities into a good condition. ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure assessed schools with a D+ grade and estimated that the investment needed between 2021 and 2029 to modernize and maintain the nation’s schools is at least $370 billion.
Great strides have been made in infusing technology into schools and into the instructional process. Some school districts have invested heavily in the infrastructure required to accommodate technology. Investments in technology are critical to ensure continued learning, yet despite progress, many school districts have not been able to keep pace. Meanwhile, school districts need to upgrade air handling systems and add capacity to classrooms with outdoor classrooms, temporary buildings, or leasing new space, all with limited budgets. Investments in technology are critical to ensure continued learning, yet despite progress, many school districts have not been able to keep pace.
Quality education, obtained in a safe environment, is essential for the continued competitiveness and viability of our nation. The neglect of public school buildings and their inability to support education programs erodes the American society’s ability to compete in a global market. School facilities that meet modern safety standards and the evolving needs of a school population are essential. The need to rapidly re-open schools is widely recognized by the emergency management community as a critical milestone for functional recovery following a catastrophic event. Designing, constructing and retrofitting school buildings and their infrastructure to meet or exceed the most recent building codes and standards and to specifically address local hazards is the best way to assure a safe environment for quality education.
ASCE Policy Statement 452
First Approved in 1997