Charter School Construction

Post-frame construction works well for charter schools.

Post-frame veteran Jim Simon, president and project manager of Tailored Building Systems in Grand Rapids, Michigan, fondly recalls the heyday of the educational market. Besides building gymnasiums and auditoriums for conventional high schools, his company completed between five and seven school projects each season in the late 1990s. The buildings, all charter schools, were located primarily in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

The various charter school owners Simon worked with in the past have slowed down expansion in recent years because of spending caps. As Simon looks ahead for similar projects, he sees that demand from charter schools has the potential to dominate the market. Students and parents who were part of the elementary charter school movement are now asking for high schools. “Now charter high schools are being added to elementary programs,” he observed.

Simon is hopeful that his company will soon be back to working on a couple of school projects each year. “There is still a huge need for schools other than traditional public schools,” he said. “There is a lot of open-mindedness, and growth is not going to be in brick and mortar buildings. The building owners need to find alternative construction choices.”

According to Simon, an alternative building method like post frame can speed up completion at a lower cost per square foot compared to other approaches. “Many times, we finalized school design right up to the time we started,” he recalled. “Such flexibility isn’t possible with other types of construction.”

Simon related a story of how his company’s activity in the school market served as a valuable opportunity to promote the benefits of post-frame construction. An architect drove by an Ann Arbor job site where the Tailored Building Systems crew was building a school. Not knowing what to make of the project before him, he stopped his car and began asking questions. Since that day, the architect has worked with Simon’s company on numerous projects. “He was enamored with the project’s process, speed, and pricing,” said Simon. “He now believes that post frame is the best type of building construction.”