Victor Hugo once said, “He who opens a school door closes a prison.” It would be fair to say that in the U.S. we build quite a few of both. However, with public budgets being stretched every which way, it is becoming more challenging for many communities to provide the kinds of modern, versatile education facilities that everyone wants for their children.
Politicians and public officials at all levels all like to give lip service to education, but when budgets start getting slashed it is the students and teachers who often bear the brunt. As federal stimulus dollars wane and local and state tax revenues remain at low levels, it is becoming harder to get school construction projects off the ground. Too often, municipalities and districts are caught between the equally unappealing options of raising property taxes or continuing on with crowded or outmoded facilities.
In Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley recently proposed statewide spending of $370 million on school construction in 2013. The proposal includes $15 million for a bond program to fund school improvements and another $6 million for an aging schools project. O’Malley believes this will create jobs while providing much-needed improvements to education facilities in the state, but the proposal does have one teensy problem: most of it would be paid for with borrowed money. Concern about spiraling debt and the prospect of tax increases of any kind have stirred controversy over the proposal and threaten to bring it to a halt. States all across the country face similar conundrums.
The question is how can we offer our children the best education in the most modern facilities without coughing up all kinds of money to pay for it? Districts are finding all kinds of creative solutions to get the most for their limited dollars. Strategies can range from using modular or prefabricated new buildings to retrofitting or renovating existing ones. And with its durability and life cycle advantages, metal can play an important role. Whether it’s by installing a long-lasting metal roof on an existing school or making use of energy-efficient insulated metal wall panels or a pre-engineered metal building in the building of a new structure, metal components and systems should be part of the conversation for education facilities.
According to data from Arlington, Va.–based FMI, highlighted in our Forecast on page 34, education facility construction is expected to keep rising, but at a stubbornly slow pace. The good news is that there are projects out there, but they must contend with with ever-tighter purse strings.
Constraints or no, there are some great designs being done in education. In Projects, also starting on page 34, we highlight a few of the best. We had such an impressive response to our call for education projects that we couldn’t even fit them all in the issue, so be sure to visit www.metalmag.com for an expanded roundup of eye-catching education facilities that use metal. Some particularly unique metal design is taking place in higher education, as you will see profiled in MetalMag’s Featured Project on page 30, and in Applications on page 42.
Learning, of course, isn’t limited to school; it happens at all times and in all places. So we hope you learn a few things flipping through this issue. Along with all of the education projects, we have Tech articles about acoustics on page 18 and about designing for wind on page 24. And to keep up with the latest news and projects, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, where we’ve recently relaunched as @MetalmagNews.