Build New vs Renovate Old?

So, you may be like other people who are eager to learn what the cost of building new vs renovating old buildings would be. Though we categorically believe that it is wrong to do a straight-up comparison between the two we will share information with you so that you may do your own calculations.
Keep in mind that these calculations say noting about potential savings which will result from combination of resources!

When fixing old approaches or exceeds the cost of new, common sense dictates that you must at least consider building new!

At a board meeting on March 19th 2007--Jim Thompson--Partner--Hayes Large Architectural Firm--gave the school board the following guidelines to use--should we want to estimate costs.  Please keep in mind that these represent mere cost estimates and the outcome of the calculation is only as good as the data fed into the equation. However, these cost estimates are no better--or worse--than the cost estimates we currently have for projected costs of renovations.

Thompson told the board (listen tot he audio) to use the following:

Type of Structure
Space Per Student
Construction Cost per New Square Foot

For Elementary Schools 120-150 square feet per student
$220 per square foot construction cost
For Junior High Schools
150-170 square feet per student
$220 per square foot construction cost
For Senior High Schools
190-210 square feet per student
$220 per square foot construction cost

The equation would be as follows:

(Number of students in grade range * Square feet per Student) * Cost per Square Foot = Estimated Cost of New Structure

By way of example we will share with you some projected costs of construction for new facilities and contrast those against costs of renovating our old buildings.

(as of April 2007)
Estimated Cost to Build New
(using formula above)
Cost of Renovation Illustrated in the Facilities Master Plan--or Recent Architectural Studies
Difference in Cost
Cost Less to Build New
Lenape Elementary

Ford City Jr/Sr. High 
(395 grades 7-9 and 352 grades 10-12 & 25 Life Skills)
$32.19M $32.6M
(~$409k) X
Kittanning Intermediate School
Elderton Elementary

Kittanning Township Elementary
Elderton Jr/Sr High School
(184 grades 7-9 and 160  grades 10-12)
$14.2M $26M
(~$11.7M) X
  • Note:
    • Even if it was less costly to build new facilities vs renovating old schools, it makes no sense to build new for the current and projected enrollments of each building.
    • New construction should only be considered if some form of combination of schools is considered a direction that will be pursued.
    • New construction cost estimates are made using the highest Square Foot Per Student number in each range of square feet.
      • Elderton High School and Ford City High School calculations are based on 170 SqFt grades 7-9 and 210 SqFt grades 10-12.
      • At this point in the analysis it is always best to be higher vs low in terms of estimating cost. No one is likely to become upset if cost are reduced.
    • Enrollments above do not include students who attend Lenape Vo-Tech.

Now consider what might happen if we built new and combined the populations of multiple areas into a single--or multiple--new campus settings.

Cost to Renovate
Combined Cost of Renovations
Estimated Cost of New/Consolidated Construction Saving or Building Cost

Kittanning Township $11.46M $19.88M $16.76M ($3.116M)
Elderton Elementary $8.42M

Ford City Jr/Sr High $32.6M $58.64M $46.46M ($12.17M)
Elderton Jr/Sr High $26M

Elderton Jr/Sr High $26M $65.95M $56.771M ($9.179M)
Kittanning Jr. High $15.41M
Kittanning Sr. High $24.5M

Kittanning Jr. High $15.41M $72.51M
Kittanning Sr. High $24.5M
Ford City Jr/Sr High $32.6M

Ford City Jr/Sr High $32.6M $98.55M $88.961M
Kittanning Jr. High $15.41M
Kittanning Sr. High $24.5M
Elderton Jr/Sr High $26M
  • Note:
    • The cost projections above do not include new sports facilities
      • The current facilities do not have state of the art sports facilities at their current locations, and the renovation projections included in the Facilities Master Plan does not address construction of new facilities!
        • Adding the cost of facilities which do not currently exist on site is not a reasonable comparison!
      • Likewise, the costs above do not include consideration of land acquisition and/or development. But the Facilities Master Plan (renovation) does not include those costs either!
    • If you are comparing things, you need to compare apples to apples--not apples to alligators!

  • The cost projections in this table only illustrate construction savings. They do not take into account savings that will result in terms of staff reductions, reduction of properties, reduced maintenance, sale of unneeded property, etc.
    • The staff reduction component of the savings equation is likely to be significant!
      • As presented at the Facilities Master Plan Community Meetings--by School District Business Manager Dale Kirsch--that component alone delivered West Shamokin Jr/Sr High to the district without causing a tax increase for constructing a new building.