Horry County Schools’ Board of Education approved a motion Monday night to allow design firms to change some of the district’s conceptual plans for five new schools to include education specifications.
The Request for Qualifications committee selected four firms out of nine to move to the next step of the design-build delivery of five new schools earlier this year. The firms must submit their Request for Proposals – where each firm will submit proposals for at least two specific projects requested by the district – by Aug. 27.
The board decided to use a design-build project delivery system for its five new schools, which means a single firm performs both design and construction of each project.
The board agreed to allow design-build firms to change two specific parts of the conceptual design – created by a steering committee last year – to meet educational specifications also created by the committee.
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The district hired Louis Batson, an architectural consultant from Greenville, to help determine cost-saving measures before architects submit their project proposals.
Batson said allowing firms to change designs to fit educational needs allows the district to choose the most creative architects.
“We want the benefit of seeing if they can find a better way to solve the problem,” Batson said.
Certain parts of the plan currently clash with specifications, Joe DeFeo, board chairman, said. Some classrooms, for instance, are not currently designed with windows. The schools’ gymnasiums are also located down several hallways away from the main lobby, which would cause visitors to have to walk through much of the school in order to attend special events.
DeFeo suggested the architects have the option to change the design around to fit educational specifications – getting windows in all classrooms and creating better access to the gym – without being penalized.
“There is no prototype for new buildings like this,” DeFeo said. “The designers should go through the process to fix those problems before we build.”
The firms will not have points taken away from their evaluations if they choose to change gym access or classroom window availability in their designs.
Those specifications will be made available to all four design-build firms so everyone has the same creative chance, John Poston, district 8 representative, said.
“When we do this, I want to make sure we don’t give any advantage to one bidder over the other,” he said.
The motion also dictates that all work off the school site, including sewage and paving infrastructure, not be listed on the RFP. Instead, the district discussed negotiating with the lowest design-build bidder to complete that work under a change order.
The district considered passing off-site work to the facilities department, which concerned Poston.
“My fear is the coordination and timing behind it,” Poston said. “I’m not saying it’s not doable, but by pulling it away from the design-builder, who’s going to handle it?”
Batson suggested removing the off-site work because “there are a lot of unknowns in terms of outside property infrastructure.”
Batson said several unknowns already exist; the new Myrtle Beach middle school facility site could run into traffic problems and the site for a new school in Socastee has yet to be purchased.
Ultimately, district officials agreed that removing the off-site work from the RFP – and later negotiating that work with the design-builder – would be the most time- and cost-efficient.
Both measures passed unopposed.
Claire Byun: 626-0381, @Claire_TSN.