Led by architects, engineers, and educational planners from SMMA and its consultants, and in partnership with each school principal, the team conducted both a facility assessment (to take inventory of the building layout and condition) and an educational assessment (to determine the adequacy of spaces for the educational programs offered) in each building.
The following report outlines the team organization, methodology and approach taken to assess the Boston Public Schools portfolio over the 2015–16 summer and school year.
Categories and criteria were strategically selected for assessment based on stated objectives, past experience, and nature of the BPS portfolio of buildings. Ultimately, the educational and facilities assessment team created a customized “BPS methodology” which encompassed approximately 75 areas of criteria. The criteria was then organized within four main categories focused on the facility, site, educational learning environments and spaces. Two other categories were also included focused on community criteria.
Facilities Assessment – Building
Facilities varying in terms of age, design, construction methods, and materials were reviewed to determine the condition of the district’s portfolio. Building assessments were performed to determine existing components and/or systems’ conditions at a specific point in time. The resulting information was then used to guide recommendations regarding maintenance, renovation, and/or replacement.
Facilities Assessment – Site
The site evaluation team performed assessments at each school facility in the district’s portfolio. These assessments considered the quality, condition and capacity of the various exterior spaces of the facility. These spaces included, landscaped, educational, recreational, vehicular and pedestrian areas. This field effort was also complimented with a detailed study and research of the sites from web-based resources. The resulting information was then used to guide recommendations regarding maintenance, renovation, and/or replacement.
Educational Facility Effectiveness – Learning Environments
The quality of physical environments has direct impact on educational outcomes. This analysis considers both inherent building characteristics and introduced equipment (e.g., furniture and technology), as well as the physical appearance and condition. These qualitative factors influence students’ comfort and ability to concentrate on tasks, teacher and student health, absenteeism and retention—ultimately having an impact on overall performance.
Educational Facility Effectiveness – Spaces
This metric compares the sizes of educational spaces to Massachusetts 963 CMR guidelines for 21st century teaching and learning in new capital projects. This quantitative analysis is important for establishing the level of adequacy of the existing spaces for educational delivery. It also indicates whether a facility is deficient/missing dedicated educational spaces normally found in buildings of its grade level and typology.
Additional Assessment Data
Community assessment data was informational only, and not weighted in the overall scoring methodology.
Facilities varying in terms of age, design, construction methods, and materials were reviewed to determine the condition of the district’s portfolio. The Facilities Assessment – Building (FA-B) team performed assessments to determine existing components and/or systems’ conditions at a specific point in time. The resulting information was then used to guide recommendations regarding maintenance, renovation, and/or replacement.
Facility assessment considerations were categorized and weighted into primary and secondary criteria, as determined by the BuildBPS management team. The weighted scoring allowed for the most critical criteria to establish the overall rating, while not be overly influenced by important but more readily repairable/replaceable elements.
Primary criteria, in many instances, affect multiple other facility criteria and systems, and are deeply systemic relative to their repair or replacement. Primary criteria included:
Secondary criteria often consist of singular systems, and are more “standalone” in their repair or replacement. Buildings can typically remain occupied if the necessary work can be completed over the course of a summer. It should be noted that many secondary criteria are related to primary ones, and that their repair or replacement may only result in temporary or limited operational benefits for the building. Secondary criteria included:
There were additional evaluation criteria listed that were not included in either the primary or secondary categories. These items were included for reference or to note a particular condition, as well as for cost modeling.
Major Investments (> $5 Mil) in the Last 20 Years: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Information provided by BPS. Criteria included as a reference to note any recent upgrades to buildings. Any portions of the facility that have received investments were evaluated per their current condition.
Façade: Condition status noted for the exterior wall material(s). What is the façade material? If brick or concrete masonry unit (CMU), is any spalling or disintegrating? What is the condition of the mortar? What percentage of it is failing? Is there any obvious movement or structural cracking? If the façade is made of a prefabricated panel system, what is its surface condition? Is the surface or caulking deteriorating? What is the attachment system and its condition? Is there any movement in the panels?
Windows: Condition status noted. Are the windows transparent? What percentage of the windows are translucent in the school? Do they comprise a single or double pane of glass? Have their seals failed? Are their mechanical systems working? Does their hardware work? Are there any obvious alignment failures? Do they have closing-limiter devices?
Boilers: Condition status noted. Have boilers upgraded fuel type and heating media? Water or steam? Review of any maintenance records or inspections.
Heating Distribution Systems: Condition status noted. Piping condition, type, and apparent corrosion reviewed.
Ventilation Distribution Systems: Condition status noted. Location and appearance of exhaust fans. Location and appearance of air-conditioning equipment. Condition of ductwork.
Electrical Service: Condition status noted. Review of available capacity. Review of location and appearance of electrical service and meter age.
Existing Photovoltaics: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Criteria noted; however, presence or absence of photovoltaics did not impact overall building condition.
Toilets and Fixtures: Condition status noted. Fixture locations and appearance. Maintenance and cleanliness of fixtures and flow of fixtures.
Plumbing Distribution Systems: Condition status noted. Review of piping type, apparent corrosion, and equipment, including presence or absence of water heater & back-flow preventer.
Accessibility: Is the facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990? Are there adequate ramps, lifts, and elevators? Can every space in the facility be accessed by anyone with a disability? Is the door hardware compliant and does it maintain proper distance from a perpendicular wall? Are water fountains and other hallway obstacles compliant? Are toilet facilities compliant?
The assessment team conducted visual inspections only to look for signs of deterioration. No exploratory demolition, removing finishes, or viewing above ceilings was conducted. There were areas that were hard to reach, off limits, or obscured by other systems that prohibited view of the structure. Each of the criteria listed below is considered as it relates to the structural elements of the building.
A “Yes” comment in the assessment indicates that we observed signs of deterioration. A “Not Observed” comment in the assessment indicates that we either did not observe any distress in the structural element or were not able to observe the element due to the aforementioned limitations. Therefore, a “Not Observed” does not necessarily mean that there is no distress present. Notes in the “Comments” section of the assessment are typically provided when the team observed signs of deterioration.
Each of the assessment criteria is categorized into primary and secondary groupings as determined by the BPS executive team. The primary criteria are weighted by a factor of (3), to differentiate the elements that (1) require significant time to repair or replace, (1) have construction costs greater than the singular element’s cost factor, and (1) pose a construction challenge (degree of difficulty) to repair. The weighted scoring allows for the most critical criteria to establish the Overall scores and not be overly influenced by important but more readily repaired/replaced elements
Mass Historical Commission Status: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Criteria will inform opportunities and constraints for modifying the existing building to meet changing physical demands for a 21st century learning environment.
Inventory of Historic Assets: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Is the building “Listed” on the State’s Inventory of Historic Assets? Criteria will inform opportunities and constraints for modifying the existing building to meet changing physical demands for a 21st century learning environment.
State Register of Historic Places: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Is the building “Listed” on the State’s Register of Historic Places? Criteria will inform opportunities and constraints for modifying the existing building to meet changing physical demands for a 21st century learning environment.
Emergency Shelter: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. The City of Boston provided a list of all shelters to SMMA. Criteria noted and considered as part of the overall community building score.
Community-Use Spaces: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. These were determined after speaking with school administration during site visits. Community spaces attached to schools were also considered. Criteria noted and considered as part of the overall community building score.
Building Suitability for School Use: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Considered any major life-safety concerns for suitability. Criteria will inform opportunities and constraints for modifying the existing building.
Overall Community – Building Rating
This is a judgment on the part of the reviewer(s) that takes into account all aforementioned factors, as well as amenities located in proximity to school sites and access to public transportation.
The Facilities Assessment – Site (FA-S) team performed assessments at each school facility in the district’s portfolio. These assessments considered the quality, condition and capacity of the various exterior spaces of the facility. These spaces included, landscaped, educational, recreational, vehicular and pedestrian areas. This field effort was also complimented with a detailed study and research of the sites from web-based resources. The resulting information was then used to guide recommendations regarding maintenance, renovation, and/or replacement.
The diverse scope of site elements for schools vary in their relative impact to education and school operations. Primary criteria are elements that have large impacts to education and/or incur substantial impact to improve or repair.
Is the Site Susceptible to Climate Change? Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. The site is susceptible to climate change and sea-level rise over the next 50 years if it is located within the 100-year flood zone and/or within 5 feet (vertical) of Mean Annual Higher-High Water (MHHW). The site is susceptible to climate change and sea-level rise over the next 100 years if it is located within 7.5 feet (vertical) of MHHW. Criteria will inform opportunities and constraints for modifying the existing building.
Major Investments (>$5 Mil) in the Last 10 Years: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Criteria included as a reference, to note any recent upgrades to buildings and sites. Any portions of the facility that have received investments were evaluated as their current condition.
Is the Building Expandable on the Current Site? Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. The building is structurally and educationally capable of logically expanding on its current site and meeting the educational vision goals and potential program requirements for a 21st century school. Expansion can be horizontal, vertical, or infill, depending on the building’s configuration.
Parking Quality: Quality of vehicle paving and quantity of parking spaces considered. This element may not be required if “Not Present.”
Neighborhood Streets: Condition of roadway, sidewalks, and accessible elements considered.
Drop-Off/Pick-Up Routes: Segregation of buses, private vehicles, parking, and neighborhood traffic considered. Both on-site and off-site routes considered. This element may not be required if “Not Present.” Walkways/Curbs/Sidewalks: Quality of all pedestrian spaces considered.
MAAB/ADA Accessibility: Availability, location and condition of accessible routes considered. The accessible routes connect building entrances, handicap parking, public streets and site facilities. Accessibility is considered “Not Present” if there is no accessible building entrance.
Site Lighting: Condition and location of lighting considered. Fencing: Condition of fencing and gates of various types considered. This element may not be required if “Not Present.”
Drainage: Surface ponding, water quality structures, and condition of visible infrastructure considered.
Play Areas: Play structures, surfacing, courts, athletic fields, and outdoor classrooms considered. This element may not be required if “Not Present.”
Walls and Slopes: Condition of retaining walls and stabilized slopes considered. This element may not be required if “Not Present.”
The criteria are weighted by factors of (3) and (1), to differentiate between elements that are easily remedied or replaced and those that require significant time and cost, and pose construction challenges (degree of difficulty) to repair. The primary and secondary criteria are listed under each assessment category above. The overall site condition is a combination of all weighted factors.
The SMMA team comprised multiple professional architects, civil engineers, landscape architects, and educational planners that cross-checked data.
Inventory of Archeological Assets (Site Review): Researched/Not researched; Comments, if applicable. Criteria will inform opportunities and constraints for modifying the existing building. In some cases, data may not be available.
Accessible to Mass Transit: Building is located within a 0.7-mile walking distance from the nearest Blue, Red, Orange, and/or Green Line MBTA station, or is located within 2 blocks (1000 feet) of at least 2 stops on bus lines of regular frequency (at least every 10 minutes, during rush hour and mid-afternoon). Criteria noted and considered as part of the overall community building score.
Facility is considered walkable for “adults-only” if within 1 mile of residential neighborhoods, with consistent sidewalks. Criteria noted and considered as part of the overall community building score.
Site Suitability for School Use: Yes/No; Comments, if applicable. Considers overall site conditions, overall community rating, and size of site.
Overall Community – Site Rating
This is the professional judgment on the part of the reviewer(s), taking into account all aforementioned factors and with consideration of nearby neighborhood, community, educational, and athletic facilities. Criteria noted and considered as part of the overall community building score.
The quality of physical environments has direct impact on educational outcomes. The Educational Facility Effectiveness – Learning Environments (EFE-LE) analysis considers both inherent building characteristics and introduced equipment (e.g., furniture and technology), as well as the physical appearance and condition. These qualitative factors influence students’ comfort and ability to concentrate on tasks, teacher and student health, absenteeism and retention—ultimately having an impact on overall performance.
Building environments also affect overall rating. In those cases, “fixed” elements that are not easily remedied and have a direct impact on teaching and learning weigh more heavily than those that can be easily altered. The more impactful components are referred to as primary criteria. Secondary criteria can be updated or supplemented more easily.
Similar to the physical facility narrative, in many instances, the EFE-LE primary criteria affect multiple other criteria and systems, and are deeply systemic in their repair or replacement. Buildings may need to be unencumbered of students (i.e., vacant) for the duration of the work, depending on the upgrades required.
Again, similar to the physical facility narrative, secondary criteria often consist of singular systems, and are more “standalone” in their repair or replacement. They may also change frequently, with the evolving landscape of educational pedagogy, and should support a building that can adapt flexibly at relatively lower costs. Many secondary-criteria upgrades may be able to be performed internally by facilities personnel or with arranged contracts.
Building Originally Designed As: Over time, many school buildings have changed the grades they serve. Knowing their original use quickly provides some insight into space types and building appointments. The Grade Configuration to Which This School [Building] Is Best Suited: The types, numbers, and sizes of spaces, as well as the sites, may influence the building’s future use.
Ventilation: Fresh air is an important component for good brain activity and overall student performance. An even distribution of ventilated air is also important. Is mechanical ventilation provided? What appears to be the quality of the system?
Natural Daylighting: This is viewed as a better quality of light than electrical lighting. What appears to be the quantity/quality of the natural light?
Lighting Quality: Observed light level at the working surface (not measured) combined with the type of light fixture for an even dispersion of light for general academic tasks as well as for use of technology.
Air Quality: Different ventilation systems provide varying levels of outdoor air percentages and filtration (e.g., unit ventilators vs. central air ventilation vs. no mechanical ventilation provided). What appears to be the quality being provided by the mechanical system? Scientific measurements were not taken.
Acoustical: The proper balance between voice reinforcement and sound absorption impacts “speech intelligibility.” This includes both internal space performance and outside noise. Does the space appear to have appropriate acoustical properties for teaching and learning?
Furniture: Different educational-delivery models can be reinforced by furniture type and flexibility. Is the furniture light enough in weight to be flexibly arranged? Is it ergonomic, comfortable, and in good condition?
Finishes: What is the condition of the wall/floor and ceiling finishes? Both physical and aesthetic conditions were considered. Environment (Inviting/Stimulating/Comfortable): Is this a building that is aesthetically pleasing? One in which students and teachers feel comfortable and want to spend time, day after day?
Adjacencies of Learning Environments: Do classrooms and other learning environments have a relationship to each other that promotes collaboration, communication, and other aspects of 21st century teaching and learning? Do the spaces promote interdisciplinary learning?
Outdoor Classrooms: Outdoor classrooms afford students the opportunity to learn in different ways, sometimes involving nature and hands-on activities. Is one or more present?
Educational Transformation to Support 21st Century Needs: Is the building construction flexible enough to allow for renovations that, for example, change room sizes, change or upgrade mechanical and electrical systems, and accommodate alternative educational-delivery methods (e.g., project-based learning [PBL])? This can often be the difference between a modern steel-frame building and interior masonry-bearing wall construction.
Can the Building Serve as Swing Space?: (Assumes the building is otherwise unoccupied.) The ability to use the building for educational purposes for the temporary relocation of a school population during a period of renovation or construction.
Utilization Rate: Is the building’s utilizations rate 85% or higher? Classrooms at 85% utilization are considered at capacity. Rates higher than 85% show levels of overcapacity and overcrowding.
The Educational Facility Effectiveness – Spaces (EFE-S) metric compares the sizes of educational spaces to Massachusetts 963 CMR guidelines for 21st century teaching and learning in new capital projects. This quantitative analysis is important for establishing the level of adequacy of the existing spaces for educational delivery. It also indicates whether a facility is deficient/missing dedicated educational spaces normally found in buildings of its grade level and typology.
Primary criteria often affect core curriculum and include:
Secondary criteria may allow for district flexibility in programming and community resources outside the traditional building environment, and include:
Note: If a school has a special education program, its quantity of spaces will vary. Also, some substantially separate programs do not require full-size classrooms to be effective. For this reason, special education was considered differently than typical classroom spaces
The educational facility effectiveness assessment for spaces used a quintile classification hierarchy as defined below:
Narratives The team considered the long-term goals relative to each building’s capability of supporting BPS’ educational vision for 21st century learning and teaching.
Engaging with the curriculum, applying it to an authentic context. Making connections between content areas and values/curiosity and interest. Finding connections to the community, making a difference. Public and tangible products. Selective and intentional engagement, agency in how one keeps focused and takes breaks.
Acknowledging different learning styles, how to understand one’s own (self-knowledge). Flexibility that is occurring in instruction, plus flexibility in how people show that learning.
Cognitively Demanding Tasks/Programs
Equitable Access to a Rigorous Curriculum Access is the core issue. What is meant at different grade levels regarding a minimum number of rigorous courses? Drill down in a detailed way, identifying benchmarks that align to equitable access. Example: If one wants students in calculus by the end of high school, then completion of algebra must be benchmarked.
Vision of 21st Century Digital Learning Anytime, anywhere learning, often related to “distance learning,” but can also be from anywhere within the school building, campus, or home. Best accomplished with portable technology, either personal (BYOD – bring your own device) or school-supplied; it can extend the learning process within or beyond the school day.
Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) areas are based on current enrollment within school. Actual areas were determined by measuring CADD plans provided by BPS.
SMMA did not field-measure the buildings, but verified general conformity with existing conditions by measuring spot values to determine the rough accuracy of CADD drawings.
During the week of August 3, 2015, the facility assessment team conducted a three-school, four-building pilot study, representing the ﬁrst phase of BuildBPS. BPS and the BuildBPS management team selected the three schools based on the range of characteristics exemplified by each, taking into consideration the broader context of the entire BPS portfolio. The pilot-phase schools chosen were the Jeremiah E. Burke High School, the Mario Umana Academy, and the Dr. William W. Henderson Upper and Lower Schools.
The purpose of the pilot phase was to determine the types, and understand the amounts, of data available from the City and BPS for all of the district’s buildings. The team evaluated the pilot buildings and schools using the four main categories (FA-B, FA-S, EFE-LE, and EFE-S), as well as the additional community categories.
The pilot educational assessments were conducted during the summer, while school was out of session, although high-level interviews with school leaders were conducted during the course of the school year. For the pilot phase, the teams determined qualitative and numeric links between each building’s space and its educational conduciveness.
The educational assessments were conducted by two teams, one each from SMMA and MGT. The teams toured each school building together over a four-hour period, walking with principals to glean as much insight as possible regarding the schools’ educational adequacy relative to the physical environment, and in anticipation of potential changes to accommodate 21st century educational pedagogy.
The teams then gathered their data using MGT’s data-management system, “scoring” each school relative to observations in the ﬁeld. They also noted general capacity and spatial constraints, to develop diagrammatic program and deﬁciency plans relative to the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) space summary of standards, thereby creating a milestone, or base level of understanding, for further potential study. These educational space assessments were anticipated to be critical data for evaluating the best utilization of each building.
Physical assessments of the buildings and sites were conducted using two teams of experts led by SMMA and WSP | PB. Teams spent a full day at each school, and a half day at each Henderson building, touring the facilities with custodial and/or facility staff members. The intention of this process was to discover and record as much information as possible for inclusion in a format to be reviewed by BPS and the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department (PFD).
From this review, the teams developed a more streamlined approach to the physical assessments that would include critical components of the building conditions, and also allow for every facility to be assessed within the time and scope available.
Upon completion of the pilot phase, the BuildBPS management team reviewed the various assessment methodologies and determined that a hybrid approach would best meet the framework objectives, budget, and schedule of the educational and facility master plan.
After reviewing the previous master plan, published in 1993, the team recognized that a traditional facilities report would likely stagnate and be cumbersome to manage and update. The more recent needs assessment study, conducted in 2010 by the MSBA, also provided challenges, because of the simplicity of the metrics used (building conditions were based on an overall four-point scale that covered all aspects of a facility).
Finally, although helpful, comprehensive building due diligence reports, like those completed during this phase, were outside the project scope and budget, and were seen to be most useful when implemented during project feasibility studies. The team chose a set of primary and secondary building and education space criteria, separating the assessments into the four primary categories, as noted, and using a quintile grading scale that would offer the most complete and current insight into the building portfolio, while also being easily updatable over time.
It was also concluded that facility information without educational planning and vision would not result in a clear path forward. The EFE assessments’ inclusion would give the district the clearest understanding of which facilities are most capable of being transformed to meet the critical needs of a rich, diverse, 21st century curriculum.
The team found that building sites and neighborhoods provided one of the most complex and nuanced elements of the district, taking into account geography and physical separation, dense urban fabric, variegated residential environments, and a complex school assignment, grade pathway, and transportation environment.
Before embarking on the remainder of the portfolio, the BuildBPS team conducted a second phase to test its newly developed and evolved methodology. In this phase, 19 schools were chosen to fit within a matrix according to typology (i.e., grade structure) and era constructed, and each building was required to have current floor and site plans available. The schools would also be occupied during this phase.
The BPS portfolio of schools is extensive and complicated, especially for a district of its size. The Phase II approach was intended to test the 19 school buildings using the new, agreed-upon methodology, to gain a deeper understanding of broader district conditions while Superintendent Chang’s newly formed administration developed its 100-day plan and formulated the development and establishment of educational guidelines to help inform the final FMP strategic direction.