by J. Sebastian Sinisi Denver Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
CASTLE ROCK – Any architectural design firm can save a client money by cutting corners.
But LKA Partners Inc., one of the main architects for the Douglas County School District, manages to save money without cutting corners or diluting the design. Although one of LKA’s keys to cutting costs is using a basic "prototype" school design in any number of adaptations, no school by LKA looks like it was stamped from a cookie-cutter.
Douglas County school buildings designed by LKA in recent years combine sweeping modern exteriors with lots of glass and light wrapped around highly functional interiors.
"Savings vary," said district director of construction Jim Wages, "but 30 to 40 percent is average. We can save $500,000 in design fees for a high school with the prototype. For an elementary school, it’s $250,000."
In November 2000, Douglas County voters approved a $178.2 million bond issue for 10 new schools and additions or renovations to nine more. All but four projects have been completed or are underway.
Today, a 550-student elementary school in Douglas County costs $6.12 million. A high school for 1,600 to 2,000 students costs $22.3 million.
"Normally, it takes a year to design a school and another year to build it," said architect Mike Riley, a design principal with Colorado Springs and Denver-based LKA. "By using variations on the prototype, we can do the design in three months."
The district also employs the Colorado Springs-based Christiansen, Reece & Partners to design its middle schools.
Since 1984, LKA has designed 25 schools for the district, including four high schools in the last five years.
The first was Castle Rock Elementary, the first of six elementaries to use a tri-level prototype. The last was Summit View Elementary School, completed in 1992 in Highlands Ranch.
A second generation of elementary schools debuted in 1995.
That group, 18 schools in all, shifted to a single-story prototype to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Wages said.
A third prototype, with one-and two-story models, appears in elementary schools that will open next month in Parker and August 2003 in the Castle Pines North subdivision.
The evolution of school design, Riley said, saw the open-classroom model of the 1960s replace a generation of pre-World War II factory-like schools. "But open-space schools didn’t work well."
School Superintendent Rick O’Connell said, "We use the prototype approach to save taxpayer dollars. But LKA does excellent work, and we still get a quality product."
District spokesman Bruce Caughey said LKA and Christiansen-designed schools "are built efficiently, look great and create a good atmosphere for learning. For kids, that’s the bottom line." The schools also "feel smaller than the enrollment would suggest, with more of a human-scale feeling," he said.