Case Studies

Paul L. Dunbar K-8 School: Raising the Standard for Public Educational Facilities in Ohio

  • Written by: Paul L. Dunbar K-8 School: Raising the Standard for Public Educational Facilities in Ohio
  • Produced by: Paul L. Dunbar K-8 School: Raising the Standard for Public Educational Facilities in Ohio
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The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) is raising the bar for public schools in the Buckeye State. Since its establishment in 1997, OFCC has overseen projects in over half of the state’s 613 school districts, exceeding $9.5 billion in new construction and renovations. The cornerstone of the movement is all schools currently backed by OFCC funding must seek LEED certification under the school rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), providing a national benchmark for high-performance, energy-efficient structures.

In February 2012 OFCC approved trade contracts for work in 10 districts across the state, including the Paul L. Dunbar K-8 School (Dunbar) in Cleveland. OFCC selected the joint-venture team of Ozanne-Hammond-Gilbane-Regency (OHGR) to provide expert project management for Dunbar and several neighboring schools.

OFCC’s push for better schools also hopes to boost the local economy. Richard Hickman, executive director for OFCC, assures the construction will leave less of an environmental footprint in addition to creating jobs. “These 43 trade contracts represent a continuing investment in Ohio’s schools,” Hickman details. “Ohio’s ongoing school construction program is not only delivering efficient, high-quality educational facilities, but also is providing good jobs in lean economic times.”

Going for LEED

According to the USGBC, on average, a green school uses 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than their conventional counterparts, saving up to $100,000 per year in operating costs. The USGBC also sites that many schools, particularly those built in the last three years, have achieved LEED certification for no additional cost to the project’s budget – eco-friendly and cost-friendly; it’s a win, win.

Using the LEED rating system as a roadmap for documenting and measuring the progress of the initiative, OFCC hopes the facilities will have a direct impact on the overall educational experience. LEED-certified schools provide students, teachers and visitors with clean, healthy air to breathe, along with improved acoustics, increased natural lighting, thermal comfort and moisture control.

Dunbar Takes Shape

Heading up the Dunbar project is Michael Clemons, project manager for OHGR and construction industry veteran of 30 years for the joint venture. Clemons, a Cleveland native, is proud to improve the area he knows and loves for future generations. “I’ve been fortunate to stay in the area I call home for many years,” he says. “I know Cleveland well and have been involved in a pretty diverse array of projects within the small city. I’m currently managing another site within a mile of Dunbar.”

OHGR broke ground on the $13 million two-story project in June 2012 and is set to reach completion for the beginning of the new school year in September 2013. “So far, we’ve hit all of the important milestones including temporary enclosures,” admits Clemons. “We’ve had some excellent weather in our favor. I have every intention of bringing this job in on time. I’ve never had a project where I’ve missed an important date.”

Clemons runs a tight ship on the 64,000-square-foot site. “We started with bare ground,” he shares. “We performed all of the demolition on the existing school in phase one. We’ll eventually be coordinating paving, installing playground equipment, site work and landscaping. The goal is to reach LEED Silver certification with a school that can support 300 to 450 students comfortably.”

According to Clemons, the road to reaching LEED standards has had some bumps along the way. “The site is fairly tight, so we’ve had to tell the subcontractors to only bring in what they need,” he says. “We also had some trouble with neighboring residents feeling vibrations while we were installing GEOPIERS, but I think we chose the best option because the GEOPIERS will save time on foundation work.”

While Clemons and the OHGR team ran into some challenges on the job, the sluggish economy hasn’t stopped them. “We haven’t really felt the full blow because in this industry when times are bad we can move forward,” he reveals. “Usually funds are already set aside and the next cycle of bidding and projects come along fairly quickly. Our reputation continues to earn us jobs, even in a more competitive market.”

Clemons holds subcontractors to the same high standards as his OHGR crew. “Because Cleveland is a fairly small community, subcontractors often resurface and we end up working with most of the same trusted guys,” he says. “We always go for the most responsive bidder, but we have to check their history and background before going ahead with state funds.”

Clemons is sure to make a good first impression. “When I meet with the subcontractors for the first time I make sure we’re all on the same page,” adds Clemons. “I want them to know me if they don’t already, and, when everything is said and done, I want them to come back and work for me, because I’m fair and I get the job done. They know they’ll make money and can feel good about the work they’ve done.”

As many other states follow suit, Ohio continues to push for more LEED-certified green builds such as Dunbar. With the expert project management of Clemons and the Ozanne-Hammond-Gilbane-Regency team, the Paul L. Dunbar K-8 School will open its doors in early September 2013 as a healthier learning community.

For more information about the Paul L. Dunbar K-8 School, please visit:

Published on: June 29, 2013

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