School board to hire owner’s representative as referendum project prepares to enter the contract bidding stage

The school board plans to hire an owner’s representative to review proposed contracts for the facilities referendum and manage the project.

An owner’s representative is someone who acts as the spokesperson for the owner of a construction project. They are similar to a project manager, but tend to have a broader scope. They might also have the power to make decisions about the project if the project owner defers to them. They are often considered as an extension of the owner, offering input and advice that can have impacts on the owner’s final decisions.

“We are hiring an owner’s rep, which is not exactly the same as a lawyer, but it is a person or organization that works for the district and helps manage the project,” said Paru Shah, president of the Shorewood Board of Education.

The owner’s rep would commit to representing both the school board and the community’s best interests, but also to carefully follow the guidelines given to them.

“I want to make sure to clarify that we are indeed hiring someone to support us with the referendum,” said Pablo Muirhead, one of the five voting members of the Shorewood Board of Education. “Much like one would have a buying agent when buying a house. The board feels it is important to have someone knowledgeable about this work, keeping an eye out for the district.”

The board feels it is important to have someone knowledgeable about this work, keeping an eye out for the district.

— Pablo Muirhead, school board member

The referendum will address critical projects including safety, security, disability accessibility, building systems and infrastructure, targeted renovations to learning spaces and an expansion on the main academic building for the high school.

Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the main goals of the planned changes.

“Most of [the renovations] at Atwater and Lake Bluff is for ADA, so like adding ramps and elevators to make them more accessible and also emergency windows, because I don’t think that Atwater and Lake Bluff are up to code right now,” said Sadie Cumberbatch, student representative to the school board. 

The ADA accessibility-focused projects make up $8.7 million of the budget. These funds will be committed to replacing and repairing existing exterior ramps, stairs, and sidewalks. The district also wants to focus on renovating the restrooms to increase accessibility, modifying the floors and modifying classroom door hardware.

Another $37.7 million will be going towards improving building systems and infrastructure. This includes electrical improvements, plumbing improvements, window replacement, refurbish/replace interior doors, kitchen modifications/expansion and playground replacements.

Learning spaces improvements will also be made using up a much smaller portion of the budget: $9.4 million. This money will go towards refurbishing ceilings, updating lighting to LED, renovating/expanding libraries and renovating student support and resource spaces.

$9.2 million dollars will potentially be devoted to safety and security, which includes renovating/improving secure entrances, upgrading fire alarm systems, improving emergency lighting and replacing exterior doors and locks for monitoring access.

While all of the schools will be seeing significant change, the scope of the project necessitates that some will wait longer than others. 

SHS is having [the renovations done] last. They’re starting Atwater and Lake Bluff super soon, and the high school next year, I think.” Cumberbatch said.

The design stage of the referendum concluded in November. The winter and early spring is allocated for the development of construction documents, with bidding set to begin in April. 

Our architect, Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA), has worked closely with building principals to facilitate staff user groups to collaborate on the development of floor plans and renovation details

— School Board

Design work has been underway since last spring, and our architect, Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA), has worked closely with building principals to facilitate staff user groups to collaborate on the development of floor plans and renovation details,” the board said.

The owner’s representative proposal splits each portion of the service process into three parts. These sections are pre-construction phase, construction phase, and project close-out. 

The pre-construction phase emphasizes energy efficiency, reviewing of project schedules and reviewing bids. This phase concentrates on carefully pre-planning before construction is underway.

The construction phase has a main focus on performing quality assurance site inspections, reviewing change order requests to make sure that they parallel contractors’ proposals, material substitutions, construction budget and schedule. The second phase also addresses quality control, weekly attendance at the design and construction meetings, closely monitoring construction progress and managing construction budgets.

Lastly, the project close-out gives attention to checking warranties, guarantees and service contracts. Additionally, it assists consultants in review of construction and establishment of punch lists and reviewing close-out documentation from the contractor.

Once the board receives bids from the contractors, the owner’s representative and the district counsel will review the proposals for effectiveness and legality.

“[The owner’s representative does] look at the construction costs and confirms the projects are in line with the legal requirements,” said Shah. “In the Board Books from the November 26 board meeting, you can see the qualifications we are looking for [in an owner’s representative].”

“Additionally, our lawyers will be looking over the contracts as an additional layer of oversight,” Muirhead said. “We want to ensure that every opportunity for savings is taken.”