Bid Opportunities


The Right Tools for Facility Design

by Jody Andres AIA LEED AP

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 School Business Affairs magazine and is posted with permission of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). The text herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of ASBO International, and use of this imprint does not imply any endorsement or recognition by ASBO International and its officers or affiliates.

COVID-19 brought many challenges, but it also gave district leaders and their design teams a new perspective on how to communicate effectively and efficiently with those affected by building improvement programs. Here are key lessons and opportunities for district leaders to hone their own skills for their next construction endeavor.

Communicate and Collaborate for Better Outcomes
We all know that transparency and openness are crucial building blocks for a successful referendum or bond election. We also know that obtaining community buy-in is much easier when we maximize community engagement.

"With augmented reality (occasionally called "mixed reality"), you can overlay a digital model with information in the current physical world."

Jody Andres

K-12 Market Leader

One lesson from the pandemic is that we can communicate more effectively by using the right tools at the right time. And although communication works best when people are together and engaged, technology facilitates public participation by allowing more people to tune in and interact virtually. Platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams have enabled community members, parents, grandparents, and others to participate in meetings and district events like never before.

As they plan their next communication with stakeholders, district leaders must decide which type of meeting will give them the best opportunity to achieve community buy-in: in-person meetings or online options.

Timely updates are vital to success. Using a variety of communication platforms and offering a wide range of meeting times and locations will allow district leaders to communicate with more people and demonstrate their desire to connect.

Add New Tools to the Toolbox
Technology innovations refine processes, deliverables, accuracy, and communication. If the COVID-19 pandemic had occurred just 10 years earlier, education leaders would have had fewer innovative tools to communicate about facility design intent and perception.

Using today’s available technology, they can receive faster feedback and quickly test new concepts and options. They no longer need to wait for a scheduled meeting to obtain opinions or seek insights.

Here are some tools that can help district leaders communicate and design collaboratively and more effectively.

1. Virtual reality. Have you ever been part of a construction project where the finished space did not match what you had envisioned? Virtual reality bridges the visual gap and allows you to experience a space by “walking” into your design; observing materials, volume of space, and lighting; and even placing objects in the virtual space to enhance your sense of reality. You can also see significant details and answer such questions as:
>> What is the line of sight from the initial common area?
>> Will students and guests find their way smoothly because the flow naturally makes sense?
>> Does the anticipated arrangement of classroom provide for the number of students in the school?

2. Augmented reality. Today, those in the building industry and their clients can buckle on a pair of hi-tech goggles with sophisticated software and see a holographic and interactive view of proposed building concepts and layouts. The technique combines architectural vision with the real world, providing a highly accurate view of what the future building could look like.

As concepts, plans, and designs develop, clients, stakeholders, and the architectural team can see the designs come to life and modify the plans in mere minutes.

With augmented reality (occasionally called “mixed reality”), you can overlay a digital model with information in the current physical world. You can see where a wall or door is supposed to be installed while “walking” the construction site. You can envision a complete building from various perspectives on the property, comparing various angles and views.

Virtual and augmented reality remove some of the unknowns from the planning process, allowing stakeholders to see and understand what could be. These technologies reduce aggravation and rework, ultimately allowing design professionals to create better, more functional buildings cost-effectively.

3. Laser scanning. Laser scanning can accurately represent existing buildings and systems, which companies can then model against for proper system coordination. This technology has a range of uses and enables all stakeholders to visualize existing conditions beyond relying on photos and taped measurements.

An additional benefit of laser scanning during the construction process is the ability to compare the installed progress with the digital model to evaluate accuracy. This ability allows prefabricated items to be adjusted before delivery and installation while also accurately tracking the percentage of completion.

Moving Forward
The importance of flexibility and adaptability in our school designs has arguably never been greater. The world has changed. We must use technology and leverage opportunities to engage key stakeholders with that technology to build better buildings and forge a better future for our students, teachers, and community.

Jody Andres is a senior project architect and the K-12 market leader at Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc. Email: