Total Project Costs

Winchester High School – Project Costs

On October 2, 2013 the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) voted to partner with Winchester on a high school rebuild with a maximum grant of $44.5 million. Winchester has 120 days to secure its share of the $129.9 million project, or $85.4 million, through a debt-exclusion override ballot question.

What does the total project cost include? The largest portion is construction, totaling $101.1 million. Construction, together with all contingencies, accounts for approximately 82% of all costs. Soft costs (administration, legal, architecture, engineering, and pre-construction services) capture about 11% of the total. One percent (1%) represents funding already spent on the project feasibility study and schematic design (completed August 2013). The remaining 6% will fund temporary classroom space, miscellaneous costs and furniture, technology, and equipment.

pie chart
Who calculates these costs?
After completing the Schematic Design (approximately 25% of complete design or enough to accurately estimate the proposed project costs), architects SMMA submitted the details to two independent estimators, Skanska and A.M Fogarty. The completed estimates were then reconciled to determine the best likely projected budget.

Why are some construction costs not eligible for the full 42.92% MSBA reimbursement? Of the total project budget, approximately $26.3 million is excluded from MSBA reimbursement. There are three large areas of excluded costs:

  • Construction Costs for Eligible Building Area: The MSBA reimburses based upon “eligible building area,” not gross area. The “eligible building area” has been determined to be 268,206 ft2, taking into account renovated space and three additions. The actual gross square footage of the building is closer to 288K ft2 . Most of the difference is due to keeping the full-size gymnasium — 16K ft2 more than state guidelines.) Although the MSBA has capped the amount it will allocate to $275/ ft2 of eligible building space, estimators expect the costs to be closer to $350/ ft2. These two differences account for about $21.5M of the $26 million costs not reimbursable.
  • Alternative Classroom Space: During the four years of on-site work, some classes will need to be moved to alternative classrooms, or “swing space”. The expected fee for renting educationally appropriate portables during the three academic years of construction is $2.5 million. Swing space is never eligible for reimbursement by the MSBA.
  • Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FFE): The MSBA allows a fixed dollar amount per student on the projected number of students – 1370 for WHS — to cover fixtures, furniture and equipment (FFE). Similar high school projects have demonstrated that the MSBA allowance is inadequate to meet the needs of the students and staff. Therefore, the project includes an additional $1.6 million to cover these anticipated yet unreimbursed needs.

Are these non-eligible items really necessary or just upgrades? Even though they are considered non-eligible, these costs are critical to the success of the project. A renovation cannot be completed without swing space. The additional FFE and $75/ft2 for construction are not to fund “frills,” but reflect the expenditures necessary to complete the project in a practical manner. In fact, of those projects approved by the MSBA last week, Winchester’s cost per square foot was below the average, even though high schools are typically much more expensive per square foot than K-8 school projects.

Why is there a contingency? With any major renovation, an unexpected problem may present itself during construction. During the final design development, design elements may change due to community feedback. Construction, design and owner’s contingency funds are budgeted to address any surprises that may come up.

Will these numbers change? The schematic design and budget estimates were developed and submitted by the EFPBC in consultation with our architects. The project agreement with the MSBA commits — and our expectation is — that the project will not surpass $129.9 million. To read more about project costs and how the selected “Contract Manager at Risk” process will help keep the project on budget and schedule, please visit the FAQs at

Respectfully submitted,
Charles Tseckares

Mr. Tseckares is an architect and urban designer, a founding partner of CBT/ Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc. in Boston, who has specific expertise in academic architectural and urban design projects. He serves as a member of the EFPBC and was its first chair. In addition he has been a member (and chair) of both the Planning Board and Downtown Redevelopment Committee. He resides at 4 Dix Street.

Click here for a pdf of this letter.