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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 12 | August 9, 2001

Partnership saves school costs, researcher finds

Abbotsford school built for 10 per cent less

Canada has few public dollars for the pressing need to build more schools. Now, a promising option has emerged according to a UBC researcher. A public-private partnership (P3) has built a school in Abbotsford at savings of slightly more than 10 per cent compared to conventional procurement methods.

"Since 1991, a total of $4 billion was spent on school construction in B.C. alone and this P3 project proves schools can be built at lower cost, freeing public dollars for other uses," says Education Prof. Daniel Brown.

With three UBC Education graduate students -- Katherine Babiak, Brenda Ball and Glen Overgaard -- he conducted interviews and analyzed the finances in an inquiry funded by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education, a research organization based in Kelowna, BC

The elementary school for 250 students in the Auguston housing development opened its doors last September. Major partners in the initiative were the BC Ministry of Finance, Abbotsford School Board, Beautiworld Development Corp. and the project managers, Field & Marten Associates.

In a P3 relationship, private and public sectors share the responsibilities, rewards and risks for the success of a project. In this case, the real estate developer, concerned with slumping sales in the development, provided a catalyst of $500,000.

The school was built to ministry specifications, took only 12 months to complete and provides enhanced facilities for neighbourhood use.

For Brown, the novel experiment provided an opportunity to determine which elements enhanced success and how difficulties can be avoided in the future.

High legal costs for the lease agreement originally planned resulted in the purchase of the school by the ministry. According to all parties, the most significant downside was the extra time taken to meet with various partners. However, educators and community members were pleased with the enhanced facilities, including a larger library, a built-in daycare and exterior access to washrooms for outdoor sports events.

"The demonstrated efficiency of this successful P3 offers exciting options for building more schools and even for decentralization of construction from ministries to school districts," Brown concludes.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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